Taxco, Mexico
The hillside town of Taxco, Mexico, is famous for its silver...and now for its climbing. Photo: © Petzl Justin Roth

October 31, 2010: The climbing at Petzl RocTrip Mexico is in full swing, with nearly 50 Petzl athletes from around the world and hundreds of climbers from across the Americas arriving at the massive El Chonta cave outside of Taxco, Mexico, a few hours south of Mexico City.

The limestone El Chonta cave is truly enormous. An arduous approach though farmland, over rocky trails and cracked earth pitted by the hooves of cows and donkeys, reveals 300-400 foot walls overhanging more than 45 degrees. The stone itself has the appearance of melting wax, with stalactites and otherworldly formations dangling from the belly of the cave like strange growths.

Stalactite grapling in El Chonta
A climber grapples with the massive formations of the El Chonta cave. Photo: © Petzl Lafouche.

Inside the cave, at least a thousand feet across and surrounded by dense foliage, routes thread their way up and around the formations. Petzl athletes climbed many of the most impressive routes there, including three Ultimate Routes, which took them on long, pumpy journeys through hundreds of feet of three-dimensional climbing in which kneebars, body-jams, and even sit-down rests are useful techniques. Meanwhile, the insects inside the humid cave waged war of the climbers -- wasp nests inside of huge, juggy holds and countless tiny biting insects that left many with red welts on any exposed skin.

The hardest of the Ultimate Routes, called El Pendulo, combined two existing routes connected with a new middle and end especially for RocTrip. Javier Serratos, a Mexican climber and developer, suggested a possible grade of 5.14 for the route. Petzl climbers Michael Fuselier and Steve McClure were the only climbers to complete the 300 foot left-slanting climb in the two days of climbing at El Chonta.

Loic Gadioz crushing
Petzl athlete Loic Gadioz on one of El Chonta's many endurance testpeices. Photo: © Fred Labreveux.

Other Ultimate Routes included Inciciativa Mexico, a combination of three existing routes intended for the women and graded at 5.13a/b; Silencia Interna, formerly a project and also graded 5.13a/b; and a new link up the athletes decided to climb, given a grade of 5.13c. The athletes commented that the climbing was similar to other steep limestone caves such as Kalymnos and areas in Thailand, but much bigger and wilder.

Spectators at Petzl RocTrip Mexico
Spectators watch as athletes try the pumptastic Ultimate Routes on the right side of El Chonta. Photo: © Petzl Justin Roth.

After a rest day tomorrow, Petzl RocTrip will move north, to the town of Jilotepec, home to a little-known crag of the same name, filled with hundreds of routes of all grades. The style of climbing at Jilo is nearly opposite to El Chonta’s: less steep and more technical, full of crimps, pockets, and embedded cobbles. There are also more moderate routes, and, Serratos warns, the Ultimate Routes in Jilo will be much more difficult. See you there!


-Roctrip photos

Petzl RocTrip Mexico slideshow. Click the lower right-hand corner to view full-screen.


-Roctrip video