SCARPA Regional Athlete, Sam Magro, spent time earlier this year in El Potrero Chico, a popular climbing spot in Mexico. While there, the tragic mass kidnapping and murder of 17 members of a Mexican mariachi band occurred. In his post below, Magro recounts the details of that horrifying event and how he found solace in the rocks surrounding him.
This past fall I contemplated several options for an early winter rock trip to offer up a little break from the cold days of ice climbing in Hyalite. I was offered a great guiding trip to El Potrero Chico, Mexico and my decision was made to tag on a few extra days before and after to climb on my own.
I had not visited this winter climbing paradise since 2005. In my mind’s eye there remained visions of top notch limestone cliff bands ranging from 100’ to 2,000’, a giant winter sun warming my shirtless back, 3 tacos for a dollar, friendly stray dogs, and tranquil camping. After a bit of research on the recent activities of the Mexican Cartels I felt it was safe enough to visit this Mecca of sport climbing, I didn’t think that the violence would end up being so close…
Magic Ed, as he is called, picked us up from the airport to drive us the 45 minutes to the town of Sabinas Hidalgo and then the final 3 km to El Potrero. Our cardinal direction of travel changed from west to south and there lay the 2,000’ limestone walls of this impressive cirque that I had not seen since 2005. I asked Ed about routes on that north side, particularly one with quite and alluring name “El Sendero Illuminoso”. He did not speak too highly of it but did mention a new route that had just been bolted to the left that was said to consist of 1,200’ of sustained technical 5.11s and 5.12s. The first ascender, a German fellow, had since left and was coming back to get the FFA on his route in a few weeks. I hoped he would do so soon so that I may be able to touch my fingers on to that nice looking line. We pulled up to our stop and just like that less than 8 hours from leaving Montana in the midst of winter I was now in the warmth of northern Mexico.