Mountain Climbing Guide for Nuevo León
many areas and have created countless places for mountain climbing, while forming top-tier athletes in the sport.
Become an Expert with This Climbing Guide
In making this climbing guide for Nuevo León, we’ve thought of the different types of mountain climbers—beginners and veterans, those who can forgo creature comforts and those who prefer not to.
Ciénega de González
We’ve decided to make this town the starting point because there are cabins and other tourist services at Ciénega de Gonzalez. While most climbers prefer to set up a tent, eat pasta and tuna cooked over a portable mini-stove, sleep on a mat (at risk of it deflating in the middle of the night), and roll up a sweater to use as a pillow, there are those who prefer the comfort of roof cover and a hot shower.
Harnesses vs Drinks
It’s part of the charm to stay in on a Friday night in order to get going early on Saturday to tackle this climbing route in Nuevo León. I imagine weekends are similar for climbers around the world: you ask in your circle who’s going where, prepare your backpack (which is usually still packed since last weekend’s climb) with rope, harness, mosquito nets, belts, climbing shoes, magnesium, toilet paper, and a long list of etcetera’s, as well as confirming the carpool for Saturday morning. In this instance, the plan is to climb rock walls in an area near Monterrey.
Located an hour and a half from Monterrey, three of the main sections at this stunning spot are open: Las Ánimas, Tecolote Cave, and De la Boca Canyon. Getting there involves a ride on a narrow, curving road with views of some drops that are truly vertigo-inducing. Upon arriving at the small, colorful town of Ciénega de González, the setting is perfect for a night of camping in a spooky forest.
In this region, you might spot rattlesnakes, coral snakes, wasps’ nests, woodpeckers, and mountain parrots endemic to the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range—and sadly in danger of extinction due to illegal trafficking and loss of habitat. Stay alert as you walk, don’t sit on trunks, be careful not to destroy any nests, and don’t stick your hands in the bushes. If you find a snake, don’t try to kill it. Move away slowly and silently.
Let’s Get to It!
The truly impressive part comes on the dirt road on the way down to Las Ánimas section. Gorgeous white limestone rock walls with streaks of yellow and grey as if covered in paint stand at around 328 feet high. Spongey sediment formations called tufascreated by passing water cover the walls like stalactites from top to bottom. They make for a beautiful sight, but for an athlete coming into contact with them, they imply a very particular kind of climb. In an interview for Freeman, one of Monterrey’s most inveterate rock climbers, Ricardo Vara, explains that these walls require not only strength and resistance, but balance and technique for the climb in order to take advantage of these formations.
On one side there’s the rock wall, on the other, a waterfall that is only active during one season. But dry or wet, it’s a very attractive sight. If that wasn’t enough, there’s an area of Las Ánimas where you can see rock paintings that are believed to be as much as 4,000 years old. At the foot of Las Ánimas, I realized that the wall bulges, meaning it’s not vertical but inclines toward you. Right away, this adds a greater degree of difficulty to the climb: the force of gravity pulls at you making you step hard and tighten the abdomen to help the hands and back hold tight to the grips and keep the body close to the rock.
Taking advantage of sleepiness and the calm of the forest to refresh your energy supplies is one of the fundamental points of this climbing guide. If the bulge is too much, the ceilings of Tecolote Cave are even more intimidating. However, once you get used to hanging from the tufas, the climb in the caves can be a lot of fun—though they no doubt demand a lot of strength. In the caves, you use every muscle in your body, even those you didn’t know you had. In the final days, when I’m out of strength and the skin on my fingers starts feeling extra-sensitive, the routes at De la Boca Canyon turn out to be more relaxing. They’re easier to read and it’s where you’ll found more options with less degree of difficulty.
Use the Shade
To get maximum fun out of this section, climb during the shady hours. Then, kill your time eating or sleeping while the sun is at its peak. Start climbing again when the shade returns in the afternoon. Routes aren’t set up from one day to the next. They imply a lot of physical and mental strength for those who climb. A route planner visualizes the possibilities of a route and then makes holes every two, three, or four yards on the wall with a drill that they have to carry with them. All this, while hanging in the heat of the sun or withstanding the cold and the uncomfortable harness digging into their waist and legs, not to mention the sweat-inducing helmet.
Who Plots the Climbing Routes?
Yes, it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it, if only for love of the sport. That’s why I’ll mention some of the people who have plotted routes in El Salto in acknowledgement of their efforts: Paco and Repo Medina, Milton Paez and Ramón Huergo (since 1996), and Alex Patiño and Arturo Martínez, among others. To you and everybody else, thank you. Thank you for opening sporting places like El Salto for all of us, more or less experienced climbers, and for nature lovers everywhere. I hope this guide helps promote rock climbing in other places in the country.