Although its recreational opportunities are sadly little known to those who live outside the area, the northeastern Mexican city of Monterrey is ringed by a large number of impressive mountains, offering some amazing options for hiking, scrambling, and technical climbing. Amongst these peaks, one of the most prominent is the beautiful Cerro de las Mitras
. This name translates (roughly) to "Miter Hill," so named because of the prominent caps on several of its summits, which resemble a bishop's headwear when viewed from the city.
Pico Piloto is one of seven distinct summits found on the peak. Almost all sides of the peak consist of impossibly sheer cliffs, and even the easiest route to the summit is class 4 (with one short aid section in the form of a questionable ladder), making for an enjoyable and rewarding scramble.
Although not as high as Pico Perico and Pico Cuauhtémoc, the two most prominent summits of Cerro de las Mitras, Pico Piloto is the better climb, and in the author's opinion, one of the best to be found around Monterrey. Given the quality of several of the other peaks around the city, this is high praise indeed. If you happen to be in the area, this (along with Copete de las Aguilas, Pico Perico, and Cabeza de Sapo) should be on your to-do list.
There are direct flights to Monterrey from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Chicago; Aviasca
is often (relatively) cheap. Amongst US carriers, Continental seems to generally be cheapest and/or most convenient for flying into Monterrey.
The trailhead is the same as for Pico Perico
, Pico Pirámide
, and Pico Cuauhtémoc
. On your first visit to Cerro de las Mitras, the crux of the climb is locating this trail, as there are no signs, and the trail is well hidden in a residential area. (Fortunately, everyone we've met in Mexico has been unbelievably friendly, and the lower portion of the trail is a popular hike even on weekdays, so there will likely be people around to help. The majority of hikers we've met speak impeccable English.)
From Avenida Gonzalitos in downtown Monterrey, drive west/northwest on Av. Paseo de los Leones towards Residencial Cumbres; Cerro de las Mitras is very obvious on your left as you drive along this road. Make a gradual left onto Richard E Byrd Avenue, which will turn into Ave Venecia. Follow this to road's end, which is marked "private property." Park on the street here. (If you drive past an HEB on your right and reach a large roundabout on Av. Paseo de los Leones, and Paseo de los Leones changes from a wide multi-lane highway to a much narrower street, you've missed the turnoff, and should backtrack a short way.)
Pass through a small gate, where a security guard will ask you for your name. Continue along a dirt road a few yards, to where an unmarked but well-used trail starts on the left side. Follow this trail up towards the broad canyon that leads up towards the peak.
A good road map of Monterrey should be considered essential for finding this trailhead. Keep in mind that there is a good deal of construction activity in the city, and even the best maps frequently bear little resemblance to what you actually find when you drive around. :-)
The trailhead is located at 25.7216325122863° N, -100.401553837583° W, elevation 818m.
Although marked private property, the trailhead appears to be open to the public, and it is frequently hiked by locals. You must give your name to the security guard at the gate before you start hiking.
There are one or two campsites high up on the peak, but given the shortness of the hike, lack of water, and number of visitors, it seems preferable to dayhike the peak. Even at a leisurely pace, it should take no more than 6-7 hours roundtrip.
Mountain Conditions/When To Climb
Pico Piloto stands just a few miles from the city, and about 4,000ft higher, so conditions are generally fairly similar. A couple of points bear mentioning. First, Monterrey's weather is extremely unpredictable (I am not even going to bother linking to the worthless forecasts here!), and it can change drastically from one day to the next with no apparent warning: Clear, sunny skies and hot temperatures one day, cold and rainy the next. However, especially during transitional seasons, while there can be low clouds around the city, the summit itself is often above the fog and in the sun. So the peak may still be worth a visit even if the weather around the city seems discouraging.
The peak can be climbed year round, but summers are extremely hot; fall through spring are probably best.
Thanks to duaxanh
and especially camartinez
for much useful beta.