The author, Ali Agee, is a new IAG guide beginning her career in mountain guiding and she recently had the opportunity to assist our Mexico Volcanoes climb with IAG director Dave Miller. This is her perspective on her first high altitude expedition. Ali is going all in on guiding and is going through her AMGA process. We know she will go far!
Have you ever done something difficult and really disliked it at the time? But then felt so satisfied and rewarded after you got through it that you wanted to go back and do it again? This is sort of how the Mexico Volcano Trilogy trip was – we tried hard, hiked hard, and found ourselves in some uncomfortable situations. But time and time again, it was totally and completely worth it.
From the fancy hotels in Mexico City and Puebla where we experienced hip bars and restaurants, to the uncomfortable hut where we had to pour water buckets in the toilet to flush it, from sleeping on creaky old bunk beds to driving down rugged dirt roads late at night trying to make it to dinner before the only restaurant within miles closed, the trip was exciting and uncertain, exhilarating and exhausting. Yet we were always rewarded with the most amazing views, the tastiest cocktails and food, cozy hotel rooms playing classical music, lots and lots of tacos and quesadillas, any my favorite of all – we even tagged some summits!
Two days into the trip we found ourselves standing on the top of La Malinche at 14,600 feet above a sea of clouds. Looking to the East and the West we could see our next mountain objectives peering through the clouds. Throughout the trip, Dave kept saying the phrase “solo en Mexico”, meaning “only in Mexico”. This phrase was only magnified while we stood on the summit of La Malinche, joined by numerous stray dogs who had started hiking with us that morning over 4,000 feet below us. And somehow every stray dog that stood on the summit with us was as sweet, fluffy, and friendly as you could imagine. We descended the mountain (stray dogs in tow) and began to make our way toward Iztaccihuatl (Ixta), to make our attempt at climbing the 17,000-foot volcano.
Two days later I found myself in a dream. We had already been hiking up Ixta for over four hours as I glanced out to the East and noticed the sun finally began to rise. I could now see my surroundings for the first time all day, and immediately felt euphoric as I realized this was the most beautiful sunrise I’d ever seen. We were high above yet another thick sea of clouds and the only things I could see in the distance were La Malinche and Pico de Orizaba as well as the still active Popocatepetl omitting a light plume of smoke into the now glowing sky. We made a victorious summit of “The Knees” and began to descend down below the sea of clouds to the city of Puebla.
In Puebla, we stayed in a great hotel, ate tacos and mole, drank some Paloma cocktails (tequila and squirt soda, yum!), and did our souvenir shopping for the trip. The theme of the hotel was classical musicians and upon entering our rooms, we were greeted with the sounds of classical music being played on vinyl. The perfect place to relax and gear up for our final objective…Orizaba!
Our Orizaba adventure began when we arrived in a small town near the base of the mountain, switched to four-wheel drive vehicles and drove through some herds of sheep walking down the road. We cruised up a rugged dirt road to our campsite on the South side of the mountain at 14,900 feet to “sleep” before beginning our hike at 2AM that night.
Again, we were hiking for hours before seeing any signs of the sun. I kept hoping it was later than it was, as I was wearing every layer I had and still shivering, all the while battling some steep scree fields in the beginning of the climb. Eventually the climb turned into more friendly climbing and before we knew it, the sun was up. We roped up and put on our crampons and were sweating and delayering as we made our final push for the summit through the snow. On the summit, we were joined by other climbers who came up from the North side. I started to take in what life was like at 18,456 feet – the highest I had ever been, and boy was life good! I found myself experiencing the most amazing reward in exchange for my efforts, as I continuously had throughout the entire Mexican Volcanoes Trilogy Trip. And the second the trip was over, I was ready to do it again! Solo en Mexico.
Our Mexico Volcanoes Trilogy is a perfect first high altitude mountaineering expedition.