The Other Mex­i­can Sport Climb­ing Hub

Gripped - - AREA PROFILE - Story and pho­tos by Graham McGrenere

When most North Amer­i­can climbers think about rock climb­ing in Mex­ico, the multi-pitch routes on the huge lime­stone walls of El Potrero Chico usu­ally come to mind. What Potrero of­ten over­shad­ows is the phe­nom­e­nal sport climb­ing lo­cated only a cou­ple hours fur­ther south: the rel­a­tively un­known and se­cluded des­ti­na­tion of El Salto. Sit­u­ated in the mas­sive canyons of the Sierra Madre Ori­en­tal moun­tain range, El Salto of­fers amaz­ing scenery, au­then­tic Mex­i­can cul­ture and, of course, great climb­ing.

The climb­ing in El Salto is lo­cated mostly at four main walls: Las An­i­mas, La Boca, Tecalote Cave and Cumbia Cave. The first three are all within short walks of the camp­ing, whereas Cumbia Cave is about a 30- minute drive away. The rock en­com­passes ev­ery­thing that draws peo­ple to ma­jor lime­stone climb­ing des­ti­na­tions around the world. There are 10- me­tre long tu­fas, mas­sive sta­lac­tites, 50- me­tre routes, hor­i­zon­tal roofs, knee bars, the list goes on. In to­tal, there are over 100 routes rang­ing from mid 5.10 to 5.14, with the ma­jor­ity at 5.12 and harder.

The vast canyons in the area of­fer end­less po­ten­tial for devel­op­ment. A few key bolters, in­clud­ing Cana­dian Ul­ric Rousseau, are es­tab­lish­ing new routes each sea­son on al­most a weekly ba­sis. Be­cause of the rapid growth i n devel­op­ment, the only eas­ily ob­tain­able guide – an old pdf found on Rousseau’s web­site – is miss­ing many routes and some ar­eas. Thank­fully, it isn’t too hard to find climbers in El Salto with a more up-to-date pdf guide. Even if you can’t find this new guide, the older pdf will get you to most of the clas­sic lines.

De­spite the amaz­ing routes, El Salto is not the busy climb­ing hub that sim­i­lar ar­eas world­wide have be­come. This may be due to the un­for­tu­nate per­cep­tion of Mex­ico as un­safe, or per­haps the va­ca­tion­friendly rep­u­ta­tion of El Potrero Chico with its more mod­er­ate climb­ing. One Amer­i­can we met in our trav­els said, “El Salto would be the most pop­u­lar climb­ing des­ti­na­tion i n North Amer­ica if it were on U.S. soil.” Dur­ing our en­tire stay in Mex­ico, we did not ex­pe­ri­ence any­thing un­safe or sketchy and we left feel­ing that the “dan­ger” of Mex­ico is likely blown out of pro­por­tion in the me­dia.

The num­ber of climbers vis­it­ing El Salto is in­creas­ing ev­ery year as word spreads about the area and will likely con­tinue to grow as many more walls and even some multi-pitch climbs are de­vel­oped. So what are you wait­ing for? You can en­joy amaz­ing climb­ing and a true Mex­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence with­out hav­ing to wait i n lines to get on your favourite climbs. That sounds pretty good to me.

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