El Toro

Elevation Gain: 1,168m
Distance: 14.4km
Total Time: 9 hours 32 minutes
Date: February 1st, 2024

El Toro is undoubtedly the most recognizable peak in the climbing mecca of El Potrero Chico. Climber’s are greeted by El Toro’s massive blades of limestone rising hundreds of meters out of the ground and the huge summit face that hosts the world famous Sendero Luminoso route. The whole area is a testament to the power of earth’s mantle and an awesome site from any angle. Despite the sheer vertical faces on the east side, there is a tamer option on the western flanks. Most of the route up is a hike, but to get beyond the view point one pitch of low 5th class climbing is required to gain the true summit.

I knew right away when planning my trip to EPC that I’d like to check the summit out. My original plan was to climb for 2 days, take a rest day to do El Toro and then climb the rest of the week. As it worked out Elise and I ended up climbing Las Agujas on the second day and opted to wait until the fourth day for better weather. Now with a clear morning forecast on the Thursday, she proposed an alpine start to catch the sunrise. I figured why not and her friend Lina also agreed to join along.

On Thursday morning we left the hostel around 5am and walked towards the trail head a short ways down a dry river bed. We followed this well marked trail for about 50 minutes up to a junction for Pico Viatores and El Toro and continued up to the view point. Elise had sped ahead and I caught up a few minutes later with Lina just behind us. Our early start paid off and we caught the sunrise above a cloud inversion over all of Hidalgo.

Early morning start
Looking towards the pass to El Toro
Hiking down the river bed in the dark
Typical early morning views
The unnamed peak across the valley
At the junction. Just a short walk to the ridge now
Looking down at Hidalgo from the ridge
El Toro true summit in the early morning light
Cerro La. Palmitosa and Pico Viatores catching some sun

Once our route was illuminated enough, it was time to see what the low 5th class section pitch to the true summit was all about. We followed cairns down to a notch without exceeding any 3rd class terrain. There at the base a fixed line ran through a straightforward looking pitch of rock. Elise and I felt comfortable to solo it, so I ran one end of the rope up to belay Lina. The climbing was not too challenging with excellent limestone holds and a few loose blocks to be mindful of. The crux was avoiding sharp plants that guarded many of the more secure looking holds. At the end a bolted anchor station awaited us and I setup a quick anchor to belay Lina up.

Cerro Tia Chena
Heading down to the notch
Fun limestone scrambling to get down
Elise scrambling down
Looking at the crux section and the fixed ropes
Elise and Lina reaching the notch as well

With all of us past the crux, we ditched the rope at the station and scrambled up 3rd class terrain to the true summit. The views were phenomenal and I had a chance to look down at the top out of Sendero Luminoso too. The warm morning air beckoned us to take advantage with a summit nap and so nap we did. I found a comfortable “seat in the sky” and laid back for some rest.

Elise climbing up the crux
Lina coming up to the anchor
A nice bolted rap station!
Scrambling from here on
Close to the summit now
Lina reaching the top
The unnamed peak across the valley
Myself on the summit
Lina and Elise
Panorama from the top

After an hour of lying down, we decided to get going to Pico Viatores and so packed up and down scrambled back to the anchor station. Elise rappelled first with our 70m rope providing ample length to reach the ground. I rappelled second and then Lina last. We packed everything up and hiked back up to the view point. With about 200ml of water to each of our names, it was time to head over to Pico Viatores!

Heading back down
Lina traversing through some shrubbery
Elise setting up the rappel
Lina rappelling
On our way to Viatores now

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