July Member of the Month – Leen Schafer


What is it about climbing that you love the most?
I love solving puzzles and climbing is essentially solving a mathematical and mechanical puzzle. It’s simultaneously physically and mentally challenging; sometimes it can be meditative when you are trying to pull a series of movement together. To me, there is no other activity that has this much to offer. I love it!

Yoga changed my life in the best way possible. Similar to climbing, yoga can be a very difficult moving meditation if you want it to be. Not only is it good for the body and soul, but it also teaches self-patience, making peace with suffering and being present in the moment. And now I cannot live without it!
I dream of being beastly.

How did you find your way to Mesa Rim?
Back in 2004, I scrambled up to the summit of Mt Washington in New Hampshire taking the Huntington Ravine trail. It was pretty gnarly. The last 1000 feet of the trail was a headwall that you ascend ropeless. I definitely encountered some technical sections and I really didn’t know about climbing back then. Hugging a ledge, I looked over and saw some climbers trad’ing up the Mechanic’s Route off the trail. In awe, I asked my partner what they were doing. I immediately knew I wanted to climb. I never really got the opportunity to integrate climbing into my life until I came to SD for grad school. I figured climbing would be a good balance to the insanity of science. I love Mesa for so many reasons – yeah the climbing and the yoga are the best, but I’ve met so many of my friends and continue to meet new people and make more friends here. The culture is fantastic. I even met my husband at Mesa back when I first started climbing regularly Christmas Eve 2012. We were the only two people in the bouldering area and the rest is history. :)

How much is climbing a part of your life?
My life: eat, sleep, science, yoga, climb, run, pump iron and repeat in varying orders. Climbing/yoga is just as important as eating and sleeping. Sometimes science happens with no sleep. If climbing and yoga isn’t in the mix then there is an excess of madness. Madness is only good in small doses, hence we have to stick to the above formula for Leen to operate at an optimal level.

What are 3 things you love to do besides climbing?
Trail running and hiking with my husband and my dog Ron Burgundy. I don’t know how to put this but he’s kind of a big deal. He’s a very important dog; people know him. No really, when we go outside to climbing areas all these people know him and not us. He force cuddles strangers but keeps it classy.

I really love eating fresh fruit off of trees and taking naps in the forest. When I’m not climbing or yoga’ing, I’m always training and trying new things to figure out how I can be buff one day. Pump – you – up!

What are 3 words you think that best describe your personality?
Tenacious, Motivated, Fervent

If you had a theme song what would it be?
“Strangeness and Charm” by Florence and the Machine

If you could have dinner with a famous/historical person, who would it be?
I don’t think that famous or historic people are really any different from regular people. By this logic, having dinner with a total stranger would be kind of weird. I guess I’d want to know that we’d have some fun and light conversation. So maybe Milla Jovovich? We can talk about multi-passes and how to kill mutant zombies.

If you could only smell one thing for an entire day. What would you choose?
I chose a smell combination: Lavender flowers growing under pine trees and wet dirt.

Mesa Rim is Coming to Reno, NV!

Mesa Rim Coming to Reno NV
We are so excited to announce that Mesa Rim Climbing and Fitness Center will open an ultramodern indoor climbing facility in Reno, Nevada! Based in San Diego and currently operating two climbing and yoga facilities in Southern California, Mesa Rim is building a custom-designed climbing center that will feature 25,000 square feet of top-roping, lead climbing, and bouldering terrain, awe-inspiring 50 foot climbing walls, a professional yoga studio, a complete array of fitness equipment, and stylish locker rooms.

Mesa Rim Reno will cater to the area’s large climbing community as well as to outdoor enthusiasts and local athletes. Ian McIntosh, Partner and General Manager of Mesa Rim Climbing and Fitness Center states, “We believe that climbing is more than a sport; it’s a lifestyle. Climbing and yoga can be transformative experiences — physically, mentally, socially, and beyond.” In regards to joining the Reno community he states, “We feel the Reno area is the perfect location for a modern indoor climbing facility that can serve not only as a place to climb and train, but also as a community hub for outdoor and fitness enthusiasts in the Reno-Sparks metro area.”

Mesa Rim Coming to Reno NV

Mesa Rim is proud to announce that the Reno location represents a new partnership with the owners of the Climbing Business Journal, Mike Helt and Marlowe Kulley. In addition to being founders and editors at CBJ, the first and only trade journal focused on the indoor climbing industry, Marlowe is an experienced project manager while Mike has been a leader in the climbing industry for over 20 years and has worked in countless climbing gyms across the country as a professional routesetter, instructor and consultant. Mike and Marlowe are happy to call Reno their home.

Mesa Rim values community involvement and is offering a limited number of community members the opportunity to participate in this business venture. If you would like to be a part of Mesa Rim Reno or have feedback on the project please contact Marlowe Kulley, Reno Manager, at mkulley@mesarim.com or visit http://www.MesaRim.com.

“I Can Make That” – Castleton Tower Adventures by Quinn Miller

This blog post is about climbing Castleton Tower in Utah, more importantly that adventure is just as much about the journey as the destination.

Although our trip to Utah was four days long, this blog post is going to focus on an 8-hour section of it that occurred at the backend of the first 24 hours. These 8 hours set the tone of the trip, and quickly became a rallying point for any of our decisions.

Our trip began 7AM Sunday morning in Ferris’ Prius. The plan: Make it to the campground parking lot by 11PM, finish the approach to Castleton Tower around midnight, jug up 400 feet of fixed-lines, reach the top by 2AM, sleep, and awake to a beautiful desert sunrise atop an iconic desert tower.

After half a day of driving, having picked up our friend Kate and Ferris’ ladyfriend Bailey on the way, we arrive at the campground at 11:30PM. We meet up with Ferris’ aunt Dana and start packing any essential gear we’ll need for our ascent. Having sufficiently disturbed the sleeping climbers in the campground, we begin our approach to Castleton Tower as the clock strikes midnight.

The approach to Castleton isn’t too strenuous. Mostly gentle inclines mixed with a few sections of steep hiking and scrambling. The group morale is high, reinforced by the light of headlamps from friends currently atop Castleton Tower. We take on a leisure pace, with periodic stops to turn off our headlamps and appreciate the clear night sky. Around 1:15AM, we finish the approach and reach the base of Castleton. The light of headlamps we saw at the beginning now replaced exclusively by the light of stars above the tower.

Once at the base we begin divvying up the gear. The friend that put up the fixed-lines only left us one ascender and we have four grigris between five people. Luckily we have much less-efficient micro-traxion pulleys to cover our need of ascenders, but a grigri will still have to be lowered each time.

For those unfamiliar with jugging up fixed lines, there are various ways of doing it. According to Ferris, we did it the less efficient way. The process involved sliding an ascender up a rope (the rope was fixed on an anchor above us) and then stepping on webbing while simultaneously pulling the rope through a grigri to secure the new height. It was sort of like kick starting a motorcycle in mid-air while simultaneously doing pullups. You gain about a foot each time if you are doing it properly.

At 2AM we begin jugging up the fixed-lines one at a time. Ferris is the first to go because he has to show 3 of us how to actually do it. We all look on in amazement; Ferris’ past as a high school quarterback is clearly shown through his endurance, as he quickly ascends the first rope in around 10 minutes (far outpacing any of our future times).

As Ferris gets to the first anchor he gives us a motivating yell of, “Hey guys try not to bounce too much when you come up, the rock is sharp and the rope is rubbing against this ledge.” Our resolve bolstered by these words, we graciously offer the next turn to each other.

Well-after 3AM, Kate and Dana have begun their ascents up the second fixed-line, Bailey begins the ascent up the first, and I wait silently at the bottom having an internal debate on whether I should even bring my sleeping bag/pad with me. Once Bailey reaches the first anchor with Ferris, I decide to suffer just as much as the rest of the group and keep all the gear in my pack.

I begin the slow trudge up the fixed-line; every part of the ascending-system feels like it’s fighting the other part while these parts collectively fight my body. Any notion of not bouncing on the rope is quickly abandoned, as the need for keeping myself alive is surpassed by the need to get to the first anchor.

Upon reaching the first anchor it is nearing 4AM and talk of seeing the sunrise before sleeping is echoed throughout the group. We quickly realize that our ambitious thought of jugging up 400 feet of fixed-rope in two hours was more of an audacious thought. Regardless, we jug on.

By the time I’m fifteen-feet below the second anchor, a thin string of light is forming on the eastern horizon. Dana has begun the ascent up the final section, and Ferris, Bailey, and Kate wait to greet me. Even after being up for 21 hours, driving 800 miles, hiking a couple miles, and jugging up 275 feet of fixed-lines, we all have a collective laugh at the absurdity of the position we’re in. We quickly come to terms with the fact that we will still be witnessing a sunrise; it just won’t be after getting some sleep at the top.

Once Kate has made her way up the final line, I begin making my way up, and leave Ferris and Bailey alone at the second anchor to enjoy the romantic aspect of a desert sunrise. When I get about 30 feet up the line, my micro-traxion pulley quits gripping the rope. Not wanting to ruin the moment Ferris and Bailey were having, I keep sliding the pulley up, quickly pulling on the grigri while stepping hard on the webbing hoping that it will finally catch. I keep trying this in hopes I can get past the section of thin rope, and not interrupt Ferris and Bailey’s romantic moment, when I hear, “Hey Dad! … Yeah we’re just on the side of Castleton right now. Dana and Kate made it the top, Quinn’s right there jugging up and Bailey and I are sitting here watching the sunrise, see!” I look down to see Ferris FaceTiming his dad.

After the FaceTime ends, I lower down and switch pulleys. I jug up the final rope, followed by Bailey and then Ferris. By 7AM, the five of us are atop Castleton Tower to greet the climbers as they wake up. We all talk for an hour and enjoy the rest of the sunrise, but by 8AM (24 hours after getting into the car the morning before) our group is ready to crash. We roll out our sleeping bags, find some reasonably shaded area and pass out. Two hours later, with no more shade to speak of, we are awake and rappelling back down the tower; we’re headed towards the town of Moab where pizza and beer awaits.

Yvon Chouinard once said, “For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts.” Whether the CEO of Patagonia would deem this section of our trip as an adventure is unknown to me, but the group consensus was that things definitely didn’t go as planned. With our sleep schedule wrecked the rest of trip, we all ended up making delirious decisions involving swimming in ice-cold rivers right before thunderstorms, acro yoga at gas stations, and sleeping on the pavement 30 feet from the freeway.

– Quinn Miller • Front Desk Team Member + Coach (on the right)
Castleton Tower in Utah by Quinn Miller

Team Mesa Rim – 2015 SCS Regional Championship Results

We are pleased to announce the final results from the 2015 SCS Regional Championship held at Mesa Rim on May 9th! Over 150 competitors streamed through Isolation last weekend, waiting for their chance to get on the awesome routes the Mesa Rim setting team put up! Team Mesa Rim had 21 competitors in total and we really made our presence known!

Congratulations to all the competitors, and a big shout out to Domenic Durso, Antonio Machaz, Sydney Darensburg, Isabella Wright, Sora Haagensen, Sage Karolides, Luke Rodley, Natalie Pellette, Adam Kosviner, and Miles Rogondino who will be traveling to Millcreek, UT next month for the SCS 2015 Division 2 Championship!

 Thank you to all the parents and volunteers who worked so hard to make this event a success!

 SCS 2015 Regional Championship

Male Youth D (out of 23 climbers):

9th – Nathan Kain

13th – Noah Gardner

16th – Antonio Machaz

18th – Ryan Maluf

19th – Weston Gardner

23rd – Daven Giardina

 Female Youth D (out of 11):

9th – Alina Albert

10th – Natalie Jalaie

 Male Youth C (out of 14):

6th – Domenic Durso


Female Youth C (out of 18):

2nd – Sydney Darensburg

3rd – Isabella Wright

6th – Sora Haagensen

14th – Kylie Hall


Male Youth B (out of 22):

2nd – Sage Karolides

4th – Luke Rodley


Female Youth B (out of 14)

3th – Natalie Pellette

14th – Claire Kerofsky


Male Youth A (out of 17)

3rd – Adam Kosviner

6th – Miles Rogondino

10th  – Nik Karolides

 Female Youth A (out of 12)

10th – Ellie Fox

– Team Mesa Rim

From West to East: A Lesson in Jaywalking and Loose Itineraries by Stacy Steirnagle

“Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” Pat Conroy

Nothing is more liberating and humbling than taking yourself out of your comfort zone and diving into something that may or may not be a complete disaster.  Such is the gift of travel.  At least traveling the way some people do.  I prefer not to make set plan and instead opt for a loose blueprint that may or may not include places to stay and transportation to get me there.  This past month I was fortunate enough to find myself in Cambodia and Vietnam.  To be fair, this trip was less of a blind mission because I have friends living in Vietnam that I stayed with for part of my visit.  Other than that, I flew by the seat of my pants; for the most part, this worked out amazingly.  As entertaining as it can be to hear what went wrong during a trip, I will mostly stick to the things that went very smoothly.

Although, I will say that the biggest lesson I learned in both countries is that you have to ask for the check at a restaurant or you will literally sit there all day. The servers won’t leave your side the entire time you are browsing the menu and eating but as soon as it seems like you are finished and ready to go, they are NOWHERE to be found.  Seriously, it’s comical.  In Asia it’s rude to bring the bill so you have to hunt down the check every time. I firmly believe this should be at the beginning of every guide book but I digress.

Days 1-3 and then days 12-14 took place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Remnants around the country are a reminder that Cambodia was under control of the Khmer Rouge just 30 years ago, but Cambodians have such a good disposition.  The economy isn’t great (they still prefer US dollars), and poverty is quite apparent, but everyone I came in contact with was so nice and helpful.

The rest of the trip was spent in Vietnam.  First in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and then in the spectacular coastal town of Hoi An.  Ho Chi Minh was fascinating and exhausting.  The idea of walking across the city was daunting simply because it involved crossing the street.  Crosswalks do not exist and if they do they are not obeyed.  Basically, you step off the curb and start walking, hoping that the motorbikes and cars will dodge you…and they do! It’s an amazing dance that takes place between the vehicles and pedestrians.  At first I thought it was complete chaos, but if you watch closely every move thats made is very calculated. That being said, I still said a little prayer every time I stepped off the safety of the sidewalk (which isn’t always safe either as the motorbikes use it as an extra lane during rush hour.)

My favorite part of the trip was a day of climbing in Da Nang.  Just outside the town of Hoi An are The Marble Mountains; the hot spot for the newly developed sport climbing scene.  It is situated on beautiful granite and limestone cliffs, and if you venture into the mountain you will find caves with carved buddhas throughout.  It really is a magical spot.  Since the anchors are situated in a really unique spot, it isn’t open for public climbing so we found two guides through a local tour company to bring us into the area.  The routes we climbed on were newly bolted and they ranged from 5.4s to 10a/b. The area where we climbed wasn’t particularly challenging, but we were there to have fun, scramble around, and enjoy the beautiful scenery. It was perfect.

All in all, this trip was everything I could have hoped for.  As much as I adore traveling, I came home with a newfound appreciation for the digital walking man on stoplights and the option of some form of bread for breakfast.

Until we meet again, Asia!

– Stacy Steirnagle • Mesa Rim Front Desk

Behind the Scenes: Why Mesa Rim Hosts Climbing Competitions

This blog posts is about climbing competitions hosted at Mesa Rim, why we host competitions, what it means for non-competitors, and what goes into hosting a competition.

On the real: We believe we have a responsibility to share our passion for climbing and strongly value igniting, supporting, and inspiring lifelong climbers. One of the ways we stay true to that includes not only training our youth climbing team, but also supporting youth climbers and brand new climbers and providing a space for them to explore their limits and efforts.

It is a huge honor to have a facility and staff that can accommodate larger competitions. We avidly support the growing sport of competitive climbing, which helps spread awareness and importance of competing and spectating.

Mesa Rim hosts 3 USA Climbing sanctioned competitions annually and a few member specific events.

• CCS Collegiate Climbing Series (bouldering and ropes)
• SCS Sport Climbing Series (sport climbing)

• Annual Mesa Rim Anniversary Party (most routes challenge, bouldering comp, raffles)
• The Member Bouldering League

• ABS American Bouldering Series (bouldering)

Keep your eyes open for a Member Roped Climbing League coming soon!

Every year we do our best to spread out the competitions so climbing terrain is not impacted as much. Rest assured that with the opening of our Mesa Rim Training Center next door and our second location in Mission Valley in Fall 2015, we aim to space out competitions between all facilities so the impact on available climbing terrain is minimized.

So, you’re not a competitor or just a spectator. You’re at Mesa Rim to climb…and you’re limited to certain terrain during competition week. Yes, it can be frustrating, but there are upsides too.

• Quicker turn-around on select climbing terrain
• You get full access to competition climbing routes afterwards!
• Competition routes are typically more flashy, technical, and complex, helping you to expand your own climbing abilities
• Guest setters provide a fresh new style to the walls
• Meet new people and climbers from outside of San Diego
• Competitions are fun to watch!
• You can be proud to tell people your gym just hosted the “….. event”
• Reduced day passes for the ‘week’ or ‘day of’ and extra member guest pass for the month depending on the size of the competition

Planning for the competition begins months before the actual event; setting a date, picking what ropes to use, deciding what ratings to aim for, getting posters and t-shirts designed, printed and distributed, and selecting the setting team. Ultimately we want the best experience for each climber who enters the competition.

Q: How do I know which walls are going to be closed for the competition?
• Look for Closure Signs on the climbing walls
• Read our e-newsletter that goes out twice a month
• Follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
• Check our website for monthly events
Wall Closures Signs for Competitions at Mesa Rim

Q: Why does it take 3-4 days or more of wall closures for a competition?
There are usually many routes or boulders that need to be set and  fore-run thoroughly to make sure they fit their demographic. The setting team may need to set up to 30+ routes and/or 40+ boulders.

Q: If I am not competing, why can’t I just climb on a competition route that is set and ready before the competition?
For some events this may be allowed, for others the setting team may still be working or the routes may not be a finished product yet.

Q: What do the setters do all week for the competition?
If there is a finals, the setting team puts those up first, fine tunes them, marks where they go, takes a picture and strips them to go back up after qualifiers are done (these must be kept hidden from the competitors until it’s time to climb them). The next set of routes or boulders then go up . Each route has a specific grade and/or climbing style it needs to hit. If this is a youth comp, each age group needs to be kept in mind, their heights, hand size and what their abilities are. It is important to prevent moves that will shut down a whole age group, this causes ties which then need to be broken by more unscheduled climbing. Each route in a certain age group must then be run together to check for variety and complementary movement.

Once all the routes are done, they must be set screwed and tick marked with a sharpie on the wall to provide an orientation mark in case they spin during the comp. If a technical occurs due to a spinner, it can result in a major delay for the whole event.

Each setter then uses a picture of their route or boulder and adds point values for the judges that will be judging the climbers. Route placards go up on the walls, chairs are coordinated for competitors facing away from the wall, and a massive clean up begins. Thousands of holds stripped in preparation for the event are out on the floor and must be put back into storage behind the walls, fixed ropes must be pulled, and Isolation must be set up.

This is the end of the setting process and the setting team can get some sleep before comp day.

What other questions do you have? Tag us with your questions on Twitter @MesaRim and we’ll respond!

Want to know more? Check out CBJ Article that dives even deeper into the competition arena.

– The Mesa Rim Team

How to Make a Mt. Whitney Trip Even More Epic by Doug Tomczik

Read Mesa Rim Setter Doug’s trip report on hiking Mt. Whitney, the Mountaineer’s Route.

A Friday night in March, I gather my crampons, ice tools, and excitement and pile into my friends car to head north on interstate 15. Our plan is to climb the Mountaineer’s Route on Mt. Whitney – a class 3 snow gully approached by hiking 5 ½ miles up the N. Fork of Lone Pine Canyon. Almost two hours into the drive, we hit a piece of scrap metal and the back tire blows out as we barrel 70mph down the freeway. We manage to pull onto the shoulder of the freeway and proceed to swap the damaged wheel with a similarly dysfunctional spare tire. Unfortunately, the spare tire is low on air and we coast into the nearest service station. We quickly realize that both the spare tire has a leak and that at 8:20pm, most tire shops are closed on Friday nights. Luckily, we manage to find an auto store that stays open until 9. I request an Uber and within 15 minutes we are headed 12 miles back south to purchase a new tire. Luckily, everything worked out and by 10pm we were back on the road to Bishop.

Around 2am, we received another surprise as the gate that we expected to be closed was actually open! This meant that we would be able to start hiking from Whitney Portal at ~9000ft thereby saving a 3000 vertical foot slog up the paved road. Success! After snuggling into our sleeping bags in an empty parking lot at Whitney Portal, we quickly fell asleep.

The next morning we loaded up our packs and hit the trail. Despite dreaming of winter conditions, we wore running shoes for the first dry hour of the hike before switching to boots. We set up camp at Iceberg Lake that afternoon. In the morning after a quick bite of oatmeal and tea, we began hiking as first light appeared. After an hour and a half of trying to channel our inner Ueli Stecks on the low angle snow, we were standing on the summit. Since we had to get back to San Diego for work the next morning, we promptly turned around and were back at the car that afternoon.

It was a quick, but much appreciated excursion into the local mountains and I’m already excited to go back! Although hopefully with less road obstacles this time.

Doug Tomczik • Mesa Rim Setter

Doug Tomczik

Team Mesa Rim • April Competition Results

April was a busy month for Team Mesa Rim with two Sport Climbing Series (SCS) Local Competitions at Solid Rock, Poway and Vertical Hold!

The results are posted below for the 26(!!) team members that competed. With our solid performances at these comps, we are showing the Southern California climbing community that Team Mesa Rim is a force to be reckoned with! SCS Youth Regional Championships are just around the corner and we’re excited to have the “home-wall advantage”. The Team is training hard and working to prepare ourselves mentally for this next challenge, so if you see us practicing in the gym (you know when we’re there!), show us your support as we get closer to the date: May 9th, 2015!

Solid Rock (4/11/15)

Male Youth D (out of 25 climbers):
7th – Noah Gardner
9th – Ryan Maluf
14th – Antonio Machaz
19th – Weston Gardner
22nd – Daven Giardina

Female Youth D (out of 12):
8th – Alina Albert
10th – Natalie Jalaie
11th – Ines Machaz

Male Youth C (out of 14):
2nd – Domenic Durso
8th – Geoffrey Xu

Female Youth C (out of 13):
2nd – Sora Haagensen
4th – Isabella Wright
5th – Sydney Darensburg

Male Youth B (out of 21):
2nd – Sage Karolides
6th – Luke Rodley
17th – Mark Tankersley
20th – Ryan Lewis

Female Youth B (out of 13)
6th – Natalie Pellette
8th – Marin Grillo
13th – Claire Kerofsky

Male Youth A (out of 17)
3rd – Nik Karolides
7th – Adam Kosviner
9th – Miles Rogondino


Male Youth D (out of 19 climbers):
5th – Noah Gardner
7th – Antonio Machaz
9th – Nathan Kain
16th – Weston Gardner
16th – Daven Giardina

Female Youth D (out of 14):
9th – Nitika Tatineni
10th – Neha Dandu
11th – Alina Albert
11th – Ines Machaz

Male Youth C (out of 9):
5th – Domenic Durso

Female Youth C (out of 17):
1st – Sydney Darensburg
2nd – Sora Haagensen
4th – Isabella Wright
7th – Kylie Hall

Male Youth B (out of 16):
1st – Sage Karolides

Female Youth B (out of 11)
11th – Claire Kerofsky

Male Youth A (out of 12)
4th – Nik Karolides
8th – Miles Rogondino

Female Youth A (out of 7)
7th – Ellie Fox

Check out more photos from the competition on Vertical Hold’s Facebook Page.

Kristine Glauber • Mesa Rim Youth Coach

Train with the Best to Become Your Best: Working with Angie Payne

When we heard that Angie Payne was coming to Mesa Rim to watch CCS Nationals, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have her lead a clinic for our youth climbing team! Angie is a legend of the sport, best known for her hard sends outdoors and longevity at the top end of competition climbing in the US.

Angie started climbing indoors in Cincinnati, Ohio at the age of 11. Soon thereafter she started competing on the youth circuit. 19 years later, she’s still at it, amassing three Bouldering National Championships and many podiums along the way. Upon graduation high school, Angie moved to Boulder, Colorado and quickly picked up outdoor bouldering. In 2010, she became the first woman to boulder V13.

Perhaps even more impressive than her obvious physical abilities is Angie’s incredible mental fortitude. She is known for going to battle with projects for multiple years, a feat requiring vast amounts of mental control and determination. On competition day, she always seems to show up upbeat and focused.

Angie’s accomplishments and well rounded character make her a great role-model for the athletes on the youth team. Through working with Angie, our Team Mesa Rim kids gained inside knowledge about what makes the best climbers tick. They learned how proper preparation can take their hard earned strength, power, and endurance, and translate it into results in the high stress environment of competition climbing. They are inspired by a climber who started out just like them and reached the top of the sport.

Angie Payne Trains Team Mesa Rim

Not only did our youth team have a chance to soak up some of Angie Payne’s knowledge, but also a few of our members were lucky enough to get climbing and training advice from one of the best climbers in the world too as Angie hosted a couple workshops for our community while she was in San Diego.

Angie Payne Trains Team Mesa Rim
Photo Collage Cred: Angie Payne

Kind words from Angie Payne:
THANKS to Mesa Rim Climbing and Fitness for having me, to all the clinic participants for being psyched, and to the youth climbing team for the motivation (and the team tank top!). This team is REALLY good at trying hard, and that’s a skill that I am always working to get better at. Today I seriously didn’t want to work out, so I wore my tank to channel the psych and try hard of the team (and yes, I took dorky photos to prove it!). Keep doing what you’re doing, Mesa Rim people!

From Mesa Rim Member Leen Jamal Schafer on Angie Payne’s Workshop:
Angie’s down-to-earth approach to training helped me reinforce training fundamentals I had previously forgotten, and she presented some fresh cutting-edge tools I’m looking forward to implementing. I greatly appreciated how some of her exercises indirectly helped me overcome some mental barriers impeding me from striving for my potential. Her patience and willingness to answer questions as holistically as possible was very appreciated. It was a pleasure getting to absorb some of the wisdom and psyche she has to offer. If she does another clinic, I’ll be there!

Thanks again, Angie! We look forward to your next San Diego visit!

– Mark Kattus • Mesa Rim Coach

El Potrero Chico: Multiple Days of Multi-Pitch and Multi-Fun

This blog post is about climbing in El Potrero Chico and how pretty darn amazing it is!

Several weeks ago a few of us at Mesa Rim decided to take a hike from the Front Desk and embarked on a journey to northern Mexico to visit the climbing paradise known as El Potrero Chico. Located just outside the sleepy town of Hidalgo in the Mexican province of Nuevo León, Potrero hosts the largest concentration of long multi-pitch sport routes in North America. While the climbing is certainly incredible the flavor of the whole experience, somewhere between an outdoorsy mexican honeymoon and a throbbing tequila hang-over, made us want to quit our jobs and stay forever.

The best way to get to Potrero if you’re living anywhere other than Texas, is by flying into Monterrey (If you opt for this route, the camping area La Posada has a shuttle that can pick you up at the airport). We’re not really about doing whats best, but we’re definitely about doing what’s cheapest, so we decided to drive. Thats right, four of us and our climbing gear in a Prius with a cracked windshield for 18hrs. Lets just say we rolled down the windows… a lot. After spending a much needed rest day in Austin, we gathered the troops, loaded up a friend’s van and headed south.

Driving south of the border can be tricky but should not deter you from the convenience of taking your own car. Stopping to get your travel visas and car registration can stall your arrival but is worth the slight detour. The website http://potrerochico.org/ has good beta on getting visas and driving down, if that’s the way you choose to go.

Crossing the border can be a jarring experience no matter which direction you’re coming from. Images of cloaked war-ready Federales standing in the back of pick-ups, dirt cheap prices at produce stands and the dogs that roam content but hopeless help to clarify the ever-increasing rift between the two countries. Fortunately our initial nerves faded into comfort the further we drove south, and we all agreed that we’d felt safe throughout the trip as we crossed back into the U.S. on the way home. Having a few spanish-speakers in our mix was no-doubt helpful in our overall comfort, but by no means necessary to travel to the climbing.

The Verdict: Driving down is doable and definitely the most cost effective option for a group (especially if you have Ferris’s Prius). Flying down is more expensive, but would maximize climbing days if you’re on a tighter schedule.

Scientists call North-Eastern Mexico’s climate semi-arid, a designation that means that the average precipitation charts somewhere between a desert and humid environment. The region has characteristically mild winters (highs around 70 F in January) and warm summers (highs around 95 F in August) with only two months of consistent rain, (September and October) each year. Winter tends to be the high season as many bearded Americans make the trek south in hopes of trading their flannel-lined Carharts and brightly colored down-armor for a tank-top, pair of summer guide pants and the all new Birkenstock approach shoes. Basically, the chances of climbing on dry rock with perfect temps are really really high from November to May.

The Verdict: Conditions in Potrero are a bit more finicky than the gym, but not by much in the winter. You can approach most climbs in your Birkenstocks.

Finding a spot for camping and lodging at the Potrero could not be easier. With three campgrounds, dozens of homes for rent, and numerous casitas all within walking distance of the climbing, finding a place to stay will be the least of your concerns. However, it seems that the La Posada campground has become the main gathering point for climbers.

Nestled just outside the small town of Hidalgo, and only a few minutes walk from climbing, La Posada is a climber’s paradise. For about $7 (100 pesos) a night you can snag yourself a pool-side tent spot that opens up to a staggering view of EPC. Only a couple yards away you’ll have access to a large communal kitchen, slackline, warm showers and decent (but over-priced) restaurant. Across the street Homero’s hosts a bonfire and local legend Edgardo pours 3 dollar margaritas (very much Ferris endorsed) and tosses delicious pizza most nights of the week.

During rest days it’s common for climbers to venture away from the cliffs into downtown Hidalgo. Despite it’s small size, Hidalgo hosts two large street markets every week where you can find hundreds of vendors selling everything from fresh produce to knock-off Abercrombie and Fitch shirts (we know you want those). And if the markets don’t catch your interest, there are several restaurants and coffee shops around town to help you waste time while your beaten fingertips recover.

The Verdict: All the cool kids are staying at La Posada. All the dirtbags are staying a hundred yards away at Homero’s while still hanging out at La Posada.

The climbing experience that Potrero offers is truly remarkable. Very few climbing destinations allow you to climb 2,000 feet of rock with nothing more than a handful of quick draws. The combination of massive walls, little gear to carry, and a generous bolt count that characterize the area allows an average party to cover lots of ground in very little time. And to top it all off, the majority of these long climbs have an approach time under 10 minutes.

While long clip-ups are certainly Potrero’s most unique offering, the single pitch cragging is remarkable in its own right. From thin, super technical granite-esque slabs to massively over-hung Sharma-style roofs, the diversity of crag is seemingly endless. The orientation of the canyon and variety of walls means you can climb all day in sun or shade or time it right and get a bit of both.

The weathering process of Potrero’s limestone has created one of the most diverse arrays of holds we’ve ever seen. While most limestone climbing areas seem to take on a distinct style, be it blocks and edges, varying pockets, or somewhere in between, Potrero’s limestone is by far the most diverse and exciting we’ve seen. Its not uncommon to start climbing on rails, make moves through pockets and jugs before finishing with finger-locks and jams in a crack. Feet are often smeared on micro water runnels or pasted onto sharp rubber eating edges if not being stuck into a pocket or crack.

The Verdict: The climbing, it’s good. Like really, really effing good.

After all we experienced during our time in Potrero, it has proved quite challenging to pick an overall highlight from our trip. Between all the steep routes, good friends, cheap avocados, and Pat’s Instagram posts, it was a week we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. Nevertheless, as we departed Mexico, I couldn’t help but find myself thinking of the last route we climbed, Time Wave Zero.

Time Wave Zero is a route that is synonymous with El Potrero Chico climbing. Standing 2,300 feet tall, this 23 pitch route packs the full Potrero climbing experience into one long day. We originally had little hope of climbing the route since the weather forecast during the last few days of our trip promised cold rain and high winds. But as the end of our trip neared, a few of us couldn’t stand the thought of leaving Mexico without going for what many local climbers described as the “MUST DO” route. So as the sun set on our final rest day, we set our alarms for an early wake up call in hopes to wake up to some better weather.

As our alarms sound we can hear the rain against the side of our tents. Bummer. It seems as if every sign was telling us to just call it quits and stay in our tents. The wind was howling, the rain was frigid, the ground was saturated, and our tents were slowly collecting water. Despite the terrible conditions, all four of us grabbed our packs and prepared for a cold approach. The morale of the group was pretty low, but committed. Nobody wanted to be the one who bailed, worried that it would be calling it quits for the rest of the group as well. So after eating a quick breakfast, the four of us set off, pretending not to notice the wall of clouds and fog that had blanketed Potrero.

A few days prior we were told by some of the original route developers that the weather on Time Wave Zero was unlike anything in the other canyons. We were told that even during the worst weather the climb can remain dry due to it’s unique location in Potrero. Unlike a majority of the big wall routes that lie within the wind corridor, Time Wave Zero climbs through a huge headwall far from the canyon pass. With this being perhaps the only hope we had for climbing, we continued to hike through the corridor and up some steep terrain to the base of the massive wall. As we reached the base of the route, we were shocked to find that the rock was dry. It was as if the climate had completely changed from one side of the canyon to the next. But we weren’t sold yet; fog continued to mask the pitches above us and it was too early to tell how the weather would develop into the day. Not sure of what to come, we hope for the best and rope up to climb.

The first several pitches showed us that we were not prepared for such an early start. Our fingers and toes were growing numb and our pace was not set for 23 pitches. This was disconcerting to say the least since we were on the easiest pitches of the route. Skeptical of our mental and physical state, we continued up the wall, wondering if we would see the sun would ever come out. The fog would occasionally break apart just enough for us to make out the valley below.

After several hours, our luck finally came. By the time we reached the anchors atop pitch 8 we were looking down at a fog filled valley and a promising summit above. Within 15 minutes, the atmosphere of the climb went from a cold Canadian alpine start to a mile high tanning salon. We stashed our jackets, thawed out our toes, and finally started to climb. The position on the route improved with each pitch as the exposure behind us grew. Stitching pitches allowed for each person to climb roughly 400 feet at a time; following for two pitches, stopping briefly at the anchors, and then leading two more. This pace not only allowed us to make the summit before sundown, but rewarded each of us with an unfamiliar rhythm that none of us had experienced before.

Pitch after pitch of excellent bolt-clipping brought us to the summit, where an obligatory 2-hour gawking session ensued. The views made any moment of suffering earlier in the climb worth it. The narrow canyon of El Potrero was the cut off point between the empty skies and the sea of clouds to the north, creating a kind of a cloud dam that you had to see to believe. Day quickly turned into night and we realized that we had 23 rappels to do. Our relaxed mind-set on the summit had to quickly turn into focused and precise gear and rope work in order to get us down safely. We were well aware that many accidents in climbing happen on the way down and two horrible examples of this (one being on this exact route one month prior) were very present in our mind. Needless to say, we rapped like champs and made it down just in time for our friends to ditch their plans of coming up to save us. The rest of the night was filled with friends, burritos, and Carta Blanca.

Check out more photos from this unforgettable, epic trip.

Blog contributers: Ferris Kilpatrick, Patrick Heddins, and Kemper Brightman
Photography: Andrew Adkins (@andadki)