El Potrero Chico: Limestone Magic in the Land of Tacos

Photo by Robin Hill

The Climbing Academy’s third quarter disappeared faster than a hot stack of corn tortillas. It feels like we just arrived in Potrero Chico, but really we’ve spent a month climbing limestone faces and stuffing our own with every possible taco.

As we leave for spring break, we’d love to share some thoughts on our Potrero experience:

The climbing

Located in the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range, El Potrero Chico is known worldwide for its pervasive limestone climbing. Whereas El Salto, TCA’s next destination, is tufa city, Potrero is better renowned for its technical faces and footwork-intensive slabs. The area is best known as a mecca for multi-pitch routes, but its single-pitch offerings are nothing to scoff at. After spending two weeks “building a base” at their onsight levels, TCA students have been able to work on “mini-projects” in preparation to try hard at El Salto after the break.

Our final week in Hidalgo, we had the opportunity to share our love of climbing with some local kids. They see international climbers all the time but hadn’t gotten a chance to rope up themselves. TCA students took on leadership roles, setting up top-ropes, teaching basic climbing safety, and coaching the kids up the rock. It was awesome to interact with our host community in such a fun and meaningful way.

The food 

Mexico has been feeding us well. More specifically, Hugo, Isa, and Poncho have been feeding us well. This intrepid kitchen crew doesn’t shy away from the task of preparing three meals daily for our large and dietarily demanding group. A favorite among students has been the climbing day burrito — always with a tiny bag of salsa — but we’ve also been treated to gorditas, tamales, stuffed peppers, and myriad taco varieties.

To celebrate the end of the quarter and recognize our community partners, TCA and the kitchen crew threw a fiesta at the campground. Between mechanical bull rides and karaoke numbers, we were able to say thank you and goodbye to the people who have shaped our experience in Potrero Chico.

The town

TCA’s two Spanish classes have been interviewing Hidalgans for a collaborative storytelling project, and we’ve received a warm welcome. We’ve made several trips into town to buy snacks and ice cream from our go-to heladerías, and the climber-centric art cafe El Búho was a big hit. Things get hoppin’ around the campground on Sunday nights, when seemingly half of Hidalgo’s populace parks in a dirt lot nearby for a reggaetón-fueled tailgate, but fortunately the fiestas (usually) die down by bedtime. 

Today, TCA students and staff will disperse across North America. After two weeks of spring break, we’ll meet back up here in Mexico — this time to experience El Salto’s tufa madness. 

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