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Time Wave Zero

5.12a, Sport, 2300 ft, 23 pitches, Grade III,  Avg: 3.7 from 265 votes
FA: Ed Wright, Dane Bass, Paul Irby, Jimmy Carse, Jon Robinson
International > N America > Mexico > Northern Mexico > Nuevo Leon > El Potrero Chico > Timewave Buttress


Time Wave Zero is one of the longest routes at El Potrero Chico. The route is about 2,300 feet and is listed as 23 pitches in the guidebook, although it is possible to climb in as few as 13 pitches with a 60m cord. All belay and rappel anchors are fixed, which allows for quick progress. The route tops out on the summit of El Toro and affords great views of the Potrero and the surrounding Sierra Madres. The single 12a pitch is easily aided if necessary, dropping the route grade to 5.11a A0.

Most will want to climb TWZ in a day, although there is a bivy ledge half way up if you choose to (or are forced to) spend the night.

A fixed line was in place as of 1/1/08 on the final
last chossy pitch/scramble to summit to the summit (pitch 23).

To descend, rap the route. Simul-rapping is highly recommended to save time. A single 60m rope will get you down, but be extremely careful, as several rappels are a FULL 30m. A 70m would provide a bit more peace of mind.

The route has been climbed in less than 2 hours.

Cultural Reference

"Timewave Zero" is a reference to the so-called "Novelty Theory" put forth by the psychedelic philosopher/ethnobotanist Terence McKenna (1946-2000). The theory attempts to plot the complexity (i.e., novelty) of the universe over time, producing a fractal waveform known as the "timewave zero". The theory has yet to gain much traction from the greater scientific community.

Pitch Ratings and Lengths

Pitches are as follows:
P1: 5.7, 100'
P2: 5.11a/b, 90'
P3: 5.9-, 100'
P4: 5.9-, 100'
P5: 5.10a, 100'
P6: 5.9-, 100+'
P7: 5.7, 50'
P8: easy scramble
P9: 5.9+, 100'
P10: 5.10b, 100'
P11: 5.9, 100'
P12: 5.7, 50'
P13: 5.8, 100'
P14: 5.9, 100'
P15: 5.9, 100'
P16: 5.10d, 100'
P17: 5.9+, 100'
P18: 5.9+, 100'
P19: 5.9+, 90'
P20: 5.10d, 90'
P21: 5.12a or A0, 90'
P22: 5.8, 100'
P23: 5.6, 100'


Hike past the Spires as for the Surf Bowl and Dihedrals. Just before reaching the Surf Bowl, locate a climber's trail to the right and follow for about 20' to the base of the route.


About 18 or so draws if linking pitches.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Bailey Crawford on her way down Time Wave Zero. 2.5 hour descent.
[Hide Photo] Bailey Crawford on her way down Time Wave Zero. 2.5 hour descent.
From the summit of Time Wave Zero.
[Hide Photo] From the summit of Time Wave Zero.
Bailey Crawford on the 16th pitch of Time Wave Zero.
[Hide Photo] Bailey Crawford on the 16th pitch of Time Wave Zero.
Don't let anyone tell you the summit is not worth it because of the last pitch.  The pitch was easy and the summit not to be missed.
[Hide Photo] Don't let anyone tell you the summit is not worth it because of the last pitch. The pitch was easy and the summit not to be missed.
looking TWZ
[Hide Photo] looking TWZ
pitch 15 or something
[Hide Photo] pitch 15 or something
View from the summit of El Toro
[Hide Photo] View from the summit of El Toro
Marlene Itzayana walking the pitch 8, timewave zero
[Hide Photo] Marlene Itzayana walking the pitch 8, timewave zero
Time Wave Zero taken from the back of the Potrero.  Follow the yellow brick road.
[Hide Photo] Time Wave Zero taken from the back of the Potrero. Follow the yellow brick road.
One of the first of 20-ish rappels.
[Hide Photo] One of the first of 20-ish rappels.
No idea what pitch this is. Stellar route!
[Hide Photo] No idea what pitch this is. Stellar route!
Arin Trook on Time Wave Zero, New Years Day 2008. The 3rd class (pitch 8) is visible below as a trail through the vegetation.
[Hide Photo] Arin Trook on Time Wave Zero, New Years Day 2008. The 3rd class (pitch 8) is visible below as a trail through the vegetation.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

manuel rangel
[Hide Comment] [TWZ is the] south-facing wall starting just right of Surf Bowl and reaches the top for a great view all around. Starts on slabby buttress and heads up forever. Rock is generally very clean, couple of raps traverse and have fixed draws. Climbing is mostly easy 9 or 10 with one 12a pitch you can french free.

[To get there] hike up past the Agujas and trend left to Surf Bowl/Dihedrals. Just before entering Surf, look for trail going right to slabby buttress. It's the only route there. Jan 6, 2008
Karsten Duncan
Sacramento, CA
[Hide Comment] I found this route fun. There are a few pitches with poorer rock up higher including the hard but uninspiring .12 pitch. Still the route is worth doing for the overall views and don't forget the bragging rights. It is not everyday that you can climb an alpine type route with only a handful of draws. The views at the top are spectacular too. Jan 10, 2008
Portland, OR, Roanoke, VA L
[Hide Comment] Sweet route with very straight forward consistent moves for pretty much the whole route. Contrary to what we heard other people say, the rock quality is excellent and the 5.12 pitch is a very fun, powerful lead. Well worth the time. Jan 14, 2008
Fort Collins, CO
[Hide Comment] Excellent route with long stretches of consistent and fun climbing. The 5.10 pitches are all excellent, and I thought the 5.12 section was very good with good rock and 1,000+ feet of exposure below your feet - a very cool experience. Definitely free this section if you still have the energy after the first 20 pitches - I would assume that it would be an uninspiring aid pitch.

Watch for loose rock on the last pitch (5.6) with the fixed rope and be mindful of the conditions of this fixed rope - it was quite frayed in a few spots this Jan (2008).

70meter rope was great.

BASE TO SUMMIT TIME (w/ Travis Melin): 4 hours 17 minutes 10 seconds! Speed Record?? (it can definitely be done much faster) Jan 16, 2008
Jimmy Farrell
Lexington, KY
[Hide Comment] This is definitely an amazing line. In my opinion it is the most consistently quality climb of all of the El Potrero multi-pitch routes. I think the rock quality is great overall, and the climbing is super fun. The 12a pitch is good, but I do think it is way harder than any other 12a at El Potrero, and not only because it's so high up on the wall!

As for the speed record... I'm sure this climb could be done extremely quick. On 3/8/06, Tom Grundy and I climbed from the base to the summit in just under 3 1/2 hours, with no simul-climbing at all, just linking pitches. I'm sure a competent simul-climbing team could blast up this route in half that time, or less! Feb 19, 2008
[Hide Comment] Definitely agree with Jimmy. Is this really considered a grade III instead of a grade IV? Every pitch is a masterpiece...the crux pitch is no bolt ladder clip up gimme either! Thanks for quality in Mexico! A 70m rope is better than the 1x60m we took. The rappelling takes some time and care. Feb 10, 2009
gblauer Blauer
Wayne, PA
[Hide Comment] This is an amazing route. It's well bolted and very doable in a day. The 12a pitch is a stinger at the end of the day, but, it is "aidable" through the crux. Bring plenty of water and food, it's a long climb with a LONG descent. Jun 18, 2009
gblauer Blauer
Wayne, PA
[Hide Comment] Been there, done that, won't do it again.

I am simply too old! Aug 30, 2010
Dave Coleman
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Amazing climb! One tip - don't link the last two pitches because the rope drag is extreme. Nov 26, 2011
Mike Holley
Boone, NC
[Hide Comment] An Amazing Marathon of a climb! My Partner and I climbed it in 6 and 1/2 hours just with linking pitches, there is no need to simul-climb it for times sake. Took us less then two hours to rap it but we both had gri gri's and were pretty motivated to get down for dinner. The 12.a pitch is not french free'able by any means but stepping up on draws can help you gain good holds for the climbing between bolts. We did this one in the blazing hot sun and two liters each was cutting it close, water and snacks are important on this lengthy route!!

One very important tip is that if there are alot of people planning on doing the route, which often is the case on this class A cluster funk of a route, either be the first party on the route or the last because being stuck in the middle leads to tons of hanging out at belay stations in your harness in the grueling sun.

Enjoy it while your up there because chances are you wont be doing it again any time soon, haha! Jan 10, 2012
T.J. Esposito
San Diego, CA
[Hide Comment] An awesome climb!! Some of the belays suck a bit, definitely recommend linking pitches; we climbed with a 70m and simul-rapped. Great day of a ton of climbing followed by a ton of rapping, probably best to do right before a rest day! Try to get the 10d ones on lead, they were super fun (I was seconding those). The crux pitch is burly, has two distinct crux sections but apparently I missed a hold on the first of them. You will have earned your caguama of Carta Blanca and 1L margarita from La Posada afterward, especially if you climb this in the heat+sun like we did! Jul 31, 2012
Matt Skorina
Bend, OR
[Hide Comment] Some beta on the bivy if you choose to do the climb in 2 days. There is a nice ledge at the top of the short 5.7 12th pitch. There is a flat rock free area big enough for 2 people with trees between you and the downstream cliff. Feels totally fine to be unroped. There is more ledge if you walk unroped further away from the anchors which might have room for more sleeping spots but we didn't investigate further.

Each of us climbed with a 20L back with a sleeping bag strapped to the bottom. I led the 5.11 2nd pitch with no bag and hauled both packs up. That pitch is pretty steep so the bags weren't being dragged across the rock. No need for a real haul bag. We climbed the rest of the pitches that day with the bags. Pulling the roof on the 5.10b 10th pitch was pretty burly with the bag, but otherwise not a problem. The second day we left all the bivy gear at the ledge and climbed the top half with a single follower pack. We were planning on getting our stuff on the way down and making it to the base the second day, but decided to spend another night on the ledge and rap in the morning.

I thought bivying was a good option for our climbing speed. We kept the baggage light to avoid some of the suck on the first day.

Jan 7, 2016
Pink Thunder
Sacramento, CA
[Hide Comment] The grades on this thing are remarkably inconsistent. Pitches one, three and four are more like 5.3 than 5.7 or 5.9. There's a "10b" pitch later on that's no harder than 5.9, and the 20th pitch felt more like solid 5.11, especially after all the vertical mileage before that. The other 5.7 and 5.6 pitches were more like 5.2.

Also, for the 12a pitch, it's true you can french free through the hardest section, but there's also a few moves of mandatory 5.11 after that to get to the last bolt and anchors, so it's not a gimme, especially after 2,000 feet of climbing. It was sharp and painful, in my humble opinion.

But still a great route, and definitely worth doing. Jan 27, 2016
Andy Munas
Phoenixville, PA
[Hide Comment] I agree that the 20th pitch felt like solid 5.11. Some inconsistency in the grades, but nothing really drastic. The 12a pitch is a very physical pitch even with the french free variation.

We linked the following pitches easily:
12,13,&14 (w/ a small amount of simul climbing on a 70 m rope)
17&18 (most strenuous of the ones we linked)

That made for a total of 16 pitches. We got it done with 18 quickdraws and 8 or so alpine draws. 10 hours up, 4 hours down - simul-rappelling. I kicked myself for not bringing some dogbones or cheap chains to replace the directionals on Pitch 6 and 18. That tat is looking pretty haggard.

If it is a sunny day, a good chance for shade on the route is spending a break hanging out on the palm tree belay at the top of Pitch 14 (awesome position). You could also try at the bivy ledge, but it would require relocating from the anchor. We had a 75-80 degree sunny day which felt pretty dang hot. We brought 3.5 liters of water each which was just barely enough.

Also - if you don't stay at Ariel's Chalet while you are in el Potrero, you are doing it wrong.… Apr 8, 2016
Mike Mellenthin
San Francisco, CA
[Hide Comment] A lot has already been said. This is way fun. The grades make no sense. The 12a pitch is stout for Potrero Chico and awkward, but easy to pull through on draws. Depending on your skill level the route could go very quickly and you will be back in time for afternoon margs. Simul-rapping is probably the way to go.

The most important thing though: if you bring a cell phone and turn it on on the summit you will get WiFi from La Posada. I swear. Aug 3, 2016
Eric Sorte
Albuquerque, NM
[Hide Comment] Park 30 feet beyond the cattle guard. Looking up you'll see the white and orange Outrage Wall on your right, and the two Spires will be in front of you. Take any of the several trails going up and head toward the spires. The trials branch a lot, but just trend toward the spires. Go up and past them, toward the saddle to hiker's left of the Outrage Wall. You'll know you're at the climb when you see a plaque that says "Time Wave Zero"! Feb 6, 2017
Eric Sorte
Albuquerque, NM
[Hide Comment] Three parties climbed it in our group. All took between 8 and 9 hours to ascend, and 3 hrs to get back down. Start early and climb the initial pitches in the dark, or rap in the dark. We chose the former since we considered rapping more dangerous by far. The only deaths on this route (apart from one free-solo climb accident) have been on the rappel. Tie knots, and strongly consider using a grigri if you simul-rappel. Its really helps.

As of Feb 2017, the fixed lines were in place on pitches 7 and 23 and were in pretty good shape. There are fixed directional carabiners for the rappel on a few of the pitches (pitch 7, maybe others). If you're going to do this route, consider taking some gear to replace them; they're getting pretty ratty.

Loved the route; it was amazing. Feb 6, 2017
Court Skabelund
[Hide Comment] Our Day on Time Wave:

February 6th: 80 Degrees

3:30 AM Breakfast, Hydrate, Pack-up.
4:10 AM Leave Posada
5:00 AM Start TWZ

Linked Pitches:
5/6/7 - with some stretch in the 70m.

8 - 3rd Class
9 - Could link, might cause significant rope drag.


21- The 12 Pitch. At this point just make sure your whole group makes it through this. We climbed in two groups of two and top belayed until everyone made it through the 12 to save time.
22 - Missing Bolt/Little Spicy
23 - To the Top!
(13 Pitches Total)

We made it to pitch 19 at about 12:30 and topped out at 4:00 PM. The heat and difficulty of the last four pitches hit pretty hard. We simul-rapped and made it down at a little after 8:00 PM.

Bring at least 3 Liters on water on a sunny day!
Totally worth it, not as intense as we thought it would be. Feb 25, 2017
[Hide Comment] March 11 ascent, and we followed same pitch strategy as Court's Feb 25 comment above, which we liked but YMMV. Here's a little more beta on it.

We timed our start so that the leader hit the bottom of the second pitch at first light (6:15am), which worked perfectly.

Most of the belay stances using this strategy, and most of them on this route, are not comfortable.

Individual pitch grades were somewhat inconsistent, but in general everything listed as .10b or under felt within the .8 - .10 range.

Ascent took ~9 hours with a few breaks. First half of the route went quickly, second half slowed down as fatigue and difficulty increased. Descent took ~4 hours simulrapping with a break at the ledge and a few minor stuck ropes.

Descent: consider down-leading p23 from the summit back to the p22 anchor to avoid messing with the fixed rope. The fixed rope is in decent condition if you do want to use it. Don't miss the rappel directionals on p18 & 7. The rappel anchor directly below p10 anchors is there and in good shape.

Pitch strategy:
5/6/7 - with a new 70m rope we had about 1m left when the leader got to the p7 anchor
8 - 3rd class, unrope
10/11/12 - We could not hear each other at all here with a full rope length between us. About 4m of simulclimbing was required with a 70m rope, so figure out a communication strategy beforehand.
17/18 - physical, and p18 is missing a hanger as it angles left, leaving a slight runnout on a traverse. Leader and follower should take care not to fall here.
19/20 - p20 was stiff
21 - physical, be prepared for hard moves between the aid sections, and consider standing on a sling while aiding to make things easier.
22 - stiff
23 - obvious, but watch for loose blocks Mar 13, 2017
[Hide Comment] Pitches with grade, length, number of bolts, and relevant comments
1) 5.7 100' 4
2) 5.11a 95' 9. Very short crux.
3) 5.9- 100' 8
4) 5.9- 100' 7
5) 5.10a 100' 8
6) 5.9- 110' 9
7) 5.7 45' 3. Fixed line at the top of this pitch. As of Nov 2017, line was in good shape
8) 3rd class
9) 5.9+ 100' 10
10) 5.10b 100' 9. Short crux
11) 5.9 100' 8
12) 5.7 50' bivy ledge at the top of this pitch. Can link with 10 and 11 if partner simuls for ~20 ft and using a 70m
13) 5.8 100' 6
14) 5.9 100' 6
15) 5.9/10a 100' 9
16) 5.10d 100' 9. Short crux, felt easier than 10d
17) 5.9+ 100' 7
18) 5.9+ 100' 8
19) 5.9+ 90' 6
20) 5.10d 90' 7. Harder and more sustained than previous 10d
21) 5.12a 90' 10. First 3 or 4 bolts are easy to free. Then, about 3 bolts that are very closely spaced, and easily aidable. Next three bolts are spaced further and require 11a-ish climbing.
22) 5.8 100' 7. Felt stiff, but that is probably the exhaustion talking!
23) 5.6 100' 6. Fixed line in place as of Nov 2017, but in very bad shape- core shot in 3 places. Would not recommend using it. Nov 29, 2017
Kyle Bishop
Nevada City, CA
[Hide Comment] Here's our beta for an 80 meter rope for those comfortable simuling 10b:

20 normal draws, 4 extending

- 1-4 belay until need to simul
- 5-8 simul
- 9-10 link
- 11-15 simul
- 16-17 link
- 18-19 link
- 20 belay
- 21 belay
- 22 belay
- 23 leave rope at the top of pitch 22, via ferrata to the summit on the fixed line.

There are two sketchy at-the-end-of-your-rope double-pitch rappels: From top of the 12a to the start of the 10d and from the top of the 7th (where you start on third class). Be really careful if you double rap these as they will go right to your last inch and require the second to pull down a strand.

Hands down one of Potrero's best! Dec 23, 2017
Shao Hao
[Hide Comment] Not sure about the climbing itself, but for a decent 5.10 climber like myself this is probably quite a challenge in the form of just how long and tiring the whole thing is, but a great experience overall. Simul-rapping would save time if you're efficient, otherwise just normally rap if you're doing it in the dark and playing it safe. 70m rope recommended, and probably 6 alpine draws to reduce drag. Skipping bolts on easy sections helps too.

Timeline breakdown:

0300 - wake up

0415 - leave Rancho El Sendero

0500 - arrive at base

0630 - start P1+2 (waited for other parties. P2 crux is right before the anchors, probably 3 moves long)

P5+6+7 (with slight rope stretch in 70m. P6 traverses left, lookout for directional draws for rappel)
P8 (3rd class scramble)
P9 (to base of roof traverse)
P10 (rap directly down from top of P10 to find rap rings. These rings are about 20ft right from the roof but still get you down to the 3rd class)
P11+12 (You can link P10+11+12 but requires ~15ft of simul climbing, we played it safe to break up P10)

1030 - arrive at P12 bivy ledge

P15+16 (P15 I believe traverses left, look out for directional draws for rappel)
P19+20 (5.9 then sustained 10d, this pitch was pretty intense)

1500 - arrive base of P21 (5.12a pitch, can be aided by stepping on bolts or clipping draws and pulling on them, bolts are closely spaced)

1630 - arrive top of P22 (technically summit)

1700 - arrive top of P23 (sketchy traverse on ridge with big loose rocks, wouldn't recommend doing to be honest, view doesn't change much, plus requires dowmclimbimg back to P22 which is a pain)

1800 - start rappelling from P22

2230 - arrive back at base (we were a little slow due to single raps+all rappel in the dark

Overall, amazing experience and would highly recommend. Train hard for it and enjoy the adventure! Jan 6, 2018
Ryan Marchese
Columbus, OH
[Hide Comment] Does anyone know how how much space is on the 12th pitch ledge? How many people could squeeze in there to sleep for a
night? Jan 16, 2018
Jay Morse
Hooksett, New Hampshire
[Hide Comment] Here is how we linked pitches. In my opinion, this is probably the best way to do it as we were generally able to tackle harder/more wandery pitches without any rope drag and mostly had comfortable belays.

P1+P2: (Note if you aren't a very solid 5.11 climber, I recommend doing these pitches separately. There will be a lot conspiring against you on the 5.11 pitch, including the early start, no warmup, a full backpack, and you probably haven't pooped yet. P1 does add significant rope weight and rope drag even with extension, so keep that in mind.)
P8 is just a hike. This is not a pitch. Pick up your rope and walk.
P10+P11 (Some people linked P9 and P10, but you will be better off starting P10 clean since it is a traverse pitch, plus you will be set up to get the next 3 pitches in one and won't miss the palm tree belay, which is the best belay on the route and provides some much-needed shade.)
P12, P13, and P14: I had 5' of rope left on my 70m rope at the palm tree belay.
(Note, you could certainly link P15 + P16, and P17 + 18 - but you will have drag for the 5.10D and would miss the cave belay)
P19+P20 (Extend on P19 and you won't have much rope drag at all for the 10D pitch. It went totally fine for me. However, you might consider separating these two if you are tired or not confident in the grade, because the 10D pitch is probably 11A and quite tough after all of the climbing you've done to get there.)
P21+P22 (Be prepared for P22 - hardest pitch of "5.8" sport I've ever done by far. Also consider the strength of your second on the 5.12A pitch. Even with aiding, it is a solid 5.11A and very physical, so it might benefit you to stop and belay above that pitch so you can keep your second tighter and help them through.)
P23 - The fixed line has lost its sheathing entirely in many sections. While it might be tempting to just use these lines, I would suggest pitching it out to the summit until they are replaced. Jan 19, 2018
[Hide Comment] The 3rd class section is not 3rd class, it's a flat trail. The 5.6 last pitch is 4th class with frightening choss. The fixed line on this section is completely trashed and the downclimb from the summit was the single scariest, most exposed section of the entire climb.
The climbing throughout the route was much higher quality than we expected. Recommended. Jan 24, 2018
[Hide Comment] Quick note on safety - We were followed leaving La Posada by two men in a small car. They followed us from La Posada all the way into the park. They stopped at the park's gate. We then sped up our walking pace until we turned the first bend into the canyon and lost sight of them. When we heard them accelerate and saw the lights turn on, we started running and hid in some rocks on the side of the road. Two mexican men got out of their cars, opened the trunk of the vehicle and started looking for us. They looked mostly in the dry arroyo. I overheard them say "Well, they won't even come out to say hello to us." They continued up canyon, turned around, and came back down. They stopped their car again near us (maybe 40 feet), turned the car toward the arroyo, and put on their high beams. Again, they opened the trunk of the car and one guy got out and looked for us in the arroyo. They eventually left and we continued to Time Wave. This all happened around 4 am.

Time and again people told us el Potrero is safe, but we had this scare. Use extreme caution when leaving to climb early. It's unclear what these men wanted but we were deeply terrified and did not want to find out. Other than this incident, El Potrero seemed really safe during "regular" climber hours. But where there are tourists, there is money, and where there is money, there are thieves.

Climbed this about in early March of 2018 with a good friend. He onsighted the 12a crux pitch, which was hard for me to follow. Even pulling on draws it was not easy. If your second is weaker than the stronger climber, don't continue past the next set of anchors as the rope stretch makes it even hard to pull on draws and make progress. The 11a crux down low is like a gym climb as is the 10d crux above. Most of the route felt like 5.9 to 10a. Beautiful. 70m was perfect.

Note for improving the route - bring a spare draw to replace old one on upper traversing pitch. Better year, bring a metal fixed draw. Mar 29, 2018
Josef Lovin
Lakewood, CO
[Hide Comment] If you're linking pitches, how many draws do you need? Sep 10, 2018
Madison, WIsconsin
[Hide Comment] If you aid through the 5.12 bolt ladder section, what does that drop the free grade on that pitch to? Are there still hard 5.11 sections that need to be freed on that pitch, or does the grade drop more? Oct 26, 2018
Fritz :-)
The Western Slope
[Hide Comment] SGP donated two new fixed lines and we hung them yesterday. The P7 shortie needs edge protection or it won’t last long. Will someone bring up a canvas square or a chunk of garden hose? Jan 7, 2019