Trip Report:

Mexico Volcanoes Trilogy + 1

10/24/13 - 11/3/13

I Just finished up a very successful Mexico Volcanoes Trilogy of Pico de Orizaba (18,451), Ixtaccihuatl (17,000 ft) and La Malinche (14,600 ft). In addition, two of the guests added on Nevado de Toluca (15,200 ft) to the beginning of the trip. We summited all the peaks!

The trip began with meeting John and Ken in Mexico City. The next day we met up with Guillermo "Huracan" Vidales, my good friend who with his brother owns our Mexico logistics company. We traveled East of the city through the city of Toluca and on to the slopes of Nevado de Toluca, where we did a short acclimating hike. After an evening in downtown Toluca (which has a very nice renovated downtown area), we drove back up to the trail head and summited Nevado de Toluca (15,200 ft) which is basically a walk up with no snow and just a little rock scrambling. During the climb we had amazing views of Nevados crater lake.

Then it was back to Mexico City for the night where we met up with our third guest Eric who was joining us for the normal trilogy. CAG guide Zeb Blais also joined us for most of the trip. Zeb was down here on a mission to ski Orizaba. Ken, who was only here for the first part of the trip, left us here to head home. The next day we traveled to the slopes of La Malinche via the mysterious pyramids of Teotihaucan. We also ate a gourmet Mexican lunch in a 100-year old restaurant called "La Gruta" located down in a cave.

After an evening in the cozy cabins at La Malinche we had a great hike up La Malinche and were rewarded with great views of our next two peaks...Ixtza and Orizaba as well as the very active volcano Popocatepetl. Then it was back in the van for an afternoon drive to our next acclimating spot in a resort and trout-rearing facility at 11,000 ft on the slopes of Ixta. After an excellent dinner of fresh trout and a quiet nights rest in comfy rooms with a roaring fire, we did another acclimating hike high up the slopes of Ixta.


Then it was on to the Alztomoni climbers lodge located near a microwave tower at 13,000 ft near the trail head for Ixta. At 1am we woke up for our alpine start to find it raining...not a good sign. We waited at the lodge for an hour and a half to see if the rain would stop and at 330am decided to go for it anyway. Our route was the "knees route" finishing up on the Arista del Sol. As luck would have it, the rain did stop and we managed to summit Ixta at 17,000 ft in the fog. We were robbed of our views, but we gained the summit!

After a quick descent back to Guillermo and the waiting van we had a bumpy ride down to our hotel in the ancient city of Cholula for a shower, good dinner and some well-deserved rest. The next day was for resting and exploring the Cholula's pyramid (The largest in the world), some markets and the neighboring cosmopolitian city of Puebla where we ate a fine dinner consisting of some of the best mole I've ever had.

All rested up and our bodies recovered at a lower altitude, we traveled to our next objective and the main event...Pico de Orizaba. Once again the weather forecast didn't look great. On our 4wd trip up to base camp it was raining hard and we got stuck in the mud four times. Luckily Zeb and Holly were headed down from a successful ski summit of Orizaba and we were able to switch vehicles with them which got us through the mud on on to the hut at Piedra Grande basecamp.


With the forecast calling for more rain and snow, we awoke very early at 1am on Mexico's Day of the Dead for our summit attempt. The skies were clear, but we really didn't think it was going to last so we wasted no time and set a quick pace up the lower scree slopes towards the route finding crux known as the "Labyrinth". Large lightning storms far off over Veracruz lit up the mountain, but were so far away they posed no risk..yet.

Donning crampons and ice ax for the first time of the trip, we quickly made our way through the labyrinth and on to the Jamapa Glacier, a moderately pitched but exposed slope with no crevasses. As always, the crux of the day is the last heavy-breathing hour up 38 degree slopes to the crater rim at 18,200 ft. The weather was holding but the clouds in the near distance were gathering. No thunder yet, which would of course turned us around immediately. At 745am John, Eric and I stood on the summit of North America's 3rd highest peak at 18,491 ft!

Then it was a quick descent and an afternoon of traveling back to a hotel in Puebla for a shower and rest. We celebrated Dia de Los Muertos or "Day of the dead" by having a celebratory steak dinner at an Argentinian steak house with some fine Mexican red wine produced by my families vineyards in Baja California. An awesome trip all round and thanks to Huracan for making everything happen so smoothly as usual and to Eric, John and Ken. And congrats to Zeb for his successful ski of Orizaba.  I'm already looking forward to more Mexico Volcanoes adventures this Jan and Feb!

Dave Miller