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

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