Photograph by Kiliii Yuyan, Aurora
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A climber tackles the Celestial Omnibus route on El Portero Chico in Mexico.

Photograph by Kiliii Yuyan, Aurora

Climb a Big Wall at Mexico's El Potrero Chico

There's a reason expert rock climbers head here every winter.

Recommended by: Renan Ozturk, Climber

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.

Plan This Trip: La Posada Camping & Lodging has a campground, equipment rentals, and climbing guides for hire. Potrerochico.org is an English-language website with information about the area.

Renan Ozturk, a Salt Lake City-based climber, artist, and filmmaker, completed the first successful Tooth Traverse, a five-mile chain of peaks in the Ruth Gorge of Alaska. He also created a time-lapse photography project in Nepal and a National Geographic story on Oman. But perhaps the greatest notch in his belt is 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.