When the weather gets cold in the U.S., devoted rock climbers migrate south like birds, and one of their prime destinations is El Potrero Chico, Mexico.
“It’s worth going once in your life,” says Ozturk, who has trained there in the winter. “It’s extremely established with tons of huge multipitch sport climbing—like 20-plus pitches.” Over 650 bolted routes, rated 5.7 to 5.14, line the limestone walls of Potrero Chico, and a small cottage industry of campgrounds and guesthouses has cropped up in the jungle outside of the town of Hidalgo.
Part of the appeal of Potrero Chico is, put simply, the easy—and cheap—living. By day, climbers ascend spires like Crash Test Dummies, an exposed two-pitch 5.9 with an enviable view over the verdant valley at the top. Come evening, they buy fresh veggies and fruit at the local markets, then gather in campgrounds like La Posada to cool off in the pool, share stories, and drink margaritas in the shade.
Last year was a big one for Renan Ozturk, a Salt Lake City-based climber, artist, and filmmaker. In 2012 he completed the first successful Tooth Traverse, a five-mile chain of peaks in the Ruth Gorge of Alaska, completed a time-lapse photography project in Nepal, and went to Oman for a story for National Geographic. But perhaps the greatest notch in his belt was Meru, a feature-length film that followed Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker, and Ozturk on a chilling and dangerous first ascent of Meru’s Shark’s Fin in the Himalaya. Ozturk's next climbing film will be released in late 2014.
Renan Ozturk's Gear Pick: The NorthFace Overheard
“I always bring a paper and a pen for less digitized forms of recreation, like sketching and drawing,” Ozturk says. “Also, some sort of roller bag is pretty key, especially when you’re carrying heavy equipment. I use the North Face Overhead. It’s a really bomber version of the roller bags that most airport travelers have, just a little tougher and slightly bigger.”