Volcanoes of Mexico
We are excited to announce the 2014 Volcanoes of Mexico Climb to Fight Breast Cancer team had a safe and successful summit of both Iztaccíhuatl and El Pico de Orizaba in the last two weeks!
Iztaccihuatl (17,343 ft) – Oct 27th
The team drove up El Paso de Cortez to the La Joya hut at 12,000 ft. The hut is a rustic cement building with 3 bunk bed rooms. On the second day the team hiked up to 14,000 ft to help with altitude acclimatization. Nearby Popo volcano (2nd highest mountain in Mexico) erupted a few times daily and they got great views of it. Day 3 they packed up their heavy 45 lb packs and hiked up to the Ottis Mcallister hut at around 16,000 ft. This hut was much more primitive and small so the team slept in tents, melted snow for water, and prepared for the 2:00 am alpine wake-up. On summit day the team could feel the altitude but practiced pressure breathing and made their way up the long boulder/scree field and then onto the snow slopes mixed with rock. Izta stands for “sleeping lady” and the team reached the high ridge about at her “knees.” They continued on up and down the ridge (Ridge of the Sun) until they finally reached the summit. They celebrated for a few minutes on the summit, long enough to get a small eruption from Popo volcano in the distance. Popo was celebrating and providing real-life fireworks to mark the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer team’s summit!
Orizaba (18,490 ft) – Nov 1st
Their next climbing objective was El Pico de Orizaba to the South, the tallest mountain in Mexico. The team rode in 4×4 vehicles to drive up “the road” about 2 hrs to the Piedra Grande hut at 14,000. The hut has 3 levels of plywood platforms for climbers to stay and prepare for their summit attempts. Day 2 the team had planned to go for an acclimatization hike but soggy weather and thick fog kept them playing cards and eating Pringles in the hut all day. With the drastic recession of the Jampa glacier, it is no longer possible to make a high camp because of lack of a water source, so they had to make their summit attempt from the hut…a very long summit day.
On day 3 they set out for the top, leaving the hut at 14,000 ft at about 3:45am. They traveled on a paved aqueduct at first, and then continued up the rock and scree. After several hours they reach the Labyrinth where route finding through the large rocks was very difficult and hard to navigate with heavy packs. Their local guide, Oso, has over 300 summits of Orizaba, so he was a tremendous asset in route finding. Finally, after several hours, they reached the base of the Jampa glacier and Sarcophagus rock around 16,500 ft. They put on all their technical gear (crampons, rope, harnesses and ice axes) and started up the glacier. Snow conditions were perfect but the slopes were still icy and a steady very steep 40-45 degree slope. After several hours of traversing the glacier the team finally reached the top of Mexico – North America’s 3rd highest peak, and the highest volcano in North America. Great views into the crater and sunshine made for a happy summit team.
Also on the trip the team did some sightseeing. They went to a great anthropology museum in Mexico City and learned about the regions’ Aztec and Mayan history. Between climbs they stayed in Puebla, visited many ornate churches, the ruins of the largest pyramid in the world, shopped for colorful pottery at the market and ate lots of mole sauce. Their final evening before flying back to the U.S. was Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Mexico City was alive with celebration, decorative altars and offerings, face paintings and costumes.
Muchos Felicitantes to our Volcanoes of Mexico team and Alpine Ascents International, not only for the successful summits but the support of breast cancer research at Fred Hutch! See our Smug Mug album for more photos.