Piedritas

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My iPhone alarm jolts me awake.  I groan, and groggily check the time on my phone. 7am.  I slowly creep out of my mummy bag and pull on my fleece.  I have to do before our 9am departure.  Pack gear, take a quick shower, and cook my last fresh meal for three days.  It’s going to be canned beans and granola bars for the foreseeable future.  After hucking down all the fresh veggies I can stomach, I gather my gear into my canvas military surplus duffle and throw it in the back of Frank’s E-350.

We load our cars and hit the road.  Our destination?  A new bouldering area in Piedritas, Mexico.  It’s located seven hours northwest of Potrero Chico and an hour from Big Bend National Park.  Monterrey climbers discovered it via Google Earth about a year ago.  Tales of untouched boulders, remote desert, and the chance to gobble up first ascents all day have enticed us to make the journey.  Other than a Facebook group and Youtube video, there’s not really much information about it online.

“So has anyone in our group been here before?” I ask Frank as we pull out onto the highway.

“I think the guys from Monterrey meeting us established it basically.”

“But nobody in our group?”

“No. There are no foreigners that have been here.”

“So we don’t know the problems or anything? We’re just going to be winging it?”

“Yep.”

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Civilization recedes away.  It’s just us and the desert.  “Wow, look at this road.” Frank exclaims.  The road stretches out before us for miles in a straight line, and disappears over the horizon.  Not a car in sight.  He’s right.  It’s a beautiful.

“Alright man, you drive.”

“Wait, what?” I say.  Frank suddenly climbs out of his seat and leans his entire body out of the window.  I lunge over and grab the unoccupied wheel before it can spin.  Frank screams with joy.  Woooooo!

We arrive with just an hour left until sunset.  Boulders as far as the eye can see.  There’s a small ranch nestled up to the side of the hill.  We park the caravan and grab our crash pads.  One of the local ranchers comes out to greet us.  He excitedly tells us where to park, and invites us to stop by for dinner sometime.  Rock climbers in their back yard are probably a rare sight.

Over the next couple days we work on establishing problems and exploring the area. There’s so much rock.  It feels as if we only just barely tap into the potential of the area. At night we sit around the fire, and drunkenly talk politics.  The desert has a sort of sublime beauty about it that is hard to describe.

85100006The expanse.

85100004Camp.

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Adam on the warmup boulder.

85100024The road to Piedritas.

85100011Friends on a pebble.

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Adam and Alex working on developing a new problem.

85100016Laurel and Ron Jon.

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Kyle taking shelter from the wind.

85100013Headed to the next area.

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One of the coolest problems I’ve ever attempted.

85100025Group photo.

On our last day I wake up just before sunrise.  Feeling inspired, I get up and wander away from camp into the desert.  The wind has died and the Earth around me is silent.  All I can see is the endless expanse of the desert in front of me, and all I can hear is my own breathing and my beating heart.  Breathe in, breathe out.  This moment is rare, even for someone like me who spends his time away from the city.  I take it in with every inch of me.  I know that this moment is good.  And that is all I need.

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El Potrero Chico

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I shuffle into the small customs office on the border.  There are two Mexican border patrol agents sitting at their desks.  A fan drones on in the corner, doing its best to keep the sweaty room cool.  I greet the agents with a solid “Hola!”  It’s one of the few words in Spanish I know.

I walk up and hand an officer my Greyound ticket and passport, and sit down in the chair in front of him.  He begins filling out my visa and questioning me in Spanish.  The lost look on my face probably gives me away.  He raises his eyebrow, bemused. “¿Habla español?”

“Uh… no. Sorry.” I say. He chuckles, and continues filling out my visa.

“How many days?” He asks.

“A month and a half.” I answer.

“Days!” he barks.

“Oh.  Uh, sixty.” I reply.  He shrugs, and writes it down.

Somehow I make it through the border crossing and arrive at Potrero Chico.  The next two months are a blur of climbing, tacos, and Tecate.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

85090025Outrage wall.  One of the better sport crags at Potrero.

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El Buho views.  El Buho is a local coffee shop and makes rest days a dream.

85090012The hike to the crag from Rancho Sendero on a foggy day.

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Alex at TNT wall.

85630025The back door of Rancho Sendero.  Sunsets are a dream here.

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Mitch on the way up Pancho Villa Rides Again.  Sick line.

85630013The view back into the Portrero.  You can hear the cows mooing while climbing.

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Sean on Space Boyz, on my last day in the Potrero.

85090023Sean cooking at hotel Suby in front of the Buho.

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El Toro.  Timewave Zero ascends this via 23 pitches.

85090014Buho rest days.

85090003Yours truly.

On one of my many rest days I hitch a ride to Hidalgo with Frank in his van.  “To be honest?” I say to Frank as I sit in the passenger seat.  “I’m gonna come down for longer next year.  A month and a half just isn’t enough.”

“No amount of time is man.” he replies.  “You always leave wanting more.”

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