August 1st 2003
A buddy and I left Guadalajara where I was studying for the summer by bus to Ciudad Guzman. From Ciudad Guzman we took another local bus to El Fresnito. The local bus to El Fresnito was hard to find; there were no signs so we had to ask around. Not knowing Spanish would have made this a little tricky.
We got to El Fresnito (~5000ft) at about 4pm and had a hard time finding the road that led up the mountain. If you are in El Fresnito facing the mountain, the road up is about a mile to the RIGHT from the center of town (the town is more like one street with houses on it). There is a sign that say it is to the left but that is an advertisement for an outfitter that will drive you up.
The road up begins about a mile east of town. There are signs that designate it a national forest and a sign stating how far it is to the summit (I think it was 18km).
We got on the trail about 5pm and were on our way up. At about 8,000 feet it started raining and was already dark. We were walking on a 4WD road so walking at night was not a problem. We had hoped to get to the refuge (called la jolla) for the night but by 10 pm we were at 10,500ft and ready to quit walking in the rain. Thunder and lightning had set in as well so we decided to pitch the $20 tent that we got in Guadalajara at Wal-Mart.
Setting up at $20 tent in a thunder storm was not a fun chore, and to make things worse, my hiking buddy had some how been funneling water into his pack which made his cheap bag like a wet sponge. Within minutes of setting up the tent, water began accumulating on the floor. Cold (~40 degrees) and wet, I turned on my cell phone to see what time it was. Sure enough, I had service out in the middle of nowhere in Mexico. My phone from the US worked! I made a couple of calls to tell friends back home of my situation at 4.50 USD a minute.
August 2, 2003 (10,500ft)
My partner woke me up at 4AM because it had stopped raining. He hadn't slept at all because he was cold and his bag was soaking. I somehow managed to sleep for about 2 hours. At first I expected him to want to walk off the mountain, but to my surprise he was ready to head up. We left the tent on the side of the road where we pitched it and started up again. The stars were unreal, the best I have ever seen. Right before sun up we passed a ranger station that we mistook for the refuge. We tried to find water as the refuge is the only source of water. Instead we found an angry dog. We quickly continued on our way. Somewhere after this ranger station there is the turn off to the refuge but we missed it in the dark. When the sun finally came up we realized we were in the eroded creator of the volcano. After a couple more hours on the 4WD road we came across the farthest point a car can go without passing the gate. The road is obviously easy to follow and would be impossible to lose. At 11am we finally reached the radio tower. We Left the road right as it passed the radio tower and then we cut over to the peak. The route finding was simple. We continued up and by 1pm we were at the top around 14,000ft. Totally spent, and out of water, we curious as to how we would get back to the tent. The rain began to set in and ruined our view as we sat on the summit. Again, cold and wet we headed back down. Just after passing the gate, a 4WD truck came by. We stuck our thumbs out and the guys gave us a ride, some water and even some candy. Really nice guys. They were working on the radio tower. They left us at our tent. We packed up as the rain picked up and continued walking down hoping to make the 5pm bus out of El Fresnito. Sure enough another truck came by and we hitchhiked back to the highway at the bottom of the mountain. We made the 5pm bus and were back in Guadalajara by 10pm. Burger King never tasted so good.