In mid-January I had a chat with my scheduling manager at the hotel, asking for 5 days in a row off…any 5 days. I had no idea what I was going to do with my time off but after weeks of working two nearly fully time jobs I needed a breather. She picked the dates that worked best for the schedule and I started perusing the internet for cheap flights.
I ended up booking a flight to Monterrey, Mexico where I knew I’d find a familiar face, cheap tacos and an excuse to work on my Spanish. Come late February…off I went! I was giving myself a mid-winter trip to Mexico, where I wouldn’t see a drop of salt water but I would find the top of a few urban mountains.
After a few hours in spacious exit row seats and a quick Uber ride across the city I met up with Jeremy’s dad, inhaled some food and crashed into a pillow. Jeremy was working but I got a cryptic text that implied we were needed to be up + at ’em by 7:30am for a guided hiking adventure. The next morning with a few handfuls of the hotel’s continental breakfast in our bellies we headed for Cerro de Chipinque where we would meet our guide for the day.
Now, I had heard stories about the Chipinque mountains…something about an afternoon hike that ended up taking 12 hours, elusive trails and friendly rodents. I wasn’t sure what I was in, but mostly, I was just happy to have an excuse to get outside in weather that warranted shorts + a tank top!
We parked near Hotel Chipinque and started our trek upwards. It was obvious at first, but then we veered left onto a trail that I would not have noticed if I weren’t following a guide. Immediate evidence of how Jeremy’s previous adventure here took twice as long as anticipated! Once we got a few hundred feet down the trail it became better defined, but the turn off was easy to miss.
The trail led us up steep switchbacks, along the base of a cliff and through a few crevasses before it stopped being a simple hiking trail and became a steep, hands-required trail. The trail was setup with cables to guide us up the mountain but I avoided them in favor of some quasi climbing along side them. It was technical and a little thought was required to ascend safely but we were pretty mellow about it — moving slowly, talking as we climbed and stopping for snacks + water whenever we found shade.
Our destination was La M, one of the lumps of the “M” along the Chipinque ridge that borders the southwestern edge of Monterrey. By the time noon rolled around we were settled in just below the summit cross of La M munching on trail mix, Snickers + Twinkies. Don’t ever doubt our ability to pack quality trail snacks!
It was an absolutely gorgeous day! We sat in the toasty, but not sweltering, sunshine watching the massive city of Monterrey as it sprawled out below us, clearly visible on one of the few smog-free days the area gets. Honestly, if someone hadn’t mentioned “tacos” and “ice cream” we probably would have settled in for an early afternoon nap at the top of the mountain!
As we started our trek back down the Class 3 scrambles our chatter died down — turns out you have to pay a lot more attention foot placement when you’re scuttling down a mountain. I was the slowest, I really do need to work on my downhill technique. Granted, I did manage to kick at least four rocks down at Jeremy so my technique isn’t *that* bad!
Once we got off the steep scramble the trail got easier…but man, downhill is tiring and not nearly as much fun as the uphill when it seems like you’ll never make it down to the aforementioned tacos + ice cream! Occasionally we would chat, but most conversations were interrupted by violent bouts of curse words or the clattering of scree sliding down the mountain side when once of us took an unexpected “ground squat”. Yup, “ground squat”. That’s the technical term for what happens when you slip on the trail and land on your bum…no biggie, just extra strength training courtesy of ground squats.
Eventually we made it down the mountain! Throughout this entire endeavor our guide was amazing! He spoke very little English [and we all spoke very little Spanish] but we still managed to get a few laughs out of the day — probably something to do with M&M bribery and Google Translates version of “can I shit in the woods”. Either way, it was awesome having a guide handle all the navigating, especially on the way down when he took the more mellow route to keep us on our feet rather than our bums!
We finished off our hike with a few cans of Coke then headed into town for tacos + ice cream, as promised. Then, with fully bellies, we escaped the “winter heat” of Mexico by making good on our other promise to ourselves — afternoon naps! And this, this is how you vacation in Mexico without a beach! And I haven’t even gotten to the stories about elusive trails, wild piglets + foggy summits!