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La Presa Francisco Zarco - Urs Moosmuller

La Presa Francisco Zarco - Urs Moosmuller
La Presa Francisco Zarco - Urs Moosmuller
La Presa Francisco Zarco - Urs Moosmuller
La Presa Francisco Zarco - Urs Moosmuller
La Presa Francisco Zarco - Urs Moosmuller
La Presa Francisco Zarco - Urs Moosmuller
La Presa Francisco Zarco - Urs Moosmuller
February 10, 2014 - 

Over the winter holidays, I traveled to Torreon, Mexico to celebrate with my girlfriend’s parents. We stayed at her families house in Lerdo, a city next to Torreon. Northern Mexico is very different from the central part of Mexico and is a huge desert with beautiful hills and warm weather.

The climbing scene in the area is very small and there are only a handful of active climbers who have found and developed a very beautiful limestone area called La Presa. The local climbing area is a 45 minute drive to the west of the city in the hills of Durango.

The large canyon sits below a damned up river and on its own it is a very beautiful tourist attraction. The climbing is on bullet hard vertical walls of limestone and holds very technical climbing on crimps. The rock quality is very good and in some parts it reminds me of granite.

My girlfriend and I spent three weeks in this area climbing and bolting. Due to the lack of climbers in the area there are only a few routes that are 12d and most of the hundred some routes are in the moderate grades. This left a large amount of potential for routes in the 5.13 range and harder.


During my first two days in the area I quickly onsighted all the hardest established routes. The quality of the 5.12+’s surprised me and all of them were classic technical routes on small crimps. With the hardest routes completed, I started looking around for open projects.

After talking to one of the developers of the area Alberto, he told me of an open project that several people had tried and completed all the moves. But no one was strong enough to link them together. I went to check the route out and without a warm-up I started up the route. From the base it looked impossible and blank with no holds or features up a steep slab. As you reach the blank sections small iron knobs appear and you pinch and crimp these micro features as you work your way up the slab. The whole thing is very sustained on micro edges. Several times I felt as if my holds would just rip off, but in the end they all held and I was able to complete my first FA in the area. Mundo Cherrry (Cherry World) 5.12d. With no open projects left I started looking for routes to bolt.

My girlfriend and I met up with Alberto and he took us to a small area called Los Sabinos. This wall holds the easiest routes in the area, but on the left side there is a very steep roof that hadn’t been bolted or attempted. I started up the route and bolted it ground up using hooks and removable bolts. The roof turned out to have a possible route on it with a very hard boulder problem at the base of the roof.

Throughout the rest of the trip I tried this route off and on, but by the end I still wasn’t able to stick the crux throw. The route break down is: two bolts of 5.9 slab leads to the base of the roof, a v8 set up into a v11 throw, a good rest, two bolts of 5.13 climbing, a V9 boulder problem pulling the lip, and a very thin 5.12+ slab to the anchors. The route felt in the 5.14b/c range and is still an open project.

Alberto and I went to the most impressive wall in the area named El Reliz de los Venados. This wall holds a slightly overhung 100m wall that is one of the best cliffs I have been to. The current routes stop about half way up the wall with the other half of the wall being completely untouched by climbers. There is maybe potential for 40 routes along the upper half of the wall. All classic technical face climbs. The climbing style is on perfect three finger half pad edges through blank impossible looking features.

After studying the wall I had my eyes set on a beautiful long black streak. Alberto had his heart set on completing a route to the right of the long black streak. We got all of our gear organized and made the 10 minute hike the base of the 5th class scramble to the ridge line. We scrambled up this loose fifth class terrain filled with cactuses, loose blocks, and dirt.

After twenty minutes we reached the ridge line and soloed the 10M 5.6 to the first summit of the ridge. Quickly we rapped off the other side back down to the ridge and aid soloed our way up a bolt ladder to the main summit of the formation. The ridge through this section is so narrow on both sides with an 80m drop to the ground. It is very exposed and an incredible experience. The summit gives you one of the best views of the surrounding landscape. Another 25 minutes of scrambling and walking down the ridge led to the point where we wanted to rappel down to set the anchors for my route.

After trying to figure out if we were on the right part of the wall we made a guess and started our rappel down. We were very lucky and on the first try we ended up at the top of my line after two rope rappel's. Now the hard part. There was an obvious point to stop the route, but we had to be very careful to put the anchors at a height where you can get down with a 70m rope. After discussing it through we put the anchor in and rapped to the ground with no issues. With rope stretch the rope touched the ground with nothing to spare. We were very lucky.

Through out the next few days I cleaned and equipped this route while Alberto did the same to his project to the right. It was a really amazing experience sharing the whole process with someone else who was right next to you equipping a different route. Near the end of the process some local kids from the town came up to the wall early in the morning and cut our fixed ropes in half and stole a fixed lead rope. We came back the next day to find our ropes destroyed. We headed into town and found a little kid playing with a 10M piece of the rope. After questioning him about where he got the rope the kids mom came out and told us she saw a white truck pass by and throw it out the window. We both knew this wasn’t true, but there was nothing we could do. We went home defeated.

After talking it through we went back and finished the route, rescuing the remainder of our ropes. Finally the routes were finished and ready to be climbed. I was able to flash  my route creating a long technical 36M endurance route. I named it La Negra Tomasa 5.13a. The line climbs through the fattest black streak on the wall. Alberto’s project turned out to be very hard and a huge step up from anything in the area. I started working his project at the end of our first stay and wasn't able to complete it in time before leaving for Lerdo. I left longing to go back and felt nervous that it might stay as an open project for a long time.

After six days of studying and working on my school work I came back for my last day before leaving the area completely. I warmed up efficiently and started up the project. Here is the break down: A V6 leads straight into a V9 section on micro crimps, a 5.10 section through a huge flake, five bolts of sustained climbing with no rest, a v8 boulder problem guarding the first set of anchors, rest in a massive hole, several bolts of 5.11 climbing leads to a v8 boulder problem, 5.12- climbing on perfect edges leads to the second set of anchors. This route is one of the hardest vertical routes I have been on and the hardest of its nature in Mexico. The upper pitch is an unbelievable adventure climb through perfect three finger one pad crimps up a steep headwall. The exposure on the upper part is unreal. It took me five tries to complete the whole line. Alberto named the first pitch Montezuma 5.13d and we agreed the second pitch should be called La Venganza de Montezuma 5.14a. The full line is a 50M pitch and there are very few endurance routes that are this good!

The trip came to an end after a very rewarding conclusion. The north of Mexico is a very beautiful place with huge amounts of potential for limestone routes. I was sad to leave such a beautiful place, but I know I will stop by very soon to hopefully experience another amazing trip.


Photo credit: Alberto Sanchez

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