Posted on November 14th, 2011 No comments
Our annual trip to Mexico’s Volcanoes was another big success with 100% of the team reaching the summits of both Iztaccíhuatl and El Pico de Orizaba!
Our team met in Mexico City on Friday November 4, 2011. After a nice dinner and a walk around the center of the city on a clear warm night we were ready to depart on Saturday for Iztaccíhuatl. We stayed true to our successful acclimatization schedule we have been using in previous years. After spending three days taking hikes to increasingly higher elevation we found ourselves at the high refugio along the “La Arista del Sol” route at 4780m/15,682’. We bedded down after an early dinner in preparation for our pre-dawn start for summit day. Waking in the wee hours we were greeted to a pleasantly calm windless night with mild temperatures. With headlamps aiding us in our route finding shouldered our rucksacks carrying warm clothes, ice axes, crampons, climbing helmets, harnesses, ropes, snacks and water for the day. Several hours of climbing brought us high on Iztaccihuatl’s flanks as we were greeted to a beautiful sunrise to the east. We applied sunscreen and sunglasses then kept a slow steady pace up the beautiful ridgeline offering stunning views that leads to the summit. The crisp calm air on the summit afforded us the opportunity to take a few minutes to relax and enjoy the views before taking summit photos and starting our descent. We were back to the refugio 10 ½ hours after we set out for the summit. Here we took a break to rehydrate then packed up our gear for the descent back to the trailhead. Another three hours of walking led us to the base of our route where we were picked up and whisked off to the city of Puebla to clean up and celebrate a successful climb with a good meal.
On November 9 the team organized gear and traveled to the town of Tlachichuca. This quaint village sits at the base of our next objective; El Pico de Orizaba, which at 5611m/18,410’ is the 3rd highest peak in North America. We had the afternoon to reorganize our gear and take a walk around town while sampling local food including local fruit and fresh guacamole.
On November 10 we loaded our gear into a 4×4 vehicle for the drive through the rural Mexican countryside that leads us to the Pierdra Grande hut at 4260m/13,976’. SMI guide April Mayhew cooked pizzas for dinner while clouds swirled outside. Weather had changed from the calm and clear conditions we had on Iztaccíhuatl to cloudy and cool here on Orizaba. We packed the same equipment we needed on our previous climb and got a few hours of sleep in preparation for our summit attempt.
Clouds had partially dissipated revealing stars and an almost full moon. The team made a final check of equipment then began with headlamps on. The route begins by picking a way through a trail lined with volcanic rock. After a couple hours of climbing we reached continuous snow that required ice axe/crampons and divided into two rope teams led by SMI guides April Mayhew and Kurt Wedberg. Our route continued through a labyrinth of snow and volcanic rocks that led to the final 2000’/610m of climbing. Here the route opens up to the Jamapa Glacier that wraps around Orizaba’s flanks of this classic cone shaped dormant volcano. Above we saw evidence of high winds as cloud banks repeatedly swelled and shrank over the summit crater. Temperatures dropped significantly as we climbed into a steady cold wind that the open glacier offered no protection from. Adding windbreakers, heavy gloves, goggles, and eventually our puffy down parkas our team took careful deliberate steps in the crunchy snow. Conditions on the glacier made for secure footing with our crampons as the sun rose and cast a shadow over the rural Mexican farm fields far below. We would stay in shade until reaching the crater rim which presented the challenges of keeping our feet and hands warm. Cutting switchbacks for our route offered is the opportunity to continuously switch which hand held our ice axes, which helped us warm each free hand since the cold from our ice axes was conducting through our gloves. Each team member did an excellent job adjusting to the challenging conditions and as we crested on to the crater rim we were greeted by the warming rays of direct sunlight. Here we took a food/water break and applied sunscreen before traversing around the crater rim to its highest point. The location of the summit gave us a respite from the brunt of the wind which allowed us a few minutes to take pictures and enjoy the view from the 3rd highest point in North America that we reached at 9:00am on 11-11-11!
Temperatures warmed for us on the descent and we were back to Piedra Grande by 11:40am. Our drivers took us back to Tlachichuca for showers and a nice meal. On Saturday we drove back towards Mexico City by way of the Teotihuacan pyramids. It is always nice to learn about the history and culture from these exotic destinations we visit on SMI international expeditions.
A big congratulations to the entire team on two great climbs on Mexico’s Volcanoes: John Baer, Lloyd Charton, Miriam Diaz, Mickey Jojola, April Mayhew, Rick Piette, and Kurt Wedberg.
A few pictures are below. The entire photo gallery can be found here: Mexico’s Volcanoes November 4-13, 2011.
Posted on November 18th, 2010 No comments
Our yearly trip to Mexico’s Volcanoes was another huge success. We climbed two volcanoes in a 10 day period, visited the pyramids at Teotihuacan, and got to experience the warmth and hospitality of the Mexican people.
This trip was also used as a fundraiser for Big City Mountaineers. This organization takes underprivileged urban teens on seven and eight day backpacking trips during the summer months. They hold a series of climb each summer the call Summit For Someone which raises money for Big City Mountaineers. SMI has worked with Big City Mountaineers since they began doing fundraising climbs. We lead several trips each year for this worthy organization. Besides Mexico’s Volcanoes we also lead climbs to Mt. Whitney, North Palisade Peak, and Mt. Langley each year for BCM. In February 2011 we will also be leading one to Kilimanjaro!!
After meeting up in Mexico City we drove to the town of Amecameca which sits at the base of our first mountain Iztaccíhuatl (17,158’/5230m). A couple days of acclimatization hikes would put us in to position for a summit attempt on “Ixta”. Iztaccíhuatl is the name the Aztec’s gave this mountain, which translated means “white woman”. This mountain resembles a women laying on her back when viewed from a distance. “White” refers to snow that covers the upper reaches during certain parts of the year.
We ascended “The Knees Route” which climbs past Ixta’s knees onto her belly where the summit is located. On summit day we were treated to a clear crisp morning. Snow conditions were excellent. We got a predawn start and found ourselves high on the peak as the sun rose giving us a beautiful backdrop as we ascended the partly snowy and rocky terrain that leads to the summit.
After successfully reaching the summit we descended back the same way with views of neighboring volcano Popocatepetl in front of us and our next objective Orizaba visible to the east.
Orizaba is the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest in all of North America at 18,410’/5611m. Only Mt. McKinley in Alaska (20,320’/6194m) and Mt. Logan in Canada (19,550’/5959m) are higher than Orizaba on this continent. It is a classic cone shaped volcano flanked by glaciers on all sides.
Our team drove south and east to the small town of Tlachichuca near the base of El Pico de Orizaba.
Here we geared up and took a 4-wheel adventure drive through the rural Mexican countryside then ascended through pine tree forests before emerging above timberline to the Pierdra Grande Hut at 14,000’/4267m. Our route was the Jamapa Glacier that ascends the cone’s north side to the crater rim. We traverses a short distance west to the highest point on the rim.
After our climbs the team drove back to Mexico City by way of the Teotihuacan pyramids. Teotihuacan is located 25 miles north of Mexico City and contains some of the largest pyramidal structures in the Pre-Columbian era. The pyramids are thought to have been completed between 200 BC and 100 AD and this city is believed to have had up to 200,000 inhabitants at its height in the 7th to 8th centuries. We took some time to climb the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, see some of the paintings that are still preserved here, tour some of the archeological sites, and walk the Avenue of the Dead.
We then returned to Mexico City for dinner. We happened to be there during Mexico’s bicentennial celebration. The center of the city was filled with an elaborate well done light show and music. Seeing the celebration was icing on the cake to a wonderful and very memorable trip!
The entire photo gallery can be found here: Mexico’s Volcanoes November 5-14, 2010
Posted on November 15th, 2009 2 comments
After a memorable climb on Iztaccihuatl (17,158′) on Tuesday our team traveled south and east to the town of Tlachichuca at the base of Orizaba. We spent some time here reorganizing our gear in preparation for our next climb. We also had time to relax and enjoy some good Mexican meals which is always a treat.
We stayed at our good friends the Reyes family. Four generations ago this family built a large compound for the purpose of manufacturing soap. Back then there were no roads leading to the little village of Tlachichuca. Interest in climbing Orizaba led to manufacturing their own equipment some of which is on display at their compound. This interest in climbing Orizaba eventually led to helping visiting climbers from around the world with logistics and support to climb here. Today Gerardo and Luis Reyes carry on that rich tradition. The soap factory has been converted into a compound for climbers to rest and organize themselves in a comfortable setting with first class hospitality. It is always a treat to visit the Reyes family.
On Thursday we loaded our gear onto a 4-wheel drive vehicle and drove to the Pierdra Grande hut at approximately 14,000′. We took an afternoon hike then returned to the hut to cook dinner and hit the sack in preparation for an early rise for our summit bid.
On Friday we were treated to a clear and windless night. We navigated by headlamp through the lower part of the route eventually gaining a section of the route we call the Labyrinth which leads the the Jamapa Glacier. We arrived at the base of the glacier at sunrise and put on our crampons, changed out trekking poles for ice axes, and clipped into a rope. We ascended the 2000′+ glacier to the impressive crater rim of this extinct volcano which we traversed to its high point. We had the summit to ourselves as we shared in a clear view and took pictures.
Here are a few highlights of the climb. The entire photo gallery from our trip is here: http://kurtwedbergphotography.com/International-Expeditions/Mexicos-Volcanoes-Nov-2009/10215645_qBCrw/1/709897328_D6mwz