Pico de Orizaba

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Pico de Orizaba Trip Report (#1131)

  • Signed By: Matt Gorman
  • Date submitted: March 23, 2001

Well, here goes--it's a privilege to sign in on this peak. My friends Andy Redding, Charles Shawley, and Troy and Brandon Berglund and I flew in to Mexico City Dec. 27th, arriving 10pm. We followed the conventional wisdom, and caught an Estrella Roja express bus to Puebla immediately (10:15pm or so). 100 pesos, Danielle Steele movie (dubbed in Spanish), and reserved seating (it was to be one of the last times we'd sit down for an entire bus ride!). Spent the night with dozens of others in the CAPU bus station in Puebla, then first bus on to Apizaco, where we found one restaurant open for breakfast in the wee hours. We took a taxi (collectivo) up to La Malinche National Park, and arranged with the driver to pick us up the next afternoon. We hiked to about 12,000 that afternoon, then got up early and climbed the peak the next day. Falling snow above about 11,000 feet, and pretty slippery and windy on the summit--but several of us did it in tennis shoes (no room for hiking boots in our packs!). Charles had to turn around early, due to stomach upset and headache. He didn't feel better until we got down from the IMSS camp at La Malinche. Views from the summit were great--Popo with a new coating of snow over the ash.

From Apizaco, we caught a bus back to CAPU, then another to Tlachichuca. The buses are sometimes so crowded that the plan became this: two of the party would get in line to board the bus, saving seats for all, and the others would load bags underneath--otherwise, it was standing room only by the time we got on board. All in all, thought, the bus system in Mexico is GREAT--I highly recommend it--frequent service, inexpensive, goes everywhere! We stayed with the Reyes in Tlachichuca, and were treated extremely well. Their service is, I understand, the most expensive in Tlachichuca, but they are well worth it. Also, they are the only service who are also climbers--the others are mainly transportation. The Reyes themselves do most of the rescue work on the mountain. The food was very good, sleeping arrangements great, clean bathrooms, showers, fresh sheets every morning--even a ping-pong table! We stayed an extra night in Tlachichuca, due to Charles' altitude sickness (the weather was lousy, too), then went up to Piedra Grande the 31st. A short hike for some of us from Piedra Grande the first day and a hike to the bottom of the Tongue (roughly 16,000 feet) the next were our preparation hikes. We chose to stay in tents just below the small hut, rather than crowd in the big hut--a good choice. I'm a climber, but our ilk can be drinkers and somewhat foul-mouthed, and we avoided that by staying in tents. We had heavy freezing rain the first night, and some few snow flurries throughout our time up there. Climb day began at midnight, hiking at one a.m. Charles was out due to stomach problems by 3 a.m. or so. We donned crampons and roped up to go up the snow chutes which lie to the LEFT of the tongue (and to the left of the rock with the crosses on it). Byt he top of the snow chutes, at the base of the Jamapa Glacier proper, Troy was throwing up, and said he had to turn around. Andy joined him, and it was 16-year-old Brandon and myself. We went up to about 17,500, where he ran out of gas. As the snow was not extremely icy, I felt comfortable going on alone unroped. There was an icy crust, but a good boot placement would give a good footing. It took me another 1 1/2 hours or so to summit--that upper section of the Jamapa just seemed to go on forever! Great weather, traded picture-taking with a Japanese couple who arrived just after me, and then back down. It was pretty thick fog from the base of the Jamapa on down, but the route is pretty well marked. It would have been a different story with heavy fog up on the Glacier. Only three and a half hours down from summit to Piedra Grande, then a few more hours and we were on our way down to Tlachichuca with Francisco in the '86 Dodge.

Showers and meals were again wonderful, and we headed out the next day to Veracruz, Zempoala ruins, Mexico City, and an early flight home on the 6th. Wonderful trip. I recommend the Reyes' services, and I also recommend (unless you are certain that you acclimatize quickly and easily, as I seem to) to take more time at Piedra Grande, maybe doing a high camp (DISADVANTAGE: you have to carry all your water unless there is snow). If we had done that, we might have had better success as a party. What a great mountain! We had fun. [I'd be glad to share beta: revgorm@pomeroy-wa.com]

Matt Gorman Pomeroy, Washington, USA

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