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.
All Mexico Volcanoes expedition dispatches
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: https://madisonmountaineering.com/maps/mexico-2019
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.
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.
The Mexico Volcanoes are a great way to gain high altitude climbing experience on glaciated peaks in a relatively short time frame. Traveling in this region of Mexico is very safe, and easily accessible from the United States. Pico de Orizaba, at 5,636m / 18,491ft is the third highest peak in North America. Neighboring Iztaccihuatl, the “sleeping lady” at 5,230m / 17,160ft is the seventh highest on the continent. We spend time visiting the historic city of Puebla between climbing these volcanoes and have ample time as well for the museum of anthropology in Mexico City. The combination of rich cultural experience along with high altitude glacier climbing makes this program a great value given the short time period in which we can accomplish so much. These peaks are a wonderful way to get acquainted with climbing at altitude, in preparation for a longer and more demanding climb such as Aconcagua, the Ecuador Volcanoes, or Denali.
photos: Copyright © 2019 Terray Sylvester. Used with permission.