Author: kurt_hunter

Congratulations to our Aconcagua team members that stood on the summit of South America yesterday! At 6961m / 22,837 ft., Aconcagua is the highest point in both the Western and Southern hemispheres.  They made quick work of climbing up from Plaza Argentina base camp on 12/18 through camps 1, 2, and 3.

Today they made the descent from high camp (5989m / 19,650ft) to Plaza de Mulas base camp (4367m / 14,327ft).  Everyone is safely off the mountain and looking forward to hiking down the Horcones valley tomorrow to the end of the trail and back to civilization with cold drinks and warm showers!

We will have more pictures and details soon.  Merry Christmas to all!

Happy team on the summit!

Happy team on the summit!

Congratulations to our Mexico Volcanoes team that went two for two by submitting Pico de Orizaba today!  Lead guide, Terray Sylvester, has this recap of their summit day:

We enjoyed a great climb to the top of Pico de Orizaba today, with good route conditions, excellent weather and all team members reaching the summit!


We left our private base camp near the popular Piedra Grande Refuge at 1 a.m., then picked our way up scree slopes to the toe of the Jamapa Glacier at about 16,500 feet with the lights of Tlachichuca twinkling below us. The bottom of the glacier was icy, so we swung to the right to join the Espolón de Oró (Ridge of Gold), a variation on the standard Jamapa Glacier Route that approaches the summit via somewhat lower angle slopes. As we ascended, route conditions improved until we were climbing efficiently up a well-established track in good styrofoam snow. We stepped onto the top of the third highest peak in North America at about 8 a.m., an hour earlier than we had expected.


With cold temperatures in the forecast, we had braced for a chilly, short stay on the summit. Instead, the weather was ideal — relatively warm and no wind. We took our time, snapping photos and enjoying views of Orizaba’s precipitous summit crater and plumes of smoke rising from Popocatépetl to the west. Then we descended back to camp and transferred via 4WD back to our lodge in Zoapan for a late lunch.

Orizaba mountain shadow

Orizaba mountain shadow

As the Mexico Volcanoes team makes their way from Puelba, Mexico to the start of their Pico de Orizaba climb, lead guide, Terray Sylvester, provides this update:

We are en route to the mountain. We’ll stop at Zoapan for lunch in our lodge there, and then take a 4WD to our private base camp near Piedra Grande Refuge below the Jamapa Glacier.


The plan is to start early and summit tomorrow via the Espolón de Oró, a slight variation that is currently in better condition than the more standard Jamapa Glacier route.


We had a relaxing day in Puebla yesterday, with visits to the main cathedral on the zócalo near our hotel, a photo exhibition and great food!


We will be in limited communications, but you can follow our progress up the mountain with this real-time tracking map:

Climbers John and Kris enjoying San Miguel Zoapan

Climbers John and Kris enjoying San Miguel Zoapan

Enjoying the delicious food of Mexico

Enjoying the delicious food of Mexico

Christmas lights of Mexico

Christmas lights of Mexico

Lead guide, Terray Sylvester, provided this recap of yesterday’s summit climb of Mexico‘s Iztaccihuatl.  Way to go team!

We had a great climb on Iztaccihuatl with excellent weather and 100% success!


Our day started early with a midnight wake up at the Altzomoni Refuge at the foot of the mountain. We had originally considered launching our summit bid from a high camp, but the mountain is extremely dry right now and no running water or snow was available at the camps we considered. Since we have a strong, well-acclimatized team we decided to skip high camp entirely in favor of a one-day ascent that would allow us to enjoy the entirety of the route with light summit packs. Our decision was also influenced by the fact that we had the usually popular Altzomoni Refuge all to ourselves, ensuring that we’d have space and quiet to relax and fuel up before our ascent.


Iztaccihuatl means the “white woman” or the “sleeping woman,” so named for the way the volcano’s multiple summits resemble the features of a person lying down when viewed from the west. By 1 a.m. we were climbing past “los pies,” the feet, with Popocatépetl rising behind us in a starry sky and coyotes yipping in the valley below. The climb went smoothly with only a short section of ice that demanded crampons, and eight hours later we stood on top of Mexico’s third highest peak under clear, sunny skies with a light breeze. We had the summit all to ourselves.


After an uneventful descent we transferred to our hotel one block from the main square in nearby Puebla. We’ll relax here for the next 36 hours and then head to our next objective, Orizaba! And in the mean time, we’ll likely enjoy a celebratory cerveza.


Within the past hour, our Mexico Volcanoes expedition team reached the summit of the third highest peak in Mexico, Iztacihuatl (5230m / 17,160 ft)!  They are on their way down now.  Their track to the summit left the La Joyita trailhead and gained over 1310m (4,300 ft) of elevation gain over 5.67km to reach the summit in just about 8 hours.  Whew!

We will have some pictures to share when they are back down.  Meanwhile, here are a few shots from yesterday to enjoy.

Next up:  Pico de Orizaba (5636m/18,490ft), Mexico’s highest mountain and the third highest in North America.

Yesterday the Aconcagua team arrived at Plaza Argentine base camp after a three-day trek in from the trailhead.  Their first segment from the Punta de Vacas trailhead (2415m / 7,900ft) covered 7.85 miles and gained 2,091 ft. of elevation gain to the first camp, Las Lenas.  On the second trekking day, they continued 9.43 miles up the Vacas valley from Las Lenas (2864m / 9,400ft) to the beautiful riverside camp of Casa de Piedra (3245m / 10,650ft), gaining another 1,721 ft. of elevation, where they enjoyed their first views of the Aconcagua peak.  The third and final trekking day to Plaza Argentina base camp left Casa de Piedra camp and headed west, first crossing the chilly morning waters of the Vacas river, then proceeding along the Relinchos river for 7 miles gaining 3,360 ft. of elevation.

The team is now enjoying the comforts of the well-appointed base camp, including three meals a day in a dining tent with tables, chairs, plates, and silverware.  Ah, luxury!

With the base camp trekking complete, the team transitions into the climbing phase of the expedition.  They are making preparations for the first carry of supplies and gear to cache at Camp 1.  On these “double carry” moves, the team first carries loads up to the next camp, places in the cache and then descend back down to the previous camp for the night.  The following day, they move up to the next camp with the remainder of their gear.

Our mule support team will transport the team’s trekking specific duffels of gear back to the Punta de Vacas trailhead and then up the Horcones valley to meet them at the Plaza de Mulas base camp on the far side of the mountain when they descend.

As the team moves up on the climb, communications will be very limited and it’s possible that we will not have another update from them until they descent to Plaza de Mulas.

Team at Plaza Argentina Base Camp

Team at Plaza Argentina Base Camp (4200m/13,780ft)


Our lead guide, Terray Sylvester, checks in as the Mexico Volcanoes team makes their way from Mexico City into the mountains:

Hello from Mexico!


All is well here. We were unable to get space tonight at Altzomoni Refuge due to the busy holiday weekend, but the rangers tell us we have reservations for tomorrow. For now, we’re sleeping in a campsite near the visitor center at Paso de Cortés, a bit lower.


We had a good visit to the anthropology museum today, then lunch in Amecameca and arrived here between Popo and Izta late in the afternoon with excellent views of the mountains. The weather is beautiful and we’re anticipating a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, frijoles, and fresh fruit in the morning with Emilio, the Mexican guide who’s climbing with us. We’ll then move up to Altzomoni and head out for an acclimatization rotation.


It’s a festive atmosphere here. People have gathered for star watching parties near the visitor center, and we’re anticipating hundreds of people on the climbing trail tomorrow. Though fortunately, most of the crowds will likely thin out by the time we head to our high camp on Monday.


The lack of space at Altzomoni forced us to scramble a bit for a campsite, but everyone is happy. This is a peaceful campsite.



Today the December Aconcagua expedition team started the three-day trek into Plaza Argentina base camp.  Beginning at the Punta de Vacas trailhead, they will hike just over 12km and gain about 450m of elevation as they make their way to the first camp at Pampa de Lenas.  It’s a beautiful trek up the Vacas Valley and the team is supported by pack mules that carry most of the gear.  This allows the team to enjoy the days hiking to base camp with comfortable day packs.  On their way today, the team will stop for a picnic-style lunch along the banks of the Vacas River.

Our December expedition to climb South America’s highest peak, Aconcagua has kicked off with the team arriving Mendoza, Argentina.  After enjoying the comforts of the beautiful Diplomatic Hotel and the excellent food of Mendoza, they loaded all their gear into the truck for the ride out of the base of the mountain located in Los Penitentes.  Los Penitentes is a ski area in the Southern Hemisphere winter, but a staging area in the summer to begin the three day trek into base camp.

Everyone is doing great and looking forward to doing some hiking tomorrow!

Enjoying the fine food of Mendoza

Enjoying the fine food of Mendoza

Team loaded up and heading to Los Penitentes

Team loaded up and heading to Los Penitentes

We are excited to once again be heading off to Antarctica to climb the southernmost of the Seven Summits, Mount Vinson.  The first of our two expeditions this season heads out on December 18th.  Stay tuned here for daily updates once we get underway.

By the way, it’s not too early to start making your plans to join us on Mount Vinson for the 2020/2021 season next December!  Contact our office for details.

In addition to these expedition dispatches, you can also follow the teams as they make their attempts to summit the highest mountain in Antarctica on:

Amazon Alexa devices with the Madison Mountaineering Flash Briefing skill:

  • Enable the skill and add to your flash briefing to hear Garrett Madison’s daily audio expedition updates


– our Garmin inReach Mini powered real-time tracking maps:

Translate »