Expedition to the Pico de Orizaba (or Citlaltépetl, “Mountain of the Star”)
The Pico de Orizaba is the tallest Mexican volcano, and the third highest mountain in North America. It has a classical, conic silhouette covered with perpetual snow. The Aztecs referred to it in náhuatl as Citlaltépetl, or “Mountain of the Star”. Climbing Pico de Orizaba is an unforgettable experience, which will take you three days.
It is a wonderful opportunity to climb a five-thousander of intermediate difficulty. For this expedition we require the candidates to have experience in the use of crampons and ice-ax. In addition, we will need to be in top physical shape and we will spend a couple of days acclimatizing. In most cases we come to this mountain after a practice day at above 4,400 meters (typically in La Malinche or the Nevado de Toluca).
To get to the Pico we drive from Mexico City to Tlachichuca, in the state of Puebla, where we load our gear, hop
on 4x4 vehicles and drive to the Piedra Grande hut. We will spend an entire day in the area, with magnificent views of the south face of the mountain. We will hike up the ridge to "El Brinco", at about 4,700 meters.
On summit day we rise at one, have a light breakfast, and start the climb. The first section is rather tiring, as we must go up a scree slope.
We gain altitude progressively during the following three hours, and reach the basis of the Jamapa glacier, at about 5,000 m. We then put on our crampons, and move forward. At first the inclination is reasonable, then it becomes steeper. Breathing becomes harder. In the steeper sections, we climb up in a zigzag mode. Minute after minute we gain terrain. It starts dawning. It is the coldest moment of the day, but the rising sun on our right fills us with emotion and motivation.
We now can see, two hundred vertical metres above us, a small rock formation. From there it is only 200 metres to the summit. We take a deep breath and go on.
In the summit, it is a clear day. To the east, we see the Gulf of Mexico. To the north, the Cofre del Perote. To the west, the unmistakable silhouettes of the Popo and the Izta. But perhaps the most astounding view of all is the enormous crater, the size of a football field, lying under our feet. It is an unforgettable sight.