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Brilliant Limestone FA in Mexico by MFF Recipient
January 2002 :: Mexico :: Portrero Chico

On several occasions, Zack Martin has planned enticing enough objectives to be awarded a Mountain Fellowship Fund grant. He has yet to disappoint, and this trip is no different. On a whim, Zack discovered some huge new limestone walls and put up an awesome new route on one wall, ending just below the summit as thunderstorms crashed around him. Read the whole report below, and make sure your passport is up to date. This region is just waiting for more FA's!

Zack Martin and Sven Krebs established 10 pitches on an unclimbed rock wall in a remote valley three hours southwest of Monterrey, Mexico.  Located by traveling over steep roads south of Monterrey to the Parques Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey the team found dozens of towering limestone walls up to 600 meters.

After a brief trip to Portrero Chico a year earlier, Martin acted on a hunch that there was more rock to be discovered.  Funded by an American Alpine Youth Fellowship Grant Sven Krebs, Zack Martin and photographer Rich Durnan wandered from one dirt road to another for several days and discovered a deep river valley guarded by walls of rock.

With only five days to establish a new route the team chose a highly accessible wall not far from the road that follows the river through the valley.  Over the next five days, the team completed numerous steep limestone pitches with difficulties up to 5.11b.

Protected mostly by bolts placed on lead, the route ascends the face following the path of least resistance to a large ledge half way.  Thin limestone edges and pockets on steep faces connect slabs and bulges that lead to a slash-like feature in the middle of the wall. The primary difficulties are in the lower half of the route and moderate free climbing through dense high desert jungle leads to the summit.  Running short on time, Krebs and Martin decided to ascend a third-class section in the middle of the face and seek the easiest way to the summit.  Several moderate pitches protected on good limestone led to a perch within eyeshot of the summit.

Unfortunately, the top of the peak would go untouched due to steep terrain that required bolts left below and bad weather.  Anxiously searching for a safe path to the summit, the team retreated and an enormous lightning storm spat streaks of electricity into the summit.

The team named the route Lions and Bears after a late evening discussion with a local landowner in which he told stories of the bears and mountain lions that live in the valley.  His warned the team not to take any long walks high on any mountains and never go out alone.

The region is a bountiful rift of new route potential and exciting adventures for the considerate Spanish-speaking explorer.