El Gigante, Mexico, new route
In March an international group of climbers including Leopoldo Faria from Portugal forged a 400m line up poor rock on El Gigante in Mexico.
In mid-March Portugese climber Leopoldo Faria joined forces with Mexican climbers Daniel Castilho and Emiliano Fernandez and Joseba from Spain and spent 20 days in Mexico's El Gigante valley, exploring the area and attempting to establish a new route. After ascending 400m the team abandoned its attempt circa 500m shy of the summit as they were faced by an immense section of poor rock. They named their climb "No Mamés" and Faria's trip report is published below.
20 days at the El Gigante Valley
The first time I heard about El Gigante was in the summer of 2009 from a Mexican friend (Daniel “Wey”), who had been there a few years before, making the first ascent of a route on the Basaseachi waterfall. A few months later he invited me to join him with three other climbers with the aim of climbing a new route on El Gigante Valley.
Because there's not much information about the place, we didn’t really know where we were going to climb or what kind of equipment would be needed. After three days of hiking through the jungle carrying over 300 kilos of equipment and food, we had the chance to see and pick the wall were attracted to most and so we established our base camp 20 minutes from Piedra Volada, an unclimbed beautiful and steep wall, 400m high. But when we made the first approach, we realized that it would take us at least another three days and many rope tricks just to haul all the gear to the base of the wall, and we only had 20 days. We had to find a "quick" alternative, so we decided to try our luck on the famous El Gigante tower.
Most of the existing routes on this impressive 900 meter wall are aid routes and we quickly understood why: the almost complete absence of natural pro, the poor rock and the brutal steepness makes it almost impossible to free climb while you’re making the first ascent. When your adrenaline starts to rise you try to hang on something, this was mostly off really bad hooks, at times we even hung with one hand and drilled with the other, making for some really scary moments. Of course this takes a really long time but it is the only way to progress and climb free...
The positive aspect to all this is that not all four could climb at the same time, meaning that we could spend time exploring and enjoying the endless bouldering potential in the canyon field. In the end we ascended almost 50 new problems, from V0 to V12 range and if it wasn’t for the difficult access this canyon could really be an overwhelming place.
We spent the first few days avoiding the poor rock and the blank sections at the start, so as to reach the second half of the wall where although being on steeper ground is seemed to offer more solid rock and more natural pro. Once again we were wrong! After 400 meters of brutal work, opening and cleaning to make it possible to free climb, we reached a section where moving forward proved impossible (at least for us seeking a line that would go free). We were faced with huge sections of poor rock in all directions and we all had the same feeling: it was time to stop and climb the pitches we didn’t freed on our way up.
We managed to free all the pitches except the second to last. After two days of effort I managed to work out all the moves, but some holds broke and I was simply too tired to try it all again.
We must thank our sponsors and friends who supported us so much:
Petzl, Beal, Nuria, Martin, Varis, Omar, Diego, Santiago and Don Santiago.