Pico De OrizabaThis February, my young bride, Serenity & I traveled to Mexico to attempt Pico De Orizaba 18,410 feet. Upon our arrival in Mexico City we were provided with first class transportation and logistics by Luis Reyes of the famous Reyes family who has been serving climbers for many decades. Luis’s father was one of the first climbers to climb Orizaba’s North Face route.
We journeyed to the small town of Tlachichuca. Friendly Mexicans and a picturesque town square provided the backdrop for this impressive and beautiful mountain. Good eating was found at both the Casa Blanca Restaurant in the square and at Sr. Reye's home. The Reyes family has converted the family soap factory business into a comfortable climber’s dormitory. The old equipment has been left intact as a museum. Warmed by a wood burning stove and casual conversation with fellow climbers, we were able to get information about the route conditions, high on Orizaba.
The next day we traveled by 4X4 to base camp at 13,990 feet. We arrived at camp covered with dust from the 2 hour and a 'pretty' vertical drive. This may have been too much of a jump in altitude because we both felt kind of sick upon our arrival. We pitched our tents along side fellow New Englanders named, Heidi, Peter and Don. All of us opted to sleep in warm tents (ours being a North Face Mountain 24) over a cold & dark hut.
During the night, I came down with a mild case of altitude sickness. Diamox and re-hydrating got me feeling better. We decided to give ourselves one extra day at 13,990 feet to acclimatize. (I am an altitude wimp but it doesn't stop me from trying!) The idea of our trip was not just to summit, but to capture our climbing on digital home video, so looking our best was mandatory.
The next day we planned to move up to a higher camp at 16,000 feet just beneath the glacier, so we went to sleep early. That evening, Serenity awoke in a cold sweat due to food poisoning; basically she ate a slice of watermelon given to her which someone used a dirty knife to cut!
It took her all the next day and then some to recover. Every afternoon the clouds would roll in underneath us, cutting us off visually from the valley below. Living above the clouds is a treat that I enjoy most about the high mountain environment. The next day Serene and I felt very strong. We decided to push our high camp even higher; to the top of the Sarcophagus a giant ridge that affords views down the rocky west face!
That morning at 2AM, our New England friends left for their summit attempt while we waited for dawn to move up to high camp. At 4AM it hit! The wind picked up and the once dusty camp was now covered with ice. Our thoughts turned to our friends. We didn't know if they had reached the glacier and they may have been above the storm only to return in a whiteout.
Hours passed before they arrived, safe, due to their bivouac under the glacier's tongue. Tent bound, we hung out all day reading and eating. Later we decided that, with only two days left in the country and no sign of the storm abating, we would forfeit our climb to enjoy some of our vacation. We traveled by 4X4 out of the storm that enshrouded the mountain, past the rising dust devils back to town.
Tequila, Coronas, tacos and hot showers waited for us in Tlachichuca. Back in Mexico City, we explored the Pyramid of the Sun, the third largest pyramid in the world. We climbed to the top; all 268 stairs and filmed. We also interviewed Dr. Lopez, one of the leading AIDS authority in Mexico, and communicated information about the new strain of AIDS, subtype E. Dr. Lopez is an amazing man who is working hard to increase the level of health and AIDS awareness of the virus in Mexico
As we flew home we regretted only one thing; not having planned more time in the country near the mountain. Orizaba; we will return, not because we feel compelled to; as in a climb that escaped us, but simply because it is a beautiful place to be!