Pico de Orizaba Trip Report (#1138)
- Signed By: Capt Al
- Date submitted: March 23, 2001
We spent eight days in Mexico to aid in acclimatizing for the thin air on Orizaba. La Malinche, just north of Puebla was a nice practice climb that provided all of our team members with new altitude records, 14,640 ft. Campamento IMSS located at 10,000 ft had nice cabins with a stove and fireplace (390 pesos). The mountain was a walk up steep scree slopes and no more difficult than one of Colorado's 14ers. On a ridge near the summit the wind picked up to 25 knots and forced us to don our heaviest clothing. The last section requires some scrambling up boulders to the summit. There are several false summits, most have signs or crosses mounted on them. It took more than a few minutes to determine which one was the highest point. The next day we drove to Tlachichuca and took The Reyes Shuttle to Piedra Grande at 14,000 ft. The two huts were full of garbage and crowded. Occupants said the huts were infested with mice that scurry over sleeping bags and through packs at night. This seemed like a good time to break out the tents. The next day we established a high camp at around 15,500 ft., just below the headwall that leads to the glacier. The site sat atop a 100 foot rock outcropping and was truly spectacular. We considered camping on the glacier itself but carrying full packs up La Lengua didn't seem like a good idea. We carried a Pulse Oxymeter and used it often during the trip. The two climbers that used Diamox had significantly higher levels of oxygen than the others. The nonusers had oxygen levels of 70% at high camp compared to 84% for the druggies. The nonusers felt very poor and were having doubts about making the summit attempt and left the decision for our wake up call. They Reluctantly started taking Diamox ten hours before our scheduled departure for the summit. After waking up, their oxygen levels had risen 4%. They reported feeling much better and chose to climb. La Lengua was a formidable obsticle of steep rock with ice couloirs running down it. The right side was a steeper more direct route with a wide ice couloir that most people chose to climb. We picked the left side which was not as steep. Two hours after strapping on crampons we were up the ice gully and on the snowfields of the volcano cone. We roped up and started the slow five hour grind to the crater rim. The caldera is one of the best I have seen and deserves a few photos. The true summit lies about one half hour counterclockwise around the rim and is covered in memorials to climbers whose luck was not as good as ours. All four of us pilots (3 airline, 1 glider) summitted. We spent thirty minutes on top and headed down to high camp via the snowfields then the rock face of La Lengua. The next day we walked the two hours down to Piedra Grande and Francisco Reyes drove us back to Tlachichuca for a great night of celebration.