North America, Mexico, Chiapas, Sumidero Canyon, Hombres del Pañuelo Rojo

Publication Year: 2007.

Sumidero Canyon, Hombres del Pañuelo Rojo. This majestic canyon forms part of the Sumidero Canyon National Park, located near the capital city of Tuxtla Gutierrez in the southern state of Chiapas. In February 1999 a local nonprofit climbing club, Grupo Escala Montanismo y Exploracion A.C., was founded in the state. From 2000 to 2006 this small group began putting up sport, trad, and mixed climbs in two prominent limestone areas near the city: Copoya and the Sumidero Canyon. The group has created more than 50 quality limestone routes throughout the state, including the most important project to date: the first complete big wall ascent in Sumidero Canyon.

The expedition occurred from January 8-23, with climbers Alejandro Rene Gomez Aldama, Jose Manuel Gomez Aldama, Carlos Miguel Hererra Tapia, and I. Other expedition members included Mauricio Lopez Nafate (base camp), Valentina Gomez Orantes, Cintya Hartman, Carlos Sevilla (lookout, communication, and media coverage), Kalet Zarate, Tomas Torres, Aventura Vertical magazine (photographers and film crew), and Grupo Espeleologico Jaguar (logistical support).

We named the route Hombres del Pañuelo Rojo (Men of the Red Handkerchief) in honor of the group of explorers who made the first successful trip (hiking, rafting, and can- yoneering) through the canyon in 1960. This original event received significant media attention on both state and national levels, because the group was made up of locals and because several other groups, national and international, had failed at previous attempts. Also, the silhouette of the wall appears in the state’s coat of arms and has been a local historic symbol since 1535. A surprising bonus was the discovery of archeological remains on a ledge near our base camp (200m above the river!).

In spring 2005 we chose this 500m vertical-to-overhanging face because of its apparent rock quality, lack of plant growth, relative shade, and the existence of potential bivouac ledges. We made outings prior to the official expedition date, to establish and stock base camp and to climb and fix ropes on the opening pitches. We topped on January 23 at 4:30 p.m., after 14 days on the wall and 600m of climbing. We used both aid and free-climbing techniques and protected the route on lead with bolts, hooks, cams, and an array of passive gear. We estimate the rating as 5.11 A1; a complete free ascent would surely add at least another number to the grade. Special precautions should be taken during future ascents, as there is still an enormous amount of loose rock. For detailed route information, e-mail Web Links: and

Calvin A. Smith, Grupo Escala Chiapas

Share this article