Pico de Orizaba Trip Report (#1015)
- Signed By: Joseph M. Cheben
- Date submitted: March 24, 2001
On Wednesday March 14th, 2001, my two sons, Sean (almost 16) and Mark (18), my friend Tim McMinn and I summitted Pico de Orizaba. We started our adventure by flying into Mexico City late Friday night, March 9th. Since Mexico City is at 7000 feet, this was the first step in our acclimatization plan. The next day, a driver who works for Sr. Reyes, picked us up and drove us about three hours to Sr. Reyes' home in Tlachichuca. This town is at 8500 feet. On Sunday, we were taken to a spot in the woods below Piedra Grande at about 12000 feet where we set up camp. Monday, we hiked in the morning up to Piedra Grande which is at 14000 feet and this is where the trailhead starts for the summit. After lunch, we kept going and set up camp at 15000 feet which was our first high camp. We chose to set up two high camps instead of trying to summit all in one go. On Tuesday, we hiked to the foot of the glacier and set up camp at 16000 feet. We awoke at 1 AM on March 14th and started our summit bid at 2 AM. We reached the crater at 7 AM and the actual summit at 8 AM. We stayed at the top for about 2 hours before going down to our high camp. We eventually made it back to Piedra Grande by 3 PM where a 4x4 picked us up and brought us back to Sr. Reyes house.
The mountain was a lot of fun to climb. For all of us, it was our first big mountain outside the USA 14'ers. Last July, all 4 of us climbed Rainier and attended the 6 day mountaineering school. We wanted to tackle Orizaba to see how the altitude would affect us. All 4 of us did well - no one got affected to any great extent by the altitude. We did not use a guide - Sr. Reyes and others we met gave us a lot of very good advice and guidance.
We highly recommend Sr. Reyes. He runs a great shop - very hospitable, inexpensive and he gave us very good advise re acclimatization.
The mountain is a challenge in three respects: Altitude - obviously you need to be in very good shape - I ran 3 miles almost every day for about 3 months and my lungs and legs were in very good condition; water - the whole area is very dry with very low humidity. You need to plan out your water supplies very carefully; navigation - going from Piedra Grande at 14000 feet to the foot of the glacier at 16000 feet was quite a challemge. The trail is very poor and the large, steep bolder field is very difficult to get through. I highly recommend you do not try to go from Piedra Grande to the top in one go. It is a very, very long day and those who did it told me they would set up 1 or 2 high camps if they did it again. We also saw and hear of people getting very sick who climbed the mountain this way.
We had a great time and met several very good people. In particular, we met three Irish guys who now live in San Francisco. Kevin Hussey, Shea Nolan and Conor Nebille are great guys and we learned a lot by watching how they tackled the mountain. We hope we hook up with them again on another mountain.
That's all for now. Next stop is South America - probably two volcanoes in Ecuador (one is taller than Denali).