Glacial climbing in Mexico
Glacial climbing is an extreme sport, there is no doubt about it.
Your life is on the line every step of the way when you are on the mountain side. One poorly placed step can quickly end in tragedy. Such is the life of a glacial mountaineer. If you think this type of climbing sounds intriguing, you might want to consider a trip to Pico de Orizaba in Mexico.
Pico de Orizaba has a few different names, one of them is Citlaltepetl, which is what the Aztecs named the mountain. The literal translation means Star Mountain. This mountain is ranked 7th in the world for topographic prominence. What exactly does topographic prominence mean? It means the mountain top is visible to the naked eye from a very long distance. Despite the fact that Orizaba is 75 miles inland from the coastal town of Veracruz, its peak is clearly visible to ships entering the Gulf of Mexico.
Orizaba sits on the boarder of two Mexican states: Veracruz and Puebla. Its elevation of 18,490 feet towers over the local city of Tlachichuca. Orizaba is a sleeping volcano its last eruption was in 1687.
Pico de Orizaba is a favorite climbing destination for novice and expert climbers alike. There are a few reasons why this mountain is a popular destination for mountaineers. For starters, there are no fees for climbing Orizaba. If you want to climb the mountain, you can literally show up and start climbing. Basically, mountaineers and general tourists dont have to sift through any red tape in order to experience the mountain.
Another reason for the mountains popularity is its close proximity to town. There are two airports with regular scheduled flights; one in the small town of Puebla, and another airport located in Mexico City. Yet another perk for scheduling a climb to Orizaba: there is ample lodging and plenty of local mountain guides to help you with your ascent. Basically, everything you need to reach Orizaba and climb it is readily available within just a few miles of the mountain.
The closest town to Orizaba is Tlachichuca. The small town sits at the doorstep of Orizaba. There is dining, lodging, and a small community of locals. You will find other mountaineers in this town, preparing for their climb. You will also find quite a few local guides who will gladly help you organize your trip.
The optimal time for climbing Orizaba is between November and March. That is Mexicos dry season. During those months, the mountains weather is the most predictable, and you will have a much higher chance of reaching summit if you plan your trip during that time frame.
Base camp for Orizaba is called the Piedra Grande Hut. It can comfortably sleep up to 60 climbers. Of course, it is just a basic, wide-open building, but it serves its purpose quite well. If you woud rather not share the sleeping quarters with other climbers, you will need to bring your own camping equipment. You will also need to bring your own food and water. You can melt the mountain snow and drink it. However, it is recommended that you boil the water before consuming it.
If you are in top physical condition, and you are an intermediate climber, you can expect to reach summit between 8 to 12 hours of climbing. Your return trip will take at least half that time. The best time to begin your day is the early morning hours, usually several hours before dawn. This is because the sun will melt the ice and snow, and create a much more dangerous climbing atmosphere. If you start your day with what is called an alpine start (beginning your climb several hours before dawn), you will have a much safer journey and your chances for reaching summit will be much better than if you began your climb later in the morning.
Whether you are a novice climber or a seasoned mountaineer, it is always advisable to hire a local guide. Their experience, connections, and knowledge can be the determining factor on whether or not you reach summit , and whether or not you make it back alive.