Category: Mexico’s Volcanoes

Training For Mountaineering

Training For Mountaineering

Training for mountaineering is critical for safety and success

What Is Mountaineering?

Mountaineering is the pursuit of recreation in the mountains.  This can take many forms:  peak ascents, hiking, rock climbing, ice climbing, trail running, backpacking, and skiing, to name a few.  Mountaineering is an all-encompassing word for all of these activities, with each of them being a subset of the whole.

Mountaineering often requires performing at a variety of intensity levels at high elevation in changeable weather. Proper training is the foundation for executing a safe and rewarding climb. While each of these activities may require a specific skill set, they all require a combination of movement efficiency, strength, and endurance.

Summit day on Mt. Whitney's Mountaineers Route
A stunning morning during a winter ascent of Mt. Whitney’s Mountaineers Route (14505’/4421m). Climbing this route requires learning a specific set of snow climbing skills but also requires endurance to successfully complete this 4-day climb.


Movement Efficiency + Strength + Endurance

Training For Mountaineering – Movement Efficiency

High On Mt. Whitney's Mountaineers Route
Train on talus, boulder fields, and loose off-trail ground if your mountaineering objective contains a lot of this type of terrain.

Performance in the mountains is highly dictated by movement efficiency. An efficient climber with low current fitness will always outperform a fit climber with poor movement skills.

When training for mountaineering, the most effective way to become efficient with your movement is to log time on the type of terrain you’d like to perform on. This is critical for success. Take every opportunity to train on terrain that resembles your objective as closely as possible. This includes walking on trails, soft snow, firm snow, talus (boulder fields), and loose off-trail terrain. It also includes technical terrain if your objectives include rock or ice climbing.

There are no shortcuts for developing movement efficiency. It takes time. The more time you spend on complex terrain the greater your gains will be. This is a much overlooked but critical component to consider when developing your training plan.

Rock Climbing Training
Top-roping laps at a local crag is an excellent way to train for long alpine rock climbs such as the North Ridge of Mt. Conness pictured below.
Stunning views high on the North Ridge of Mt. Conness!
Stunning views high on the North Ridge of Mt. Conness, grade III 5.6 alpine rock climb! Enjoying epic climbs like this is the reward for the time invested in proper training.

Training For Mountaineering – Strength

Strength supports all other athletic activity because it allows you to do MORE objective specific training by developing tissue capacity. Strength training:

  • Makes bones, muscles, tendons and cartilage stronger, thicker and stiffer.
  • Develops effective and efficient transfer of force.
  • Creates a ceiling of capacity thus reducing the likelihood of injury.
  • Increases endurance by developing a higher ceiling of potential

Strength and endurance are strongly linked

Reaching the summit of a mountain requires taking thousands of steps uphill. Each uphill stride while wearing a 30lb pack places significant stress on the legs, knees, hips, and spine. This movement is essentially a single leg squat done at varying depths, which is dictated by the steepness of the terrain. Therefore, successfully summiting a peak entails linking together thousands of these weighted squats. Effective training in a gym will help make each step in the mountains use less energy because you’re developing a surplus of strength.

For example: “Marvelous Martha” and “Mountaineer Mike” are on a 12-hour summit day together. They will take thousands of steps, each of which pushes them towards their strength ceiling.

Marvelous Martha can back squat 160-pounds for 5 reps. Every step she takes uphill wearing a 30-pound pack uses approximately 25% of her strength reserve. She’s working at 1/4 of her strength ceiling for this climb.

Mountaineer Mike can back squat 60-pounds for 5 reps. Every uphill step he takes wearing a 30-pound pack uses 66.67% of his strength reserve. He’s spending the entire day working at 2/3 of his strength ceiling!

Which climber is more likely to perform better, all other things being equal?

Strength supports all other athletic activity. Supportive strength training is simple and helps build athletic stiffness and strength that helps boost performance and decreases the risk of injury.

Training For Mountaineering – Endurance

Kilimanjaro Summit Photo
Kilimanjaro is 19340’/5895m. Climbing Kilimanjaro requires fitness and endurance but no technical skills. During this magnificent 7-day climb the route passes through 5 climate zones starting off in a jungle and reaching an alpine environment. A proper training program focusing on endurance and loose terrain is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success to reach the summit of this spectacular peak.

The goal with endurance training for mountaineering is to develop a program that progresses towards the physical requirements of our specific objectives. Endurance training accomplishes two things:

  1. Develops the cardiovascular and circulatory systems to effectively supply oxygen to the working muscles.
  2. Builds structural resilience in the joints (especially the hips and knees) and spine to handle the stress of the objective. 

As with strength training we build endurance through the stress/recovery/adaptation model. Each training session places stress on the body. With appropriate recovery, the body adapts and can support slightly more work. With a well thought out schedule, the body will continue to adapt to the new training load and your endurance will improve.

For example, your goal is to climb Mt. Whitney in 2-days via the Mountaineers Route. This climb requires ascending and descending from 8350′ to 14505′ over 14-miles. This is 6155′ of elevation gain over 7-miles to the summit, then the equivalent distance and elevation loss to return. Attempting this climb “off the couch” with no training will put the body into a state of deep fatigue with a high chance of sustaining an injury. However, starting with a manageable hike then gently increasing the distance and elevation, then allowing for adequate recovery between sessions, the body develops the capacity and resilience to climb Mt. Whitney safely, and have much more fun doing it!

Know your aerobic threshold

The most efficient way to develop endurance is to use a slow, steady approach maintaining a heart rate under your aerobic threshold. There are many methods for determining your aerobic threshold, but a great place to start uses the ‘Maff Method’ by subtracting your age from 180. In this method a 40-year old’s aerobic threshold is a heartrate of 140 (180 – 40).  A 40-year-old athlete would stay at a heart rate of 140 or below when training.

Training at or just under the aerobic threshold:

  • Develops the strength, size and pumping capabilities of the heart.
  • Enhances the structure of the capillary network throughout the body.
  • Develops metabolic adaptions to the mitochondria; the powerhouse of the muscle cells.
  • Increases the body’s effective use of fuel/food for energy at the objective pace at which you intend to climb.

To cross-reference this intensity you should be able to have a full conversation when training. If you cannot speak with complete sentences, then it’s likely you’ve moved above your aerobic threshold sweet-spot. Keep in mind, this is a great place to start and a good trainer can refine this and personalize a training plan based on your history and trajectory.

Aerobic Zone Training
Training in the aerobic zone.

Progression Is Paramount!

Progression is one of the KEY elements in any training plan. An appropriate progression allows the body to absorb the training, recover, then adapt to a new level of performance. For the body to gain strength and endurance we need to continually add stress to our training.

For endurance training, unlike strength training, we generally add volume rather than intensity to build our progression. Each week we add distance and/or elevation to our hikes/runs. On the first week of our training cycle we might complete 3 endurance sessions at or near our aerobic threshold heart rate:

  • 1st Session: A comfortable 5-mile hike carrying a packed loaded with 20-pounds and 1000′ of elevation gain on terrain as close as possible to our season objective. This hike took 2.5 hours.
  • 2nd Session: 4-mile trail run with 1000′ of elevation gain. This run took 1.5 hours
  • 3rd Session: 6-mile jog around the city. This run took 1.5 hours.

Week 1 totals: 5 hours in the aerobic zone with 2000′ feet of elevation gain.

2nd Week: Add 5-10% to this total.

3rd Week: Continue this progression moving towards your objective time/distance/elevation. You can use distance or time to build your progression. Both are effective.

Week 3 or 4: Rest week with a reduction in volume of 40%.

Final weeks: Leading up to your objective taper and cut the volume down by 20-30% per week.

What about high-intensity training?

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is more specialized and complicated and therefore needs to be delicately programmed into your plan. Although useful in small amounts for specific circumstances, following the above recommendations will develop a high level of performance for mountaineering. HIIT does not replace slow steady training in an endurance program. Because of this HIIT is viewed at the icing on the cake but not something to be emphasized.

What about core training?

Isolated core exercises have very limited cross-over to sport specific performance in spite of what many in the fitness industry assert. The strength program suggested above with the squat/pull/press will strengthen muscles in the body to work effectively because they will work together. Beyond this, effective development of the core is achieved by practicing the sport you’re training for. A rock climber develops effective core tension by rock climbing. There are certain circumstances when a specific core strength exercise might be useful and a trainer can help work through a specific problem. If there’s not a good reason for doing it, then it’s not worth spending the resources on it.

In Conclusion

We encourage you to enjoy the process of developing an understanding of how your body responds to training. The results will become apparent within weeks of starting out and motivation is rarely a problem moving forwards.

About the Authors

Simon Moore
Simon Moore is a mountain guide and founder of Vertical Ascents offering coaching and training for rock climbers, alpinists, skiers, and endurance athletes.
Training For Mountaineering, Kurt Wedberg
Kurt Wedberg is a 34-year veteran mountain guide and the founder of Sierra Mountaineering International, Inc. Based in Bishop, CA along the slopes of the beautiful Eastern Sierra, they offer guiding and instruction from beginning through advanced levels in:

Why Climb Mountains

Why Climb Mountains

SMI Founder Kurt Wedberg shares some thoughts on why he’s so passionate about climbing mountains

Why climb mountains? Amid all the hardships COVID brought to our lives, the pandemic of 2020 offered the opportunity for many folks to discover mountaineering.  For the first time people are learning benefits that generations of outdoor lovers have known for decades.  A few of those priceless lessons include invaluable benefits for physical, mental, and spiritual health.  It’s also a great way to make meaningful friendships, and see first hand the importance of protecting our environment. Furthermore, it teaches lessons that can be applied to everyday life.

Mountaineering for physical health

Mountaineering requires a general level of endurance and strength.  The cardiovascular and muscular systems are strengthened over time.  Getting into a regular routine increases energy and stamina.  This in turn adds to the enjoyment and expands opportunities for new and bigger adventures; all while gaining improved health!

Kurt Wedberg on the crater rim of El Pico de Orizaba (18410’/5611m), Mexico. The reward for training is experiencing remote and stunning views such as this one high above the Mexican countryside on top of the highest volcano in North America.

Why Climb Mountains: Healthy Diet

There’s nothing like partaking in endurance activities to motivate a good diet.  The human body needs food full of nutrients to function well.  Meal planning is critical.  Unhealthy food will not provide the fuel necessary for long summit days.  Mountaineering creates a great opportunity to explore new foods and develop habits that can be used in everyday life.

Fresh food for fuel. The author’s fuel for a typical Sierra summit day.
Bottom row: dried mango, spicy seeds, cheese, and oranges.
Middle row: assorted nuts, smoked oysters, and avocado.
Top row: jerky, hard boiled eggs, organic energy blocks, and vials of salt & vinaigrette.

Mountaineering for Mental Health

Mental health goes hand in hand with physical health.  As you increase endurance and strength you’re also gaining many benefits for mental health.  Studies show exercising leads to increased energy during the day, better sleep, and sharper memories.  It can have a positive impact on depression, anxiety, can help to relive stress, and boost your overall mood.  It releases endorphins in the brain that energize spirits and promote feelings of calm and well-being.  All of this is happening while you’re enjoying majestic and stunning views in the great outdoors!

Mt. Whitney Summit!
SMI founder Kurt Wedberg experiencing the euphoria of topping out with another satisfied guest on Mt. Whitney’s famous Mountaineers Route at sunrise!

Mountaineering for Spiritual Health

As a professional mountain guide for 34 years I’m asked why climb mountains all the time.  There are many reasons such as those mentioned in this article.  But, there are others that are difficult to express in words, but are also some of the most powerful.  There is something deeply spiritual about removing yourself from the daily routine of life and immersing in the beauty of nature.  You provide yourself the opportunity to view life from a different perspective.  Situations that may have appeared as big problems transform into smaller issues amid the majesty of the mountains.  When returning to your normal routine this spiritual cleansing helps make everything else more manageable.

Mountaineering for Spiritual Health
Kurt Wedberg on the summit of Kilimanjaro seeing the sunrise high over the African plains.

Along with the positive health gains, mountaineering provides several other benefits that enhance your life in remarkably purposeful and worthwhile ways.

Meaningful Lifelong Friendships

For climbers the mountains are an endless supply of pleasure and satisfaction.  Mountaineers retain vitality and an enthusiastic elation for life.  They’re keenly aware their experiences can never be replicated in a man-made setting.  When climbers tie into a rope together something symbolic occurs that runs far deeper than the practicality of immediate safety.  They are trusting each other with their lives and well-being. This creates a bond of friendship that cannot be duplicated in any other way.  Sharing these rich adventures leads to unique lasting friendships.

Tristan & Kurt summit Devils Crag
Tristan Sieleman & Kurt Wedberg on the summit of Devils Crag deep in the Sierra Nevada.

Why climb mountains? It gives new appreciation for our environment

There is nothing like seeing firsthand a pristine vista to bring a new appreciation for our wild remote lands.  John Muir founded the Sierra Club for this very reason.  He knew if he could offer outings that create opportunities for people to see our wilderness they’ll actively help to preserve it.  Today professional guide services offer expanded resources to experience high and remote places and to learn new skills that help broaden the possibilities available.

High on Crystal Crag
Climbing high in remote places offers a profound and unique perspective on the importance of protecting our environment.

Mountaineering teaches patience and persistence while building self esteem

Summit days are long stretching anywhere from 8 – 16 hours.  Mountaineering builds patience and persistence because it requires mental and physical stamina.  When looking at a big mountain it can appear overwhelming thinking about how to climb it.  However, it’s important to divide a mountain into small manageable chunks that can be ticked off one at a time in succession.  As an analogy, when you’re served a large plate of food you don’t eat it in one bite. It is consumed in manageable bite sized mouthfuls.  In the same way, when climbing a mountain, maintaining patience and persistence are essential. Climbs are successful by taking one step at a time and one section at a time.  Accomplishing this task is a huge boost to confidence and self-esteem.

Mountaineering teaches patience and persistence while building self esteem
The experiences shared on climbs, such as this well earned summit photo from a winter ascent of Mt. Whitney (14505’/4421m), with like minded people can lead to many life long friendships.

Kurt Wedberg has been a professional mountain guide for 34 years and is the founder of Sierra Mountaineering International, Inc. Based in Bishop, CA they offer mountaineering guiding and instruction in the Sierra and on high peaks worldwide.

Summit Success on Mexico’s Volcanoes!

Orizaba team summit photo at 9:30am on 11-11-11. From left to right: Rick Piette, April Mayhew, Mickey Jojola, Lloyd Charton, Miriam Diaz, John Baer, and Kurt Wedberg

Our annual trip to Mexico’s Volcanoes was another big success with 100% of the team reaching the summits of both Iztaccíhuatl and El Pico de Orizaba!

Our team met in Mexico City on Friday November 4, 2011.  After a nice dinner and a walk around the center of the city on a clear warm night we were ready to depart on Saturday for Iztaccíhuatl.  We stayed true to our successful acclimatization schedule we have been using in previous years.  After spending three days taking hikes to increasingly higher elevation we found ourselves at the high refugio along the “La Arista del Sol” route at 4780m/15,682’.  We bedded down after an early dinner in preparation for our pre-dawn start for summit day.  Waking in the wee hours we were greeted to a pleasantly calm windless night with mild temperatures.  With headlamps aiding us in our route finding shouldered our rucksacks carrying warm clothes, ice axes, crampons, climbing helmets, harnesses, ropes, snacks and water for the day.  Several hours of climbing brought us high on Iztaccihuatl’s flanks as we were greeted to a beautiful sunrise to the east.  We applied sunscreen and sunglasses then kept a slow steady pace up the beautiful ridgeline offering stunning views that leads to the summit.  The crisp calm air on the summit afforded us the opportunity to take a few minutes to relax and enjoy the views before taking summit photos and starting our descent.  We were back to the refugio 10 ½ hours after we set out for the summit.  Here we took a break to rehydrate then packed up our gear for the descent back to the trailhead.  Another three hours of walking led us to the base of our route where we were picked up and whisked off to the city of Puebla to clean up and celebrate a successful climb with a good meal.

On November 9 the team organized gear and traveled to the town of Tlachichuca.  This quaint village sits at the base of our next objective; El Pico de Orizaba, which at 5611m/18,410’ is the 3rd highest peak in North America.  We had the afternoon to reorganize our gear and take a walk around town while sampling local food including local fruit and fresh guacamole.

On November 10 we loaded our gear into a 4×4 vehicle for the drive through the rural Mexican countryside that leads us to the Pierdra Grande hut at 4260m/13,976’.  SMI guide April Mayhew cooked pizzas for dinner while clouds swirled outside.  Weather had changed from the calm and clear conditions we had on Iztaccíhuatl to cloudy and cool here on Orizaba.  We packed the same equipment we needed on our previous climb and got a few hours of sleep in preparation for our summit attempt.

Clouds had partially dissipated revealing stars and an almost full moon.  The team made a final check of equipment then began with headlamps on.  The route begins by picking a way through a trail lined with volcanic rock.  After a couple hours of climbing we reached continuous snow that required ice axe/crampons and divided into two rope teams led by SMI guides April Mayhew and Kurt Wedberg.  Our route continued through a labyrinth of snow and volcanic rocks that led to the final 2000’/610m of climbing.  Here the route opens up to the Jamapa Glacier that wraps around Orizaba’s flanks of this classic cone shaped dormant volcano.  Above we saw evidence of high winds as cloud banks repeatedly swelled and shrank over the summit crater.  Temperatures dropped significantly as we climbed into a steady cold wind that the open glacier offered no protection from.  Adding windbreakers, heavy gloves, goggles, and eventually our puffy down parkas our team took careful deliberate steps in the crunchy snow.  Conditions on the glacier made for secure footing with our crampons as the sun rose and cast a shadow over the rural Mexican farm fields far below.  We would stay in shade until reaching the crater rim which presented the challenges of keeping our feet and hands warm.  Cutting switchbacks for our route offered is the opportunity to continuously switch which hand held our ice axes, which helped us warm each free hand since the cold from our ice axes was conducting through our gloves.  Each team member did an excellent job adjusting to the challenging conditions and as we crested on to the crater rim we were greeted by the warming rays of direct sunlight.  Here we took a food/water break and applied sunscreen before traversing around the crater rim to its highest point.  The location of the summit gave us a respite from the brunt of the wind which allowed us a few minutes to take pictures and enjoy the view from the 3rd highest point in North America that we reached at 9:00am on 11-11-11!

Temperatures warmed for us on the descent and we were back to Piedra Grande by 11:40am.  Our drivers took us back to Tlachichuca for showers and a nice meal.  On Saturday we drove back towards Mexico City by way of the Teotihuacan pyramids.  It is always nice to learn about the history and culture from these exotic destinations we visit on SMI international expeditions.

A big congratulations to the entire team on two great climbs on Mexico’s Volcanoes:  John Baer, Lloyd Charton, Miriam Diaz, Mickey Jojola, April Mayhew, Rick Piette, and Kurt Wedberg.

A few pictures are below.  The entire photo gallery can be found here: Mexico’s Volcanoes November 4-13, 2011.

The National Palace on one side of the Zocolo (Main Plaza) as seen from the Catedral Metropoliana in the center of Mexico City.

Shopping at a local market before climbing Iztaccihuatl.

Lloyd enjoying the local market in the town of Amecameca.

Fresh fruit and vegetable medley for breakfast.

The team psyched and ready to climb Iztaccihuatl.

John Baer on the approach the the high hut on Iztaccihuatl.

Mickey enjoying the approach on Iztaccihuatl.

The team on the approach to Iztaccihuatl's high hut.

Sunrise high on Iztaccihuatl.

Climbing Iztaccihuatl's beautiful ridgeline offering stunning scenery.

Rick Piette stepping out on the summit of Iztaccihuatl.

April, Mickey, John, and Miriam topping out on Iztaccihuatl.

Team summit photo on Iztaccihuatl.

El Pico de Orizaba from the town of Tlachichuca.

The team geared up and ready to climb Orizaba.

Sunrise from high on Orizaba.

Taking a break on the crater rim of Orizaba.

The team nearing the summit of Orizaba.

View of the crater rim on Orizaba.

Team photo on the summit of Orizaba. Congratulations team!!

Mexico’s Volcanoes November 5-14, 2010

Orizaba from the the rural countryside above the town of Tlachichuca.

Our yearly trip to Mexico’s Volcanoes was another huge success.  We climbed two volcanoes in a 10 day period, visited the pyramids at Teotihuacan, and got to experience the warmth and hospitality of the Mexican people.

This trip was also used as a fundraiser for Big City Mountaineers.  This organization takes underprivileged urban teens on seven and eight day backpacking trips during the summer months.  They hold a series of climb each summer the call Summit For Someone which raises money for Big City Mountaineers.  SMI has worked with Big City Mountaineers since they began doing fundraising climbs.  We lead several trips each year for this worthy organization.  Besides Mexico’s Volcanoes we also lead climbs to Mt. Whitney, North Palisade Peak, and Mt. Langley each year for BCM.  In February 2011 we will also be leading one to Kilimanjaro!!

The Team on an acclimatization day hike below Iztaccihuatl. From left to right: Kurt Wedberg, Kyle Gerecke, Bret Siciliano, Brandon Kibby, JP Latkovic, Jason Cahill, Miriam Diaz

After meeting up in Mexico City we drove to the town of Amecameca which sits at the base of our first mountain Iztaccíhuatl (17,158’/5230m).  A couple days of acclimatization hikes would put us in to position for a summit attempt on “Ixta”.  Iztaccíhuatl is the name the Aztec’s gave this mountain, which translated means “white woman”.  This mountain resembles a women laying on her back when viewed from a distance.  “White” refers to snow that covers the upper reaches during certain parts of the year.

Iztaccihuatl 17,158'/5230m

We ascended “The Knees Route” which climbs past Ixta’s knees onto her belly where the summit is located.  On summit day we were treated to a clear crisp morning.  Snow conditions were excellent.  We got a predawn start and found ourselves high on the peak as the sun rose giving us a beautiful backdrop as we ascended the partly snowy and rocky terrain that leads to the summit.

Kyle, Bret, and JP navigating the terrain on summit day on Iztaccihuatl.

The lights of the city of Puebla shortly before sunrise. The early morning light silhouettes El Pico de Orizaba in the distance.

Kyle and Brandon climbing the ridge at sunrise high on Iztaccihuatl.

Miriam, Bret, and JP climbing the "belly" high on Iztaccihuatl.

Miriam, Bret, and JP traversing the summit ridge of Iztaccihuatl at 7:10 AM

Summit photo on Iztaccihuatl November 9, 2010 7:30 AM

After successfully reaching the summit we descended back the same way with views of neighboring volcano Popocatepetl in front of us and our next objective Orizaba visible to the east.

The team descending Iztacchuatl pauses to view our next objective: El Pico de Orizaba. We would be standing its summit three days later.

An iron cross with Popocatepetl in the background. Crosses have been placed on most of Mexico's volcanoes by the Grupo de los Cien (The group of the 100) made up of Catholic priests who are mountaineers.

Orizaba is the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest in all of North America at 18,410’/5611m.  Only Mt. McKinley in Alaska (20,320’/6194m) and Mt. Logan in Canada (19,550’/5959m) are higher than Orizaba on this continent.  It is a classic cone shaped volcano flanked by glaciers on all sides.

Our team drove south and east to the small town of Tlachichuca near the base of El Pico de Orizaba.

The team in Tlachichuca at the base of Orizaba.

Here we geared up and took a 4-wheel adventure drive through the rural Mexican countryside then ascended through pine tree forests before emerging above timberline to the Pierdra Grande Hut at 14,000’/4267m.  Our route was the Jamapa Glacier that ascends the cone’s north side to the crater rim.  We traverses a short distance west to the highest point on the rim.

Orizaba from the rural countryside below.

The team fired up and ready for the pre dawn start of our ascent of Orizaba.

Kyle, Brandon, and JP climbing high on summit day with Orizaba casting its morning shadow on the rural Mexican countryside thousands of feet below.

View looking North East towards the Gulf of Mexico from 17,500'/5334m on Orizaba.

Bret, Jason, and Miriam pausing for a break at the crater rim on Orizaba.

JP, Brandon, and Kyle at the crater rim of Orizaba.

Our elated team having just reached the top of the 3rd highest mountain in North America.

Proudly displaying the Big City Mountaineers flags the team gathers for a photo on summit of Orizaba. Back row: Jason Cahill, JP Latkovic, Miriam Diaz, and Bert Siciliano. Front row kneeling: Kurt Wedberg, Brandon Kibby and Kyle Gerecke.

After our climbs the team drove back to Mexico City by way of the Teotihuacan pyramids.  Teotihuacan is located 25 miles north of Mexico City and contains some of the largest pyramidal structures in the Pre-Columbian era.  The pyramids are thought to have been completed between 200 BC and 100 AD and this city is believed to have had up to 200,000 inhabitants at its height in the 7th to 8th centuries.  We took some time to climb the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, see some of the paintings that are still preserved here, tour some of the archeological sites, and walk the Avenue of the Dead.

From the Pyramid of the Moon looking down the Avenue of the Dead with the Pyramid of the Sun left.

The team on top of the Pyramid of the Sun with the Pyramid of the Moon behind.

We then returned to Mexico City for dinner.  We happened to be there during Mexico’s bicentennial celebration.  The center of the city was filled with an elaborate well done light show and music.  Seeing the celebration was icing on the cake to a wonderful and very memorable trip!

Lights during Mexico's bicentennial celebration.

The entire photo gallery can be found here:  Mexico’s Volcanoes November 5-14, 2010

Summit Success on Orizaba, Mexico 18,410′ the 3rd highest point in North America

After a memorable climb on Iztaccihuatl (17,158′) on Tuesday our team traveled south and east to the town of Tlachichuca at the base of Orizaba.  We spent some time here reorganizing our gear in preparation for our next climb.  We also had time to relax and enjoy some good Mexican meals which is always a treat.

We stayed at our good friends the Reyes family.  Four generations ago this family built a large compound for the purpose of manufacturing soap.  Back then there were no roads leading to the little village of Tlachichuca.  Interest in climbing Orizaba led to manufacturing their own equipment some of which is on display at their compound.  This interest in climbing Orizaba eventually led to helping visiting climbers from around the world with logistics and support to climb here.  Today Gerardo and Luis Reyes carry on that rich tradition.  The soap factory has been converted into a compound for climbers to rest and organize themselves in a comfortable setting with first class hospitality.  It is always a treat to visit the Reyes family.

On Thursday we loaded our gear onto a 4-wheel drive vehicle and drove to the Pierdra Grande hut at approximately 14,000′.  We took an afternoon hike then returned to the hut to cook dinner and hit the sack in preparation for an early rise for our summit bid.

On Friday we were treated to a clear and windless night.  We navigated by headlamp through the lower part of the route eventually gaining a section of the route we call the Labyrinth which leads the the Jamapa Glacier.  We arrived at the base of the glacier at sunrise and put on our crampons, changed out trekking poles for ice axes, and clipped into a rope.  We ascended the 2000’+ glacier to the impressive crater rim of this extinct volcano which we traversed to its high point.  We had the summit to ourselves as we shared in a clear view and took pictures.

Here are a few highlights of the climb.  The entire photo gallery from our trip is here:

Ready to leave the Pierdra Grande hut for our ascent.

Ready to leave the Pierdra Grande hut for our ascent.

Approaching the Jamapa Glacier near sunrise.

Approaching the Jamapa Glacier near sunrise.

The Jamapa Glacier on Orizaba.

The Jamapa Glacier on Orizaba.

Roped up and beginning to ascend the Jamapa Glacier.

Roped up and beginning to ascend the Jamapa Glacier.

Scott McCay enjoying the impressive view while taking a break.

Scott McCay enjoying the impressive view while taking a break.

James Duke and Matthew Harris pacing themselves at almost 18,000 near the top of the Jamapa Glacier

James Duke and Matthew Harris pacing themselves at almost 18,000' near the top of the Jamapa Glacier

Topped out and enjoying the view at the crater rim of Orizaba

Topped out and enjoying the view at the crater rim of Orizaba

Part of Orizabas impressive crater

Part of Orizaba's impressive crater

James and Matthew sharing in the sheer joy of a great team effort on the summit.

James and Matthew sharing in the sheer joy of a great team effort on the summit.

The team on the summit.

The team on the summit.

Kurt Wedberg poses next to one of several crosses on the summit

Kurt Wedberg poses next to one of several crosses on the summit

Summit Success on Iztaccihuatl (17,158′)

Greetings from Puebla, Mexico.  Our group reached the summit of Iztaccihuatl yesterday.  The weather was clear with a slight breeze.  Overall it made for excellent conditions for climbing.

After arriving in Mexico City on November 6 we have spent the last couple of days acclimatizing to the high altitude we will soon be climbing in.  Iztaccihuatl is an Aztec name that means “sleeping lady”.  When viewed from the town below, Amecameca, it looks like a lady lying on her back.  Our route is called “The Knees Route” and basically traverses along the ridge line of the mountain from the knees to its summit which is the chest.

Today we will travel to the town of Tlachichuca at the base of Orizaba.  We plan to spend the day in preparation for climbing the third highest mountain in North America at 18,410′.

Here are a few highlights from our climb:

The group at the base of Iztaccihuatl from the trailhead at La Joya.  Our route traverses from the right side to the left.  The group from left to right:  Kurt Wedberg, Scott McCay, James Duke, Michael Harris, Michael "Tater" Tate, Miriam

Iztaccihuatl from the trailhead at La Joya. Our route traverses from the right side to the left. The group from left to right: Kurt Wedberg, Scott McCay, James Duke, Matthew Harris, Mike "Tater" Tate, and Miriam Diaz.

The team high on Iztaccihuatl pauses for a photo as the sun begins to reveal the first signs of morning in the distance.

The team high on Iztaccihuatl pauses for a photo as the sun begins to reveal the first signs of morning in the distance.

The team high on Iztaccihuatl at 6:45 AM en route to the summit.

The team high on Iztaccihuatl at 6:45 AM en route to the summit.

Reaching the summit of a big peak is always an emotional experience.

Reaching the summit of a big peak is always an emotional experience.

A happy group on the summit of Iztaccihuatl (17,158)

A happy group on the summit of Iztaccihuatl (17,158')

Packed and ready for Mexico’s Volcanoes

November marks our annual trip to climb Mexico’s Volcanoes.  Our objective will be to climb two volcanoes in this beautiful country:  Iztaccihuatl (17,158′) and El Pico de Orizaba (18,410′).  We will fly to Mexico City tomorrow then on Saturday drive a couple hours outside of Mexico City to Popo/Ixta National Park where we plan to spend a little time acclimatizing before making our summit attempt on “Ixta”.  Later next week we will travel south and east to Orizaba.

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Packing for Mexicos Volcanoes

Packing for Mexico's Volcanoes