Northern Mexico Charm and a Rock Climber's Paradise
Nestled away in a low-profile town is the beautiful mountain Potrero Chico, where rock climbers from all over the world annually brave its routes most often from October to March. At the base of Potrero, and about 45 minutes northwest from the center of Monterrey lies Hidalgo, a town of rougly 30,000 people
The bi-weekly local markets are not only charming, but the happening thing to do. Merchants set up their personal stands for a few blocks. Neighbors catch up on the latest gossip. Youth give each other a “que onda” (what's up) as they shake hands the Mexican way. Instead of shopping at a large everything-under-one-roof store, the locals shop at the clothes stand or the vegetable stand or the music stand. But unlike most non-touristic towns, the townspeople are used to internationals, due to the sport climbing mecca, Potrero Chico, that sits about two kilometers outside of town. Those who come must speak Spanish, and those who try their best to do so, are greeted with smiles.
There is very little “culture” in the sense of what one thinks he will find in Mexico. No brightly colored fabrics or artisans selling their latest craft, like the areas further south. This is northern Mexico, desert terrain: brutal heat in the summer and for about a month in the winter bone-chilling cold. Everything here is made of cement, which often means on a sunny day, it's warmer outside than inside during the months of January and February. But there is a charm that exists in this place. The charm of being called “queen” or “son” by your landlady who never stops smiling when she sees you. The charm of meeting people from all over the world if you visit the big mountain. The charm of taking an English student to rock climb for the first time in his or her life and hearing them shout: I never thought I'd get to do this, ever.
Especially if you are a rock climber, this is the place to be. Potrero Chico offers some traditional climbing, but mostly sport climbing routes, hundreds of them. Choose from grade levels between 5.7 and 5.14. Route lengths available here range from single-pitch to the biggest route in the park, Time Wave Zero — 23 pitches, 2,100 feet. At the foot of the mountain, there are several campgrounds with decent prices for overnight stays, 5 USD per night to pitch your own tent.