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El Potrero Chico


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Ryan Loiselle · · Pepperell, MA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 1,688

Hey all,

I planned a trip to El Potrero Chico in January and just now read this article: rockandice.com/lates-news/t…....

Should I be scared? Anyone who has traveled to El Potrero Chico is welcome to give me some feedback. I'd like to hear it all. The good? The bad?

Thanks!

Cameron Saul · · San Francisco · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 10

Two years ago I had a near miss with some kind of band of armed men in an unmarked pickup while in the Potrero... apparently the local police force was disbanded in approximately 2012 due to corruption and never reinstated. I think it's a spectacular place. It's a more-convenient sport climbing version of Yosemite - but yeah, not exactly safe right now. The state department has some hair-raising statistics on kidnapping in the region... keep your head on a swivel for sure.

JRM89 · · New Haven, CT · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 330

Cameron,

Can you share more on your near-miss? what happened?

Also planning on heading to Potrero in January, so I'm very interested in this thread.

Ryan Loiselle · · Pepperell, MA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 1,688

Thanks Cameron. I am definitely double thinking my selection. I hope that others can share their experiences as well.

Tradgic Yogurt · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 55

That article is over 3 years old. Take it with a grain of salt.

Ryan Loiselle · · Pepperell, MA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 1,688

JRM89 what dates are you going to be there. Maybe we can make arrangements to try and stick together down there?

Ryan Loiselle · · Pepperell, MA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 1,688

Tradgic yogurt - Have you been down there before?

Tradgic Yogurt · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 55

Not personally, but I have fiends and partners who have in the last couple of years, and I've climbed with someone who lives there part time developing routes.

It's a lot calmer, and it was never as violent to tourists as people hyped it up to be. The big violence was always cartel-related, so you're pretty safe if you stay our of their business.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

I went for three weeks in 2009 and had nothing but positive experiences. I only felt unsafe once during the entire trip, and that was when I stopped in Baltimore to visit my sister. I am going back for several weeks this winter and feel totally safe and comfortable doing so.

I would be most concerned, safety-wise, with the travel to/from Potrero. Monterrey is a large city, and crime and safety are a consideration there (like any large city in the developing world). Also, I'm not sure I would be super comfortable driving around northern Mexico in a nice car with US plates. If you are concerned, you can just minimize time in Monterrey and/or driving around. You can fly to Monterrey and have the guy from the campground pick you up at the airport. You'll be at Potrero in to time at all.

The much bigger hazards are loose rock and rapping off the end of your rope. These are the things that kill climbers in the Potrero; they pose many orders of magnitude higher a threat than the drug violence. Wear a helmet and be careful.

Ryan Loiselle · · Pepperell, MA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 1,688

Thank you so much for this reply JCM! You made me feel way better about my choice! I really appreciate your positive feedback! SERIOUSLY THANK YOU!

We are flying in to Monterry and have arrangements for La Posada to pick us up at the airport...as your suggested. I think that will work out good for us.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

^^^ This will work out well for you. You'll have a great time. Don't cancel your trip.

Here's a thread with some route and gear suggestions. Take a 70 meter rope and 25 quickdraws. mountainproject.com/v/el-po…

Mauricio Herrera Cuadra · · Mendoza, Argentina · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 2,946

Last two trips I made to Potrero (in January 2015 and June 2016), I felt totally safe while moving around the area.

Violence in Northern Mexico (especially in the Monterrey area) has decreased noticeably in the last few years, and it was mostly related to drug cartels. Still, be mindful of avoiding traveling at night and not getting into "uncharted" territory, as you could expose yourself to trouble.

La Posada is one of the best spots to stay and the locals in the town of Hidalgo are super friendly, they will take good care of you! Enjoy the food, beer and some of the best climbing my country has to offer!

Ryan Loiselle · · Pepperell, MA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 1,688

JCM - I owe you a beer if we ever run into each other. You've helped me out here greatly!

Ryan Loiselle · · Pepperell, MA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 1,688

Thank you Mauricio. I am now extremely excited to get down there! I really appreciate all the feeback!

JRM89 · · New Haven, CT · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 330

Ryan - drop me a line at jmarks07(at)gmail.com

:)

Josh Janes · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2001 · Points: 8,512

I spent a month there this winter (2015-2016) along with 10 of my close friends. None of us had any incidents - we all arrived separately via different means. In fact, I drove down there with our golden retriever in tow (if that doesn't scream gringo privilege I don't know what does). We took numerous rest day trips into town, into more rural areas, and into Monterrey where we spent much time exploring on foot, using public transit, and in our car (in fact, I'd say if you don't spend at least a little time exploring Monterry you're really missing out). Did I feel as safe as I do in most American climbing areas or major cities? No. Did it impact our experience in any way? Absolutely not. I would go back in a heartbeat. By far the biggest threat to my health there, in my opinion, are the typical hazards of rock climbing. And perhaps too many cheap margaritas.

Ryan Maitland · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 65

Ryan,

Cameron's experience is a single data point. He sounds like some people I know who don't leave the house much because of what is on the news. Sometime shit happens and that sucks.

What I can tell you is that I live in Texas and spend at least a half dozen weekends in Potrero each year. Throughout the year too, not just during the climbing season. My most recent trip to Potrero was July 4th weekend. I will be there again next month.

It is Mexico. So if you aren't an idiot, and travel with a couple of friends and don't try and cause trouble, you will be fine. But if you do risky things, like head into Monterrey late at night, go partying and make a scene, you have a higher probability of encountering issues. The worst thing that has ever happened to me was a 200 peso payment to a Federal Police officer at a checkpoint while driving late at night from Monterrey back to Hidalgo. That's the worst thing in several years of trips.

Go there. Climb. Replace bolts if you have the skill. Stay at La Posada, and take their taxi transfer to/from the airport. If you drive, your risk level gets higher and I'd not recommend doing it at night. Otherwise it's a great place and totally safe. The folks in Hidalgo are incredibly friendly and generous if you show some respect and basic courtesy.

YMMV.

Ryan Loiselle · · Pepperell, MA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 1,688

Thanks Josh Janes! I will definitely be going down there in January...already booked the trip...I just got real sketched when I read that article. Seriously, thanks for all your input, it is greatly appreciated. I owe you a beer if we ever cross paths!

Ryan Loiselle · · Pepperell, MA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 1,688

Thanks Ryan Maitland!

I get your point about Cameron. Sucks that he was left with a salty taste in his mouth, because it does sound amazing down there. The more I read about it the more I am drawn to going down and getting on some routes.

I will be with one other person. She is my significant other and means the world to me, so hopefully we will be safe together. I definitely am not the type to cause a scene, so I am thinking we will be cool.

My Spanish is pretty weak, I think that is my only concern at this point. Other then that, I am looking forward to getting on some climbs down there! Thanks again for sharing your experience with me. I owe you a beer if we ever cross paths..

BrianWS · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 790

Went twice in 2015 and 29/6 without incident. Some of the locals were concerned about some prison riots in early February that were linked to cartels, but there hadn't been any incidents of significance since 2012. It sounds like local government and police have a sort of agreed moratorium on enforcement if the cartels refrain from any extreme and highly visible acts of violence in Monterrey and surrounding towns.

You'll be fine if don't put yourself into obviously sketchy situations, just like anywhere else.

Cameron Saul · · San Francisco · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 10

Ryan Maitland - I don't leave the house much? Really? Not sure why you'd go the extra mile to attack the one person who has a cautionary tale.

Leaving that aside, I think it's best to go into adventures with all the information. Ryan Loiselle explicitly asked for "the good, the bad", not a bunch of platitudes. I wasn't trying to persuade him not to go, just to give him the information he requested.

I think anyone considering going to Nuevo Leon should know what they're getting into. Is it worth the risk? I certainly think so, but that should be each person's decision.

There are plenty of data points on the crime situation in the area. I don't think it's responsible to just say "Oh, it's fine" or "I didn't see anything, so it must be no big deal". Educate yourself and then make the decision.

All of the other comments about the locals being awesome are totally on point. They are, and the climbing is spectacular.

Some links:
travel.state.gov/content/pa…
osac.gov/pages/ContentRepor…
Some anecdotes from the nearest major city: quora.com/How-truly-bad-is-…
Regular police escort on highways in Tamaulipas, the state just East of Nuevo Leon: insightcrime.org/news-analy…
Media getting targeted: fastcompany.com/1785413/mex…
Murder rate in Nuevo Leon is 13x the U.S. national average (2010): geo-mexico.com/?p=4854

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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