From the snow to the sunshine…in posting order + in real life! I’m in the process of repacking all that winter camping gear into my car for a weekend of car camping + trail running + rock climbing in Moab. It’s a sorta solo, sorta group trip. I’m headed that way to take on another outdoor education class [lead sport climbing] but it sounds like I’ll have plenty of free time to explore trails…trails without snow!
Speaking of trails without snow, La M wasn’t the only mountain we hiked while I was down in Monterrey, Mexico. It was only the beginning of a handful of adventures out onto the trails near the perimeter of the massive city. We had settled into an AirBnB near Cerro de la Silla, a really nice neighborhood that butts up against steep mountains leading up to a jagged ridge.
Route Stats // trail start // ~3mi up, 5mi round trip // ~4,000′ ascent
We asked our host about hiking trails + I perused Google for longer than I care to admit, yet I never came upon any solid information about where I could find the trails leading up this mountain. Everything was very vague…so, I did the most logical thing; went searching on foot. I strapped my pack to my back, loaded it up with snacks and headed out on foot. After an hour of searching + a little guidance from a local that saw my confused face walk by twice I found the start of the trail.
It was absolutely nothing that I expected. I actually walked by it once because I thought it was part of the house next to it. At first it looked like a paved bike path that led into a tunnel…then 10 feet into said tunnel the pavement broke away and the entire space opened up into a big drainage ditch about 5 feet below me. Okay? Was this right?
The words “Pico Norte” were scrawled on the wall. That was my destination so I guess this was my route. I dropped myself down into the drainage ditch and tiptoed my way toward the light at the end of the tunnel doing my best to avoid the random array of bikini bottoms + nylons. I still have no explanation for them…?
Once on the other side of the drainage tunnel the trail was well-worn. I followed it uphill, along the stone walls surrounding the neighborhood and then into a dry riverbed strewn with massive boulders. According to the one snippet of information I was able to snag off SummitPost this was a route to Pico Norte. The occasional flutter of orange tape or pink string confirmed this.
A part of me was hoping for Pico Norte summit but I opted to actually listen to my voice of reason and I headed down about an hour before darkness took over . I was alone, on a poorly marked trail that I hadn’t given anyone else much detail about simply because I didn’t have details…getting back to the AirBnB before dark seemed like the right choice.
This wasn’t the last I saw of this trail, though. A few days later Jeremy + I headed out along the same route the day before I headed back to the States. I had come upon another trail leading up the mountain but my mom had explicitly told me to NOT go back through that tunnel…so, obviously, we had to take the tunnel route. Sorry, Mom.
We headed into the tunnel at about 3pm with food + water sharing space in our packs with an extra layer + headlamps with our hearts set on a Pico Norte summit. This time, rather than head up the dry river bed of boulders we opted for the steeper route that shot us up the side of the ravine before finally meeting up with the river bed trail when the ridge line dropped a bit. This route was marked about as logically + clearly as the river bed route but the trail itself was more distinguishable.
The trail was steep + technical. For a stretch near the beginning we lost the trail completely and just headed up the side of the mountain trying to pick the most logical [aka, least picker’y] routes. Our success with route picking was mediocre at best but we did eventually come upon the legitimate trail so I’m going to go ahead and call us navigational geniuses. Just work with me here…use your imagination!
The day started out cloudy and as we made our way up the mountainside the clouds showed no sign of moving out of our way. Instead, they settled down around the ridge above us and kept us shrouded in a thick, foggy mist. Okay, so maybe we wouldn’t get any awesome views of the city once we arrived at the summit but the trees + forest did look eerily inviting as we hiked through the fog.
Look back at it now I have no idea how we managed to pass the time. Talking, I guess? We steadily hiked up as the rocks became puddled + slick. At one point we met two other hikers/runners coming down the trail. They told us we had 1.5 hours to go before we hit the summit…I know I had asked, but once they told me I really did not want to know. That much further!? Good grief!
We kept trekking upward, though. The smooth, wet rocks made for some seriously slow going but they were a great excuse to be complete fools. Whenever the trail presented us with two possible ascents we usually picked separate routes and “raced” to see who picked the best. I like to think it was a nice toss-up, therefore putting us in a friendly tie. I’d prefer if you didn’t ask Jeremy’s opinion of that score. kthnx!
A few times we considered turning around early, before hitting the summit…but, even with the chill of the mist we weren’t cold. Plus, we had plenty of food + headlamps + nothing else to do with our evening. Up, up, up we went! The summit itself kind of jumped out at us. We were scrambling up the trail, using both hands to stay upright-ish, when suddenly the mountain trail stopped going up…it just leveled off. We were there! Well, sugar beets. It really wasn’t that hard; definitely glad we did not turn around early!
As expected the fog hid every hint of a view from the summit so our summit stint was quick as we snagged a few photos then bailed back off the tippy top to escape the wind.
Turns out the descent was even slower than our climb up the mountain side. Slick rocks are much easier to pull yourself up than scurry down! Less than 5 minutes after we left the summit my bum was soaking wet from all the scooting I was doing to get down the steep sections alive. Yet, somehow, our chatter didn’t die down. Or, at least mine didn’t. I’m honestly not sure my chatter knows how to die down? Instead of shutting up I corralled us into a pretty easy pace on the way down…bouncy hike, bouncy hike, butt slide, bouncy hike, tripping tumble, bouncy hike. You know, a basic hike down a mountainside in the dark, nbd.
About a half hour off the summit the headlamps came out. At first they weren’t much help as the lights + fog just made everything look white. It kind of felt like we were inside a cold marshmallow. Higher up the mountain the views were nonexistent but as we dropped down, below the thick fog clouds, the city lights sprawled out below. Um, wow. A city that’s called “home” for 4.5 million people looks massive during the day but at night, when the lights seems to stretch on forever, it’s a different kind of massive. It was beautiful!
As usual the final stretch seemed to drag on for quite a while. From time to time we had to stop + back track to get onto the correct trail, in the dark everything looked like trail! But, once again, our navigational skills were on point and we eventually made our way back to civilization…where we were greeted by a pack of wild pigs. We knew they existed but I will say, I am very glad Jeremy was with me when I encountered them on the trails. They stared at us while blocking our way to the tunnel of bikini bottoms before pig-sprinting through the underbrush. Weirdos!
We pulled ourselves out of the weird drainage tunnel at almost 10pm. If you’re into math you’ll notice it took us nearly 7 hours to cover 5 miles. Yea, I might lose some of my ultra runner credit with those numbers but we did gain about 4,000 feet in just 3.5 miles and ran maybe…two steps? Ultimately, it’s a good thing I’m not that hung up on my ultra runner credit. Especially since Jeremy went back a week later and did the entire look in 3 hours [in my defense, he had daylight, no rain and he’s just way better at this running thing than I am…]. He snagged the photos at the top of this post — the actual views you’ll get from the top when you’re not boxed in my cloudy marshmallows.
This was the perfect end to my version of a Mexican vacation. I had spent the week rediscovering culture shock + forcing myself to get comfortable with the uncomfortable then spent half a day/night tromping around the wilderness just outside town. I’m sorry, but no beach can beat that…