Pico de Orizaba

Pico de Orizaba Trip Report (#1035)

What a wonderful trip!! We arrived in Mexico City evening March 4th and arrived at the Reyes family compound about 11PM. Woke up the first morning to a great breakfast where we met two other American climbers (Kevin and Kevin) who had hiked from Hidalgo to the Piedra Grande huts the day before, but were otherwise on the same acclimitization schedule. The view of the mountain from Tlachichuca was amazing. Later that day we loaded up the power wagons and drove to about 13,000 ft outside Hidalgo and camped for a night. The next day we finished the trip to Piedra Grande by hiking along the rest of the road, probably another 3.5 miles. We decided to set up tents there as the large hut was pretty full. The next day was our first real tough day -- we hauled our gear up to high camp at about 15,600 ft located on a rocky outcroppping separating two couloirs just prior to the beginnning of the Jamapa glacier. The view of the towering Sarcofago and iced waterfalls was pretty cool. We cached our gear there (tents, ropes, harnesses, spare fuel) and headed back down to the small hut at Piedra Grande which we shared with some mice that night while we slept. The next day we again hiked to our high camp where we set up for the final time. After an early dinnner at 4:30 PM of some pretty unappetizing Ramen noodles, we tried to catch some sleep before the big summit day upcoming. All the water here came from chopping snow and melting it with our stoves. Not too bad, but we had a lot of glacial silt in our bellies. At about 10PM after only some fitful sleep we were awaken by what sounded like freight trains shaking our tent. The wind was pretty strong and there had been about two inches of real granular snow that had fallen. Our spirits were pretty down, thinking we wouldn't be able to do it. At 2:00 AM, our previous estimated time of departure, the wind was still pretty strong, so we decided to wait just a bit longer. At 3:00 AM, we decided to go for it. The skies were crystal clear and now the wind had quieted down to just some gusts. We barely could down some pretty awful lukewarm plain oatmeal. Then we put our crampons and headlamps on, grabbed our ice axes, roped up, grabbed the camera and tucked our water inside our coats and started up at about 3:45 AM. The next 6 hours was the most physically challenging of all of our lives, but also the most exhillerating. We steadily kept moving through the early morning, our headlamps searching ahead. There happened to be a guided expedition about 45 minutes ahead of us who had started at Piedra Grande. It helped to follow their lamps somewhat. Ahead of them was a group from Boulder, CO. Slowly, the sky lightened, and we were about 2/3rds of the way up the glacier when the most beautiful sunrise gleamed over the ice. Then we passed a good 1/4 mile to the west of the Ice Needle and after stair stepping for another 20 minutes, came across a wonderful resting place marked by a red flag. There we could see the crater and looking west could see Popo smoking on the horizon. After resting for 15 minutes, we made the final push up an ash/snow path (really pretty close to the crater edge!) and eventually came in view of the iron crosses. We summitted at 9:26 AM with absolutely clear skies and just a gentle breeze. After plenty of pictures and about 20 minutes of rest, we descended. Endured the power wagon trip back to Reyes family and had a wonderful dinner to close out a magnificent trip. The Reyes family provided wonderful service and are wonderful people and so are all the other drivers and other folks. Regarding acclimitization, five days of active hiking was no problem. We also were taking Diamox every twelve hours -- 125 mg a dose. None of us had more than a mild headache -- something two Advil could take care of. We will all remember this trip for as long as we live. Maybe Aconcagua next!!!

Pico de Orizaba Trip Report Index