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North America, Mexico, Neuvo León, Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey, El Zapatero, Leones y Osos

El Zapatero, Leones y Osos. Beginning March 24, Zack Martin and Sven Krebs established 12 pitches on an unclimbed wall in a remote valley. Traveling on dirt roads slashed across immense mountains south of Monterrey to the Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey, the team found dozens of towering limestone walls up to 600m in height.

With only five days, the team chose a highly accessible wall close to the floor of the canyon. According to the local rancheros, the mountain was named El Zapatero (The Shoemaker) and had seen no ascent via its steep face. The only recorded ascent is thought to have been by Pocha Via, centuries earlier. Local legend claims that while escaping authorities, Pocha Via climbed the steep flanks of the mountain and hid gold in the caves that are precariously perched in the face and only accessible by a dangerous scramble above a 1000-foot drop. The peak bears no resemblance to a shoemaker, and no local seemed to know why the name was chosen. They did, however, join in the climb by cheering and shooting guns as the team pried dangerous rocks from the face while cleaning the route. An Easter weekend feast brought dozens of Mexicans with lawn chairs to the small farms below the route and along the river. The local's encouragement was appreciated during the dry, desert ascent.

Over five days the team completed 12 steep limestone pitches with difficulties up to 5.11b. The pitches were protected by a mix of bolts placed on lead and natural protection dubiously placed in limestone. Steep faces were negotiated using thin edges and pockets, which connect natural belay stances throughout the wall. Following the path of least resistance the climbers wove a path through cactus, thorns, reptiles, and large green parrots to complete the ascent. On the lower headwall parrots swooped and cawed, reminding the climbers that the face was not for them. High on the route Sven was nearly bitten by a baby rattlesnake while leading, and remained alert for the next potentially fatal encounter with nature.

As if the angry parrots and the threat of sunning rattlesnakes was not enough, the threat of being eaten by a wild animal wore on the minds of the climbers. The team named the route Leones y Osos (Lions and Bears, 12 pitches, IV 5.11b) after an evening discussion with a local landowner who told stories of the bears and mountain lions that live in the valley. He warned the team not to take long walks high on mountains and to never go out alone, for the animals were known to eat those who did. Richard Durnan ascended with the team and shot photographs.

Zack Martin