Bernal Mostly bouldering198 routes in crag
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In the town of Bernal, not far from the city of Queretaro in the state of Queretaro, lies the third largest monolith in the world: the Pena de Bernal and its surrounding metamorphic boulders.
Located at the "Pueblo Magico" of Bernal. It is about 45 minutes from the city of Queretaro, and about 2.5 hours from Mexico City.
Originally known to rock climbers for its multipitch routes on the Pena, now it is more popular due to the great bouldering.
Climbing can be done year-round owing to its semi-desertic climate, although given the abundance of sunlight in all faces except the north face of the Pena, multipitching is best avoided in the months of May-September (overcast days are OK, though). Sport climbing can be done year round in the adjacent crags. Best conditions can be found in the winter months of December and January (also the driest), but even in the hottest months of April and May shade and wind can be found throughout the day in the boulders and sport climbs. June and July are the wettest months, although even then (July), it only rains around 12 mm.
The rock type is metamorphic: very solid, forming similar features to sandstone, but less rough. The style varies from slopey and overhanging to technical crimpy slabs.
Some boulders can be tall and the landings irregular, so bringing 2+ pads is advisable.
When multipitching (usually sport bolted), it is good to remember that the routes at the Pena are old school and are sparcely bolted, but the quality of the multipitches is supreme and the grades moderate.
Care must be taken not only not to damage the local flora and fauna, but also to beware of it. This is because much of the flora has thorns in it (e.g. prickly pears), and the fauna includes rattlesnakes, coralillos, and kissing bugs. Therefore, watch your step and in the hot season, always apply and carry insect repellent.
As for garbage and toilet issues when bouldering/sport climbing, always carry out what you carry in. Alternatively, there are toilets in the (very) nearby Rancho Chichi'Dho (see "Where to Stay"). Before going multipitching you can use the toilets at the base. Remember they usually charge a small fee, though!
Always bring plenty of water (especially when multipitching) or purchase it from town.
Plenty to do on rest days, ranging from doing a wine and cheese tour to visiting the beautiful adjacent townships, to just chilling in the Rancho Chichi'Dho.
For more information and topos, purchase the Bernal guidebook from Vertimania, Memento Climbing Gym, or Bloc-E Climbing Gym in Mexico City or the climbing gym in Queretaro.
When multipitching, you will have to register before climbing. Be discrete and if you go multipitching on a public holiday or weekend, make sure to tell tourists to step well away while climbing the first pitches of routes that are on the tourist trail.
When accessing the bouldering and sport climbing area, you will be charged a fee of (at the time of writing) 50 MXN (around 3.5 USD) per person. This fee is paid to the representatives of the Rancho Chichi'Dho, who own this area. They use the money to maintain the trails, pick up trash, and rejuvenate the flora and fauna of the area, so it is well-spent.
Pets are allowed as long as these behave or are on a leash.
ABSOLUTELY NO ILLEGAL DRUGS. This includes cannabis.
From Mexico City, take highway 57 north to Queretaro. When approaching San Juan del Rio, turn right and follow the sign that says "Bernal" or "Pena de Bernal". Follow highway 120 to get to the town of Bernal. Once there, follow the signs to the "Pena". This should take you around a fountain switching back uphill a few times until you get to a paved (with round stones) parking lot which is accessed and exited through ramps. Park here if you are going multipitching. If you're going bouldering/sport climbing, continue straight past this parking lot until you reach a bifurcation. Go up (right) the small street. you will reach a dirt parking lot next to a boulder, a small chapel built on a boulder and a pond. Park here.
For multipitching, after you park, go up through and past the stores and food stands. Follow the obvious stone trail leading up. You will find the most popular routes like "La Bernalina" right on the trail on your left about 10-15 mins from the parking lot.
For bouldering/sport climbing (all except the Cyclist), walk up on the dirt trail around the right side of the chapel built on a boulder, and behind it you should see a plywood door with barbwire on top. This is the entrance to the bouldering/sport climbing area. When you enter, there will be a boulder on your right and a white sign warning you about the fee on your left. Locations of the sport climbs/boulders are given in each section. HOWEVER! If you're going to the Cyclist bouldering area, go to the front side of the Pena as per the map here. It is private property, owned by the Cabrera family. The deal is that climbing is allowed via a guide, who will charge (in 2011) 150 MXN for guiding a group of up to 10 people. Park as if you were going multipitching. Huge potential here.
Where to stay
The most popular choice for climbers is to stay/camp at the Rancho Chichi'Dho. To get to the Rancho Chichi'Dho, follow highway 100 out of Bernal towards San Pablo. About 3-5 minutes later you should see some small white arches on your left next to a sign that says "La Tortuga". Turn left there. Follow the road down until you reach a T-junction, and turn right there. After that, go along the dirt road following the signs that say "La Tortuga" and subsequently the ones that say "Chichi'Dho". GPS coordinates for the start of the dirt road : N 20.764748, -99.939389. The cost (at the time of writing) is of 150 MXN per person, which includes access to the bouldering/sport climbing area.
However, there are also a wealth of options for accomodation in the Bernal township.
Located in Otomi and Chichimeca territory, this feature has been sacred for thousands of years. Its original name is De'Hendo ("in between two").
The township was founded in 1642 and named Bernal (a word of Arabic origin meaning "large rock feature") or Concepcion de Bernal. It was originally a Spanish mining town with a convent. This convent was under constant Chichimeca attack until a batallion was brought to fortify the town, which subsequently grew and was re-named San Sebastian Bernal.
Now tourism is the main industry, although quartz is abundantly sold here.
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