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Ojos de la Tormenta a la Cima!
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Apr 27, 2010, 5:48 PM
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Ojos de la Tormenta a la Cima!
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April can be a great time of year in Mexico City. After Easter, itís not as crowded and the weather is still perfect. When I found a cheap ticket ($340 r/t Phx to Mex City) I called Carlos Garcia, prolific first ascensionist, and a friend of a few years. Along with Cecilia Buil, he was first to put a route up El Giganteís 3,000í face ground up: Yawira Batu 1025m/25 pitches, 5.11-, A4. He agreed to drive six hours south to Santiago Apoala and check out the climbing Iíd been raving about. His friend Miriam Taylor was also in town and wanted to go and revisit a journey she made long ago to Oaxaca. Perfect. Carlos lives in San Luis Ayucan, located northwest of Mexico City which means driving all the way through some challenging traffic. We were way behind when we got out of town. My friend, Erick Lopez of Oaxaca, is waiting for us along Highway 135D in the small town of Nochixtlan. This is where the pavement ends and seemingly, all roads lead to the valley of Santiago Apoala.

The town of Santiago Apoala is known as the home of the Mixteca. Local lore has it that they erupted from the caves and spread throughout the area. This particular area is special to them and their fellow Mexicans and many folks come just to hike and explore. The Ayuntamiento runs a parador with rooms and meals, cabins that sleep 4 (a new restaurant is under construction), a campground with toilet and a small store (bring supplies and food you plan on cooking). This 6,500í high valley is known for its natural beauty: tall limestone walls all around, two 150í waterfalls along the Rio Apoala and an underground lake

After a few routes, Miriam and Carlos hiked to the twin colosos on the upstream side of the Pena Colorada. To reach camp, you pass another set of colosos; they bracket the Pena Colorada:

I wrote a previous trip report called ďOaxaca limestone and rain!Ē about the beginning of the journey. As all good trips, this one keeps going and going. This time, we know we can finish. On my second trip, I had brought the wrong extra battery and we only added the 3rdand 4th pitches plus two bolts on the 5th pitch.
Starting from the ground late in the morning, we have to work our way up with all the lead rack of double camalots from small C3 to #3 C4 camalots (plus single #3.5 and #4), two ropes, bolts, hangers, hammer, drill, extra battery, etc; it takes a lot out of me and Erick to alternate carrying it all. At least the lower pitches are fun; here Erick tackles the overhang out of the first belay cave. It is a haul up large handholds of limestone pistol grips and pockets to the lip where the face bulges out and you have to work an intermittent finger crack and thin feet. This was our routeís previous 5.11c crux.

Erick continues climbing and links pitches 2 and 3 to make up time. The bolted route follows the traditionally protected line I originally lead, for the most part, but wanders off to better rock when possible. You could still do the trad route I did to get higher on the wall; it would be loads of fun to hear how it went from someone else. Some of the rock in the cracks I climbed really should be avoided. Erickís desire was to bolt a line available to all and we left it so. Bolting and limestone go hand in hand because the rock in the cracks isnít always the best. Each time we have been on the route, the quality improves as we rappel and clean loose debris and blocks of stone.
Erick passes me the lead to the final anchor. Itís not difficult but very exposed and places you at a hanging belay stance. This short traverse is exposed and exciting; maybe another bolt would allow artificial passage but I donít think itís gonna stop anyone that did the bulge on pitch 2; unless they aided the crux. This might stop some not used to big air and a teeny runout on big handholds but much smaller footholds.

Leading the new pitch looks hard from the start. It begins on two bolts to reach the bottom of a crack. It looked like a moderate crack from below, all we thought was necessary was to climb the bulge and romp to the top. Instead of becoming lower angle, as we expected, it remains steep and thin. Our plan is to haul the bolting gear from a long sling with the stuff hanging on the last bolt on a fifi hook. After clipping and grabbing the first two bolts and the small nut, I got a red C3 into the bottomed crack, and it was a mighty struggle to do so. I climbed up and downclimbed a couple of times then went for it, intending to get a stance and place a third piece. I never made it. I fell, pulled the red C3 and small nut, finally stopped by the bolt 25í later. I ended up smacking into Erick. I hurt his finger and scared the both of us. It was time to re-evaluate and shake out. I climbed up and put in a couple of pieces on decent rock and placed another bolt. The plan became: climb, find stance (only once) or two pieces (sometimes rickety) to hang from and place a bolt. Repeat. Took some time and great fun was the result.

This went on longer than I anticipated and it took a lot out of me physically and mentally. The climbing ended up being steep and a difficult bulge midway up the pitch was a tough surprise. What felt like a few hours later found me on a sloping ledge where I put in an anchor. Erick climbed up to me and we looked up at more climbing, definitely only a pitch away this time. Here he is following the pitch:

Next day, Erick put his time in on lead and made an incredibly exposed move up a bulge on gear to a great ledge a few feet below the shrubby top. We stopped there because the summit is full of thorny toxic shrubs; makes rappel routes impossible Iím told. We were finished and happy to be done. Erick is bolting the crux clip on the last pitch:

But this wall is big. It has many routes up one or two pitches and deserves more. The locals like our activities since it promotes tourism. It is a beautiful spot and for all you sport climbers, itís only a 5-10 minute hike to the base from your tent. Ojos de la Tormenta (eyes of the storm) ended up being 6 pitches and 5.11+/5.12- (maybe it was all the crap I carried, weíll see next trip.

I had big fun, thanks to Erickís spotting the line from the ground and inviting me to climb it with him. If you wish to climb in Santiago Apoala, a guide would be very helpful, Erick Lopez can be contacted here:

This is his website:

(This post was edited by sonso45 on Apr 28, 2010, 3:05 PM)


May 11, 2010, 11:18 AM
Post #2 of 2 (2211 views)

Registered: Jun 21, 2002
Posts: 596

Re: [sonso45] Ojos de la Tormenta a la Cima! [In reply to]
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Man, looks like a ton of fun! Nice!

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