The Blue Collar Brawl

The Blue Collar Brawl

Climbing to me is a constant vigil of discovery. Finding, developing, and ascending natural lines (whether it be Sport, or Trad) while mentally, and physically challenging yourself to the point where upward progress is either plausible, and happening or impossible where you have to hang. A reality dictated by the forces of gravity where you have to anatomically decipher clues given by Mother Nature in the form of featured vertical stone to find successes, and times failures.  For this blog let's associate the term 'free climbing' as being synonymous with a true "on-sight" whereas you are in the moment, learning on the fly, real time, making decisions with no knowledge of what's coming minus a guide book and the naked eye. This style of ascent is what motivates a climber to search for the next new line believing every second that you have what it takes to succeed going from the first moves to the end of the pitch; which in layman's terms means 'Never Saying Take'

'Active' Rest Days are the best Days.

Let's be honest with one another; Climbers for the most part plan all their vacations around climbing.  When I was young growing up in the "country" as we called it, my best friend had an unruly Siberian Husky. That dog would sit and stare out the closed screen slider for hours upon hours waiting for anyone to make the mistake of opening the door with him near it.  In a split second the dog would be out the door running free never to look back. Those days of chasing the dog all over the countryside seem like a lifetime ago now.  We were kids driven crazy trying to understand why this dog who had it so good living with his family would run away? And keep on running, with no intention whatsoever of coming back once free.

Climbers are very similar to that dog. Even with all the seriousness of everyday life in this civilized world, we are always looking at that screen door waiting for the opportunity to make a break for it. Where are we going? What can we climb? How long can we extend our trip? We maximize every second of every day for the freedom only found only in the hills.



Which brings me to the subject of this blog post, and more importantly, why we chose this area of Mexico to build SouthernXposure as the premiere guide service South of the Border.

What do you do to maximize your days off when not climbing with us? 

Of course the climbing is stellar, and the towns surrounding the cliffs are exquisite (please browse through our testimonials written by visiting climbers), but what is nearby to keep the psyche high when your muscles need a break between the crack climbing clinic, the overhanging tuft, or ascending the big wall?  

When sitting still on a rest day just isn't going to happen, you have options.   

Here is a list of a few of the best attractions absolutely worth a visit on an Active Rest Day~

The thermal pools just outside San Miguel de Allende are pristine. Get up early and take a ride to one of the most beautiful colonial towns in Mexico. Walk the streets, visit the many art galleries, eat brunch, then soak in the hot springs all afternoon. These thermal pools are fun for the entire family. Don't just take our word on how extraordinary the town and hot springs are to visit, do your research as well. What a divine way to spend an active rest day.

Seriously cool for the entire family. Have you ever been to ancient ruins? Any pyramids? Any architectural marvels of this size and magnitude? Teotihuacan is a mind blowing experience for Dad, Mom, and the kids.  What's better is we can provide a Social Anthropologist we are friends with to meet you on sight. He will spend the day explaining anything Teotihuacan.

The Great Goddess and Tlaloc. The interrelation of these two is about as interesting as an active rest day can get..... 

Again, take the time and research this ancient Mesoamerican City.

Take a day and explore this mountainous region of Mexico. The three hour drive is best done in the early hours of the morning. Driving through this high altitude farming region is amazing. The mountain views, and working farms on the way to the biosphere make for incredible photos. Once in the reserve set your feet loose and have an active rest day hiking like no other. 

SouthernXposure provides an experience of a lifetime. We guide the most beautiful areas on the Northern Continent, and provide our guests with a litany of choices to fill up the hours, and days when the body has had enough of the vertical world.

We wholeheartedly believe that how you spend your time when not being guided is as important as when we are sharing a rope together. 

If you have any questions drop us an email, or give us a call. We are always available. 

Come and explore Mexico with a clear view of the SouthernXposure. 

Belaying a Leader; out of your Comfort Zone.

Climbing is much more than a person tying-in to a rope and climbing vertically. That is surely the task at hand (and foot so to speak).  But at the other end of the rope, as any 'climber' pushing their limits knows, is another. This "significant other" in the partnership is [always] the hero within the story. I write this knowingly for if there is a "story" to be told, chances are you are telling it because your belayer caught your fall, and kept you safe from catastrophe like it was their job, which it 100% is.

Peña de Bernal

Peña de Bernal

 In the realm of the climber there is an old adage~ a good belayer will always have someone to climb with, but a bad belayer will never have anyone to climb with.  

This aphorism couldn't be any closer to the truth. Sooner or later everyone witnesses that bad belayer. This is the person while someone is on lead has their hand off the brake. Or a person you see so concerned with their phone that they aren't watching and have a huge belly of slack out lengthening the fall for their partner. Or worse yet, the belayer sitting on the ground while their partner is cruxing out with the gear below their feet, looking at a huge whip, while dip-shit down below is taking a siesta. These are the people that find themselves without partners, and for good reason. 

So, with that said it is easy to distinguish between a carelessly bad belayer versus an uncomfortable person paying attention giving an awkward belay. 

The New River Gorge

The New River Gorge


The number one reason a leader gets a sub-standard belay from a competent belayer is unfamiliarity with the friction devise. With that said; anyone reading this blog with belayer's anxiety (BTSD) know it can most likely be attributed to belaying your partner on-lead with a Gri-gri before understanding the standard practices of the device. This one little change from the familiarity of a stitch plate to a brake assist device will give a competent leader, and his stressed out belayer an equal case of IBS. 

Untold numbers of seasoned traditional climbers have the same apprehension when climbing at a sport crag where all is needed is a double set of dog-bones, and the indomitable will to hang on. For the traditionally traditional climber's belayer, the speed at which their partner pulls that rope and clips could put a cramp in anyones anal tract. The move from the ease of an ATC to the rope size fickle nature of a mechanical devise just sours the experience, and sometimes the on-sight. As it is sooooo easy to short-rope the leader at the worst possible moment that new born belayers to the seasoned vet resist the device. And this aversion promptly locates fine belayers outside of their comfort zone.

Fear not, as below (with credit going to Petzl) is an instructional video that will (with practice) help melt away any stress related to learning the proper technique of lead belaying with a Gri-gri.


This video is mostly driven towards the safe procedure on how to keep the brake hand active, which plays directly into the mechanics of the device. This video is basically the manufacturers recommendation on how not to screw up, but doesn't delve into why the Gri-gri is so good. 

People frequently ask why the Gri-gri on lead belay is so far superior to all other non brake assist belay devices. 

The answer is simple. In life it all comes down to safety. Used properly the Gri-gri with the brake assist is a second line of defense incase of physical trauma where the belayer could be momentarily incapacitated. The gri-gri will simply add a second layer of protection preventing the leader's ground fall. 

Las Peñas de Dexcaní

Another reason the Gri-gri is extremely valuable is the devise helps assist the belayer while the leader ascends the line after a fall on severely overhanging territory. As the leader climbs/pulls the rope to move back toward their high point on the route, slack comes down and needs to be retrieved on the belayers end. Pulling that rope through as the climber ascends without a Gri-gri is extremely taxing, and dangerous. The rope pinch on the Gri-gri while yarding in slack allows for greater reduction in brake hand fatigue, while adding a level of protection with the brake assist. The piece of mind for the leader knowing their next attempt won't end up as a ground fall from their belayer being fatigued is a game changer. 

SouthernXposure Guides use the Gri-gri as a teaching tool.  Everyone who spends time with us become socialized with this wonderful device in every facet of its existence. Like a tool in the work chest where being better than proficient adds a level of competency that translates into security for everyone involved. Belay, single rope rappel, top-side management, as a back-up under an ascender, the Gri-gri performs. 

Developing at Ralph Stover State Park

Developing at Ralph Stover State Park

The secret to moving from outside one's comfort zone to being cool as a cucumber is as simple as understanding the dynamics of the leader fall, and feeding ample rope while your climber is clipping into the protection. There are two inter related correlations to understand here. If you aren't falling, you aren't climbing hard enough. Secondly; if you're thinking about the falling, then you aren't thinking about the climbing. These two pit-falls walk hand in hand and dictate climber/belayer experience at the crag.  The fastest way to help your climbing partner overcome these obstacles is to be the best belayer at the cliffs, bar none.  

SouthernXposure teaches systems to keep climbers alive. Communication, and belaying properly are in an equal tie. The best way to be comfortable as a belayer on a Gri-gri is to practice with the device. Practice makes perfect. Ask your partner if they are clipping from underneath, or from the hip? Ask your partner to let you know when they are clipping. This way you know they are in a stance, are going to ask for rope, and two arm lengths can be advanced into the system.

With a leader feeding more rope is always better. Two large arm length slack pulls through the device is usually sufficient for even the lowest stance reaching the bolt hanger. Feed the slack, be generous, then pull in any extra cord once the rope is in its happy home. Any experienced climber who takes falls will gladly tell anyone listening, being short-roped is a far worse fate than having an extra two feet of slack and peeling off.  Realistically, the extra slack will not be noticed during a fall versus getting the 'uncomfortable belay' short-rope while cruxing out.

Being known as the best belayer at the cliff is an honor. Climbers know who they trust, and those who just don't get the ramifications of a bad belay.  Be attentive and understand your surroundings. Watch for the bad belayer, and talk to your climbing partners about what makes up a good belay. Focus on getting better all the time with the Gri-gri as it is your friend.

Exceptional Restaurants run by exceptional people.

Well it has been a great season climbing the "Triple Crown" in Mexico and the results of our restaurant survey has [finally] been tabulated. 

Each person that climbed with us gave us valuable insight on their favorite restaurant, and their "must have again" meals. The results, for now, were just kept to dinner as breakfast nooks are so plentiful (between the multitude of sit down eggs, bacon, and potatoes, to gourmet coffee, sided by fresh pastries, to the bike cart steaming fresh tamales “on the go”) it would be a huge task to narrow down the top five favorites for desayuno. 

The first place winner across the board, and "Crowned King" of Culinary Cuisine goes to El Rincon del Viejo in Aculco de Espinoza.

El Rincon del Viejo. 

El Rincon del Viejo.

Fernando, his brother Lalo, Sabrosa (the beautiful head waitress), and all involved, make this restaurant a “must visit” when crack climbing a La Cascada. The King meal for the comiendo carnivore is the Arrachera, hands down. Steak, caramelized onions with napal cactus and your choice of a side can not be beat.  The atmosphere this restaurant provides is exquisite, and the homemade Ice cream downstairs rounds out what could only be considered Heaven in your mouth. Come visit and experience Aculco, a truly Magic Town, meet Fernando, and enjoy a restaurant that you will not soon forget. 

Next stop on the Climber's Salvatory Satiation Situation is actually a tie! How can this be you ask?! Well, both of these restaurants are located in the same town, on the same street, and are right adjacent to one another! It is almost a painstaking decision to pick one from the other when trying to decide which restaurant, standing out front in the street.

Piave; Cucina Italiana is a slice of Italy nestled in Bernal.  Claudio is Italian born, and raised, who was educated in the United Kingdom, and immigrated to Mexico to settle down in a town with the perfect climate. Bernal is that town.

The number one meal as voted by our regalia of rock rompers is Piave’s Lasagna with the bolognese sauce.  A meal that could only be made better by adding a glass of the house red, and a side of imported olives. 

Equally delicious, and right next door is Arrayán; Cocina Mexicana.

Imagine this if you can; a four star Mexican restaurant owned by a German couple, who immigrated to Mexico, who fled San Miguel de Allende (because their friends partied too hard) ultimately to open a 'must visit' restaurant in Bernal.  Their trademark meal; a mole to die for….. Made every day from scratch; their secret blend of peppers with have you cleaning your plate with their homemade fresh bread. It would also be a crime not to mention their cream of tomato soup served with a fresh toasted crouton, and a dab of goat cheese. Simply, and utterly scrumptious. 

As an honorable mention it would be a huge disservice not to mention a few runners up that are also great restaurants onto themselves, and deserve recognition. 

As adventurous climbers tend to be, a mistaken word through translation changes a mixed cheese fondue to a sautéed cricket appetizer.  It could be said the grasshoppers tasted like chicken (as doesn’t everything when exploring the palate?) but they really tasted like a crunchy, spicy, popcorn that was better eaten like large M&M’s rather than rolling them up in a tortilla. 

One of numerous artisian brews available.  

One of numerous artisian brews available.  

Meson de La Roca; a fine establishment that serves food until late, and has the largest selection of local beers in Bernal.

Gorditas La Peña is another great feed that fully explains how Bernal became world famous for their Gorditas. Fresh, made on the spot, and incredibly reasonable for the climber on a budget, or for the monster appetite that needs a pre-dinner appetizer (immediately) before heading to one of the restaurants mentioned above. 

Also worth a visit for anyone looking to broaden their horizons when in Bernal is Tacos “El Güero” specializing in the “Gringa”. 

They are located on the main road in Bernal proper and your tastebuds with not be disappointed. Victor, the owner honed in his talents working in the restaurant trade in Los Angeles. 

Victor, in his all glory!

Victor, in his all glory!

He brought back his knowledge, and added a special mix of love, and local ingredients to whip together a taco worth stuffing yourself with. What a delight! 

Also lastly, two more restaurants so deserving of praise are both located in Jilotepec de Molina Enriquez. Once finished climbing the stellar walls of Las Peñas de Dexcaní returning to Jilo is welcomed as these two restaurants are side by side, completely different from one another, and both are delicious.  

The first; "Cocina El Portal”.

What a great place to grab a bowl of soup, and a plate of delicious food. Everything is made in a pressure cooker with love, and served with a complimentary pitcher of fresh squeezed juice. Cucumber, Mellon, Orange Papaya, or a multitude of other’s made fresh, these drinks are nothing short of delicious liquid vitamins to make your body say ahhhhh! 

Lastly, and not without special recognition is a restaurant that blows the minds of all visiting climbers as it is so out of the ordinary for Jilotepec, let alone México.  

The Crowned King of stuffing yourself for cheap (deliciously) is Ming-Fu Express.

This family left China to seek a better future for their family and immigrated to Jilotepec, Mexico. Szechuan food all made fresh, every day, at its finest. Imagine high end Chinese food in Mexico???!!!  Crazy, no? Three choices for $70 pesos ($3.50), or the buffet for $95!!! We as a company are thinking climbers are either going to make them, or break them with the buffet! While you are there practice your Español with their daughter Michelle. She is sooooooo cute, and has a thousand questions all in kid talk (the best way to get up to speed if your Spanish is rusty). 

Mark, the gentle giant killing their profits for the day. Climbing multiple hard 12's and 13's builds quite the appetite. 

Mark, the gentle giant killing their profits for the day. Climbing multiple hard 12's and 13's builds quite the appetite. 

SouthernXposure Guide Service fully supports all of these restaurants. They are all completely independently owned, and operated. These restaurants are the epitome of Mom & Pop fine dining. These restaurants are family businesses, NOT chain restaurants, and they all strive to keep you, the customer, happily fed. 

When we started SouthernXposure it was for so many reasons, but a few reasons are worth mentioning now. We still hold this values as vitally important  today, as we did so many climbing days past. 

Eco-tourism, and traveling is the spice that keeps life exciting. Climbers are the finest tourists to ever travel and visit a foreign town. We climb, we sleep, and WE EAT. 

Support local. Source your food locally. This idea was lost in the United States years ago with huge macro-restaurants eating up, and shutting down the Mom’s and Pop’s. Luckily the USA has seen a resurgence in recent years, and people are finally getting wise that fast cooked food is nothing more than fast.

In Mexico pride in the local culture is a way of life. Come climb with us. Visit the three climbing areas, and towns we call the triple crown. All three areas are as completely different as is the food you will be eating. Come to Mexico for an adventure of a lifetime. Whether you are on a fully guided adventure, or a seasoned climbers on your own booked through our Non-guided adventure; live the culture first hand.

Life is better lived with a clear view of the SouthernXposure.


I believe we are all explorers at heart. When I was a child my friends and I would wander through the woods surrounding our houses endlessly in search of new discoveries.  Everything new was old, and everything old was new.  We would forage around anywhere, anytime looking for clues of the past trying to make sense of what we would find. This exploration is what sets us on a path of who we will eventually grow up to become. To me the wonders of the world all stem from the unknowns. Come and explore Aculco de Espinoza. Discover for yourself the past that is still alive today in the form of ancient Indian drawings, magnificent mountain peaks, or old world architecture that connects the past with the present. 

Who? When? and Why?

Is this Otomi? The original Native American tribe that inhabited this area of México.  These natives founded the town of Aculco around 1110 AD, and were eventually pushed out by the Nahuas tribes, commonly known as the Mexicas, that eventually built the Aztec empire. 


The beautiful thing about exploring is that what you see, and find, while delving into the unknown is forever ingrained in your mind's eye. When you read that we as a guide service 'provide experiences that last a lifetime' believe it. Wandering around this beautiful reservoir on a rest day, leaving no stone unturned, is a perspicacity of an extraordinary culture that is gone but never forgotten. Explore these lands afoot while resting your tired muscles for another day's vertical gains. 

La Presa del Tepozán is a truly magical place.

Serenity is; the state or quality of being serene, calm, or tranquil. We chose these climbing areas as they are as fantastic vertically as they are horizontally. Your experiences with us whether you are tied in, on-belay, are equally as important as when you are off-belay adventuring on your own.  

Walking through the fields surrounding this mass of water will bring you a peace and serenity which is becoming increasingly hard to find in this modern world. The beauty of a climbing trip with SouthernXposure is when your strength fades and a rest day is needed, the exploration continues. In Aculco de Espinoza it is easy to go from vertical to horizontal exploration. Just bring your lunch, a sense of adventure, and comfortable pair of shoes.

Let us take care of the rest.