Expedition to Iztaccíhuatl (The White Woman)
This is one of the great experiences you must do in you life. The Iztaccíhuatl is a Mexican volcano, the third tallest after Pico de Orizaba and Popocatépetl. From the alpine point of view, it will be your first five thousander. The normal route is relatively simple, although rather long, so we will have to be in very good shape, and to follow an acclimatization process of at least two days.
To get to the “Izta” we drive from Mexico City towards Puebla and make a right in Chalco, from where we head for Amecameca. We follow an enchanting mountain road cutting through thick forests, and reach the historical Paso de Cortés. This was the pass used by the Spanish conquistadors entered the Valley of Mexico in 1519, on their way to Tenochtitlan, the then capital of the Aztec Empire.
The Iztaccíhuatl is a volcano of extraordinary beauty. The Aztecs called it The White Woman, because its silhouette resembles in the distance a woman lying down. The route takes us through the feet, knees, Venus mound and belly of this “sleeping woman”, until we reach the summit, which “anatomically” is on the breast of the lady.
We lodge at the Altzomoni shelter, at 4,025 meters, where will spend a couple of nights acclimating. On the first day, we will just walk around and familiarize ourselves with the terrain.
On summit day we rise at one am, take a short drive to “La Joyita”, and there our adventure begins! We gain altitude gradually during the next four hours, and tackle the hardest part of the day: the climbing of the “Knee”. In Mexico, we find glaciers only above five thousand meters. So, when we reach the top of the Knee, we take a short break and fasten our crampons. Then we undertake a beautiful traverse of almost two kilometers through the “Belly”, with an altitude gain of scarcely 200 meters, to the summit of the “Izta”. Along this section, entirely on glacier, we will take the best pictures of the day.
On the summit, after a long night of climbing and a cold but unforgettable dawn, the feeling is of ecstasy. From the top, on a sunny day, we can contemplate up to seven states of the Mexican Republic. To the South, the Popocatépetl, or “Smokey Mountain” greets us. This volcano is true to its Aztec name, and throws a tread of smoke all day along. To the east, we see the Pico de Orizaba, “Mexico’s Roof”. To the west it is the Valley of Mexico we see, with its immense capital right in the middle.