Xibalbá Uprising

Southern Mexico, Chiapas, Sumidero Canyon, Xibalbá Uprising.


For millions of years, the Grijalva River carved the Cañon del Sumidero down one 1,000 meters deep and is now one of the most important tourist attractions in the southern state of Chiapas in Mexico.

We have been living in San Cristobal de las Casas for a few years now, which is only about one hour from the canyon. Our dream was to open a new and completely free climbing route through the central and highest part of this natural wonder. From the Grijalva River to the top the wall is approximately eight hundred and 850 and splits into two parts: the steep ascent through jungle with a few moderate rock pitches and the main headwall. We began working on this line from the ground up in June 2018 but after about 550 meters of climbing, we decided to retreat because it got very dangerous. We encountered a lot of really big loose rocks and to continue would have been life threatening.


Exactly one year later, we came back and because of the experiences from the previous year, we decided to equip the route from above. To get to the top of the route we had to get the permission from the local commune “Triunfo Agrarista”, because we had to cross their private property. In one of their monthly meetings, we convinced them to let us pass and started working on the route.The work took a couple of weeks because the two of us could only carry water and supplies for a maximum of four days. On each trip, we managed to equip three to four pitches with necessary bolts and cleaned the route while rappelling. Our aim was to establish a secure new route through this wall, but not over bolt the line. We used 90 Bolts to protect the entire climb, but when we found cracks, we placed traditional gear. We waited for the rainy months to pass and in December we were able to finally start.

As agreed, our boatswain stood at the pier in Cahuare at 6 a.m. After about a half an hour we reached the small rocky beach, which marks the entrance of the approach. With the first step out of the boat, you enter the jungle and you have to immediately focus on possible dangers such as crocodiles, scorpions, spiders and poisonous plants. The path leads steeply up and over a crest gaining approximately 400 meters in altitude, which includes several 25 meter rock steps (5.9) that must be overcome. The last section leads through a fragile funnel of rock, which led us directly to the base of the wall.


The first rope length leads through distinctive cracks and corners, which you have to protect with traditional gear. This is followed by a long rightward traverse in a short overhanging crack to the next belay point. The first six meters of the third rope length consist of brittle rock, which can be climbed free but it requires a little sensitivity. It took four attempts to free the third pitch and then we achieved our daily goal.


As the wall faces southeast, the sun wasn't ideal at this time of the year, and we only had two hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon to climb in the shade. During the midday hours we had to protect ourselves from the heat under the portaledge. The second day we started at four in the morning and climbed a shallow ramp that leads to the crux of the route. The crux is an eight-meter section on very small crimps over a slightly overhanging plate, followed by a simple and spectacularly exposed corner. It took five attempts to solve the complex boulder problem. The day flew by and we ended up ticking three pitches. We had the most concerns about pitch seven because it is the longest and there are several demanding passages that require a degree of endurance. To our delight, it went on the first attempt.
After we flew through pitch eight, one of the most beautiful corners we have ever climbed and pitch nine, which required a lot of endurance after climbing a small roof. The most difficult climbing was now behind us and we had only four rope lengths through the upper part of the wall in front of us. We couldn't sleep because of the anticipation.


The nicest part of the route awaited us now, with slightly overhanging stalactites over perforated plates and wavy bands made of fine limestone, which we were able to climb without problems. On the evening of the fourth day we reached the top and stayed at the campfire on the edge of the canyon. We gave the route the name “Xibalbá Uprising” (850m 5.12a/b).

 

 Foto: Jan Hoebeeck

 Foto Jan Hoebeeck

 Foto: Santiago Monroy Cuevas

 Foto: Santiago Monroy Cuevas

 Foto: Ernesto Hernández Fernández

Foto: Ernesto Hernández Fernández

Foto: Ernesto Hernández Fernández

 

 

 

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