Pico de Orizaba is the highest mountain in Mexico and at 18,470ft is the third highest in North America. It lies about four hours drive south of Mexico City near the Veracruz region.

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Tlachichuca is the starting point for the climb.  here we meet the Reyes family. We stay at their hacienda and its a greta place to stock up on fresh food, sort out the gear, organize our transport to the mountain

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This photo shows how quickly a mountain can change.  It was taken later on in the week during out hike to base camp

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Transport to the start of the hike is via an old 1940’s Dodge truck.

 

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Lots of gear to be brought up the mountin and we still did not have enough tortillas, oaxaca or avocados. The hike takes two days and we have horse support to carry most of the camping equipment.  This allows our bodies to focus on acclimitization with the heavy packs. We are now moving through the sub alpine meadows where each morning we wake to ground fog.  It makes the countryside take on this surreal tone

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Day two of our hike.  Notice how warm and sunny it is.  The forecast was calling for possible snow but right at this moment, we were enjoying the mexican sun

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A few hours later, the storm rolled in and turned the entire landscape white. It was amazing how quickly the snow fell. We would look back and our footprints would already be covered.  At least camp is close.

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The horses and the climbers make it to the camp. However the road to camp is blocked and other climbers have had to turn back and wait for  a bigger 4×4 with higher clearance. We have the place to ourselves.

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Home sweet home.  There is a hut at basecamp but always use tents.   Its quieter and more private and climbers can sleep and rest without being disturbed…unless I need them to do something 🙂

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This is the smaller of the two huts and is rarely used for sleeping.  It makes a great kitchen to cook and store food.

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A little snack, hmm local tortillas, peppers, Oaxaca cheese and some avocados, thanks Chris

 

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Looking down the valley towards the climbers hut. Notice how deep the footprints are.

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John checking out the tents

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We also create a high camp at 15,200ft.  This gives us a better chance of acclimization and reaching the summit. It means for a shorter day and we eliminate the rock traverses that would have to be done early on summit day..in the dark.  Today we do a “carry” to this camp, we bring food, ropes, climbing gear and store them. We will then descend to our camp at 14000ft to sleep.  This is what is called climbing high and sleep low and helps the body acclimatize. The next day, we will break down camp and move to the high camp and prepare for the summit

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A glimpse of the summit from High Camp.  To the left is the Labryinth a complex gully system that we need to climb in the dark to ensure that we reach the summit by our turn round time

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Having made a load carry to high camp, its time to relax and make a snowman, here Chris and Dean are pictured with their new friend.

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Getting ready to leave camp, the sun is out, the snow has stopped and there is blue sky everywhere

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High Camp at 15,200ft.

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Sunrise!!!

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Passing the pinnicle Sacrofacus on the west

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Chris and John climbing upwards into the thin air and the cold wind

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A little verticality near the summit crater.  Notice the strange patterns on the snow surface. These are called Sastrugi and caused by the wind

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Summit crater. north side

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Even though we are at the crater, there is still several hundred feet of climbing to get to the highest point on the south side. The sun is out but its still cold and the wind still blowing strong from the southwest.

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Taking a moment to catch a breath.

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Guess who??

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The “crux” of the climb.  This is used to describe the hardest or the most technical part of the route.

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Finally the summit, time for some pics and food and some horizontal sitting, maybe five minutes of nap time

 

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The summit has all sorts of momentos, its unbelievable that climbers would carry iron poles to the summit. It was a set as a cross but it keeps getting knocked down due to high winds.

 

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Beautiful views for 360 degrees.

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Time to leave and descend

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Looking back at the summit, notice our footprints showing the route that we climbed to the summit.

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Approaching the Labyrinth

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Looking back through the maze at 16, 100ft

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Serious self image pose

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Time for a cerveza

 

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A final look at Orizaba before we leave