Pico de Orizaba Trip Report (#955)
- Signed By: Scott Harden
- Date submitted: November 25, 2002
Let me take you back... yep, I'm an old timer and this was a while ago.
Spring break, 1978; I couldn't get anyone else to go with me, so I drove solo from Austin to the mountain. Couldn't see it until I was camped at the base, just below Zoapan, and the clouds and dust disappeared.
Oh my gosh! I'd been thinking of soloing the climb if necessary, but now I had my doubts.
My little car couldn't pass a ditch below Zoapan... fortunately I was rescued and taken up by Richard Rupp of Albequerque, a great guy. His VW bug made it to about 12,000 feet, where we camped. We hiked from there to PG. Spent the next day resting / warming up / stashing axe and crampons at the foot of the glacier.
There was a group which came up after us; a guided deal from California. Get this: I summitted the mountain *accompanied by a guy in his mid 50s, and one in his early 60s!!*" They had done Popo & Ixta earlier, so were acclimatized, but I was still amazed at how fast they were.
I also wish I had their addresses and names; they took photos of me at the summit and said they'd mail me copies, but never did.
My acclimatization schedule was: Nights at (feet) 6k, 9K, 12K, 14K, 14K. I'd consider that minimum, but in retrospect what slowed me down above 17k was likely lack of water & food.
The view from the summit was staggering. In fact I wasn't prepared for that, and had to curl up in a ball for a minute with my eyes closed.
The weather was good; too good, and I didn't have proper sun protection. Got the worst sunburn of my life.
Snow / ice was generally excellent; probably could have kicked steps all the way up (not a good or safe idea) except for the very base of the glacier, which could have been bypassed probably.
The top few hundred feet to the rim was of horrific cups / penitentes, 2+ feet deep / high, which totally destroyed one's pace. (Also, you had to THINK and DECIDE about foot placement!)
We went unroped and one of the guys fell into a small crevasse, up to his armpits. Yikes.
There were two large crevasses back then; one we skirted and the other had a barely adequate snowbridge.
A couple notes:
-- Over the recent years, the glaciers on Orizaba have retreated a depressing amount. I've seen this alluded to in various places, but details are hard to find. Statements that "the glacier (now) begins at 16,000 feet" are sad: Back in '78, the base of the glacier was no more than 700 feet higher than PG; = ~ 14,700 ft.
-- Are there any available accounts of climbs of the *eastern glaciers*? These are mentioned in Secor's book, but I've yet to read an account. Supposedly very steep, but please NOTE: I've seen these routes from the east (above Coscomatepec, at about 12,500'), and they look DANGEROUS for the following reason: There seems to be no way to avoid looming cliffs and associated probably rockfall. i.e., neither glacier is a straight shot, and there's always a cliff above you until virtually at the crater rim. Too bad, as it might be fun to ascent a 60 degree(?) glacier.
-- Not recommended in the rainy season, as mentioned earlier, and I'll add: Our trip to the E side of the mountain was in the summer, and during evening a huge, incredible thunderstorm formed around the entire top of the mountain. One of those things with multiple lightning discharges almost constantly. Anyone on the upper slopes would have been in big danger of being fried.
For those without ice gear, the Sarcofago might be a nice climb(?) if it doesn't ice up while you're up there! Not sure if it gets technical or not.
Secor also mentions Sierra Negra, just S of the main mountain, and Las Torrecillas on the SE side, but the latter seems to be just a little bump of sorts.
Cheers, and take care,