OverviewIztaccihuatl (a.k.a. Ixtaccihuatl, Izta, or Ixta) is the third highest mountain in Mexico and the seventh highest in North America.
An extinct volcano, Ixta is a unique mountain. When viewed from either the west or the east you can distinctly see her; the sleeping lady (photo by tlogan on the left). The north end of the mountain is 'the head'. A big dip, 'the neck', and then up to the summit of the sleeping lady, her 'breasts'. The rest of the mountain follows in logical progression, the stomach (glaciated) and the knees, and the feet, a sub peak at the far south of the mountain.
So in review from head to toes...
La Cabellera: the hair
La Cabeza: the head
La Oreja: the ear
El Cuello: the neck
El Pecho: the breast
La Barriga: the belly or La Pansa: the stomach
Las Rodillas: the knees
Los Pies: the feet
Ixta sees a lot of traffic, both internationally and domestic. All skill levels of mountaineers seek to gain the summit. From the young 12 year old mexican boy, on his first trip to the mountains with grandpa, to the American from the NW that has visited Rainier over 20 times, you see it all on Ixta.
Most people choose the standard route on Ixta, also known as 'La Arista del Sol', The Ridge of the Sun. The route climbs past the feet and up the knees across the stomach and onto the breasts. The technical level is low but the effects of altitude are commonly felt and are often pushed to far. Being dropped off at over 4000m and only facing a 5-8 hour trip to the summit is very tempting but resist and take the time and acclimatize.
Iztaccihuatl-Popocatepetl and Zoquiapan National Parks and their ecological importance
The Iztaccihuatl-Popocatepetl National Park was created in 1935 with an area of 25,679 hectares. In 1937 the lands of the former hacienda of Zoquiapan were incorporated increasing the area under protection to more than 45,000 hectares. The sylvan flora and fauna of the park are of nearctic and neotropical origin. In its geographic location it forms a part of the trans-Mexican volcanic zone, enabling it to have a great diversity of habitats, such as mixed forests of pine, evergreen oak and alnus, as well as high mountain prairies. Alpine habitats can be found at the highest altitudes, a great rarity in Mexico as the country is located in the subtropical zone.
These forests house nearly a thousand species of plants, comprising 45% of the reported species in the Valley of Mexico and 5% of the phanerogamous flora in the country. For its part, the fauna is an extraordinary richness of species, including mammals such as the zacatuche or teporingo rabbit, the puma, the lynx, the coati and the white-tailed deer, which constitute 40% of registered mammals in the Sierra Nevada. Also, the volcanic corridor serves as a resting point for diverse species of birds on their migratory routes to the Gulf and the Pacific.
|Informative Trip Reports|
Getting ThereFirst you have to get to the Paso de Cortez (around 3800 m) and then on to La Joya (a bit over 4000 m) where the trail starts. You can get to the Paso either from Amecameca (Mexico City) through a paved road or from San Nicolas de los Ranchos (Puebla) through an unpaved road. To get from the Paso to La Joya you need a permit (see the Red Tape section).
Getting to the Paso de Cortez from Amecameca (Mexico City):
From the International Airport in Mexico City go to the TAPO bus station by Metro, Bus or Taxi (expensive). There you can take one of the different buses to the town of Amecameca. They leave every 15 minutes from about 4:00 all the way till midnight. In Amecameca are several hotels, check your Mexico guidebook (eg. Lonelyplanet has information). People have recommends hotel San Carlos, right on the Zocalo (main square) where the bus drops you off. While in town we stayed several blocks away from the square at a clean and cheap place called Hotel El Marques. It was nothing fancy but they had plenty of hot water.
Be sure to get the permit in the office also right next to the Zocalo! See "Red Tape" section for more information.
From Amecameca you can get a taxi that should bring you all the way up to La Joya. Usually a one way ride to La Joya costs between 200 and 300 Pesos, depending on your Spanish and negociating skills. Alternatively there also collectivos (small buses) going up to the Paso de Cortez, which is a lot cheaper. From there you would have to walk or ask someone for a ride to La Joya.
While in Amecameca any last minute supplies and food can be picked up in the lively market. While most of the vendors sell fresh foods there are some selling basic items you would find in a grocery store. A couple ATM's also exist around the town center.
Getting to the Paso de Cortez from San Nicolas de los Ranchos (Puebla):
If you want to avoid Mexico City or for some other reason already are in Puebla you can also get to the Paso de Cortez without any problem from this side. From the airport there are direct buses to Puebla (110 Pesos). Be sure to take the one that takes you to the CAPU (main bus station in Puebla) and not the one that goes to the center. From the CAPU there are tons of buses to Cholula. Take the fast one, which costs you about 15 Pesos. From Cholula take a small collectivo to San Nicolas de los Ranchos (10 Pesos). The trip to Puebla takes about 2 hours and from there to San Nicolas another one to two hours.
From San Nicolas you will have to get a taxi. As you get out of the bus on the Zocalo people will probably recognize you as a climber and ask you if you want a ride to La Joya. You will also pay between 200 and 300 Pesos, depending on your spanish and communication skills. Be sure that he brings you all the way to La Joya and not only to Paso de Cortez.
From Paso de Cortez to La Joya:
If you take a taxi either from Amecameca or San Nicolas de los Ranchos be sure that the price includes the drive all the way up to La Joya (to the hut, not somewhere in between! The road gets worse at the end so drivers tend to stop somewhere before La Joya). The road is only open from 8:00 to 18:00 and you need permit to pass the gate. If you dont have one, try to get one up there (see Red Tape section).
If somehow only get to Paso de Cortez (Bus, Hitchhiking) wait at the gate for someone that can give you a lift. On weekends lots of people drive up there. Or you can also walk the 8km dirt road to La Joya.
With your own car:
Even VW Bugs or Cadillacs make it all the way to the La Joya hut, so you should have no problem driving up there. The end of the La Joya road is a bit bumpy, if you want leave your car about 1km before the end of the road, just after the intersection with the road to the Radio/TV-station. Leaving the car in La Joya for one or two nights should be no problems. I never heard of any robberies or other problems. If you want you drive to La Joya and spend your first night there instead of Amecameca or Puebla.
From Puebla there is an alternate and really nice road to the Paso de Cortez which doesnt pass any military posts. From Calpan follow the signs to the Centro Touristico, a center with huts etc. you can rent. The first part of the road is a bit more offroad then the San Nicolas road, but you should have no problem passing it. From the Centro Touristico you will reach the "normal" road to Paso de Cortez.
If you dont have your own car and want to be on the safe side, arrange a drive down with the taxi driver that brought you up. I don't really recommend it because you'll have to be in La Joya at a certain time, because you dont really know if he shows up (DON'T pay in advance) and you have to spend another 200 to 300 Pesos. On a sunny weekend hundreds of people go up there for hiking, pick-nick etc. (see picture). You should have no problem getting a ride. Even if you really are totally alone, you can still walk down to Paso de Cortez and from there take a collective or ask people that are driving through.
Red TapeThe road to Paso de Cortez is sometimes closed due to the activity of Popocatepetl. Check the website for road closures. Green lamp (usually no smoke) means that everthing is fine, yellow lamp (usually a little smoke) is warning and a red lamp (usually heavy smoke) means you cannot pass.
To pass the gate (open from 8:00 to 18:00) from Paso de Cortez to La Joya you will need a free permit (even if you come with a taxi, even if there is a green lamp...). There are three ways to get it:
1. Check out this web site for more information.
2. Go to the Izta Popo National Park Headquarters located in the town square in Amecameca. It's between the church and the bank. The ranger's station is set back about twenty yards up the stairs. It's 20 pesos per person per day. You will sign some paperwork and get 2 copies--1 for the military check point halfway to La Joya and another when you check in at Paseo De Cortez. You must do this before going to La Joya.
Update June 2009: The permit can be bought at Paso Cortez, it now costs $22.50 mexican pesos per day per person (no need to stop in Amecameca if you don't want to). The yellow box with the mountain rescue was empty, so you should plan on bringing some paper and pen if you want to leave info there. What used to be la Joya is now closed to vehicles, they made a larger parking lot 100 m lower and was called La Joyillta (the small "la joya"). There you can as usual get some tacos and water as you could earlier. You can also now rent crampons and buy gas at la Joyillta. They also sell fleece jackets, hiking poles, axe, boots (small selection of sizes) and other equipment.
3. Be really nice to the guy at the gate and he will also give you one.
At La Joya, there is a yellow box that contains the Socorro Alpino (Alpine Rescue) registration book. It is recommended that you sign in here. No permits or fees are reqired.
When To Climb
Iztaccíhuatl can be climbed at almost any time of the year, but the best conditions are in December thru early March. April and May are tradionally wet and the rest of the season you never fully know what your getting with the weather.
TIME OF DAY
Get an early start. A frequent weather pattern brings in clouds in the early afternoon which often dissipate in early evening.
Weather & Additional Information
For weather and trip reports. When you bring up the site, click on the upper left button for English translation of the pages. A short range forecast is also available at Yahoo.
Depending on the Weather/Snow conditions you will need glacier gear but usually you can do the standard route without it. The last chance to get glacier gear is on Paso de Cortez for 200 Pesos a day.
For information on the mountain and the surrounding park in Spanish check this site.
Some great space photography can be found here.
Guidebooks, Guides and TransportationGuide Books
RJ Secor's guidebook for Mexico's Volcanoes: A Climbing Guide is one source of information on climbing all the major mountains in Mexico.
For complete information on getting to Mexico and traveling around I highly recommend the Lonely Planet guidebook on Mexico, now on their 11th edition.
Then there is a Spanish guidebook about Iztaccihuatl named "Iztaccihuatl" by Alfredo Careaga Pardave. It has lots of Information about the mountain (Histoy, Geology etc.) and many routes.
If dealing with public transportation and taxi cabs is more than you want consider hiring your own driver for your trip. The larger your group the better it is to have a driver. A large passenger van can carry up to 8 climbers with gear.
One transporation option:
Jesus Antonio Juarez Guzman
Roberto Flores Rodriguez aka Oso
Orizaba Mountain Guides
Ruben Garcia cell 044-55-533-22-861
Day 1, fly into Mexico City, take a taxi to La Tapo, catch a bus to Amecameca, find hotel accomadation, purchase food, water and supplies, arrange a ride for the morning, get a good night rest. I had good luck eating in the market for all meals. Most likely you'll be eating with the locals as well as other climbers.
Day 2/3, catch the ride up to La Joya, depending on your comfort level, either hike up to the hut at 4750m and spend a night. You could split the trip into 2 short easy days and camp at 4500m under the feet. There's a nice little perch under a cliff.
Day 4, summit and return to your ride at La Joya. Go down to Amecameca and have tacos and a few beers.
WaterThere is no reliable water source at all on Ixta's normal route. The last place where you can get water is at Paso de Cortez (only small bottles) or on busy weekends also at La Joya. Bring enough for two or three days!
- Peakwares Iztaccihuatl Page
Peakwares Website about Iztaccihuatl in english with lots of facts and informations and tons of links.