El Pico de Orizaba (known as Citlaltépetl which means Star Mountain) is a striking volcano. From the west it towers over the town of Tlachichuca in the form of a beautiful white cone. The glacier starts around 4900-5000m and covers the upper aspects of the mountain. Pico de Orizaba is the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest in North America after Denali and Mount Logan. Orizaba makes for an excellent first experience at high altitude.
One issue with this mountain is the numerous published summit heights that you can find. Anywhere from 18,400 feet to 18,900 feet are claimed as the true height of the summit. With the increased reliablity on GPS numerous informal and at least one scientific survey has been taken to determine the true height of the moutain. According to Stephen Brown, a professor at the University of Texas--San Antonio, they recorded the height at 18, 490.5 feet with a +/- 50 feet. A story about his trip can be found in this article. (page 22)
Planning & Getting There
The following trip reports give an overview of the entire trip from planning to climbing. Half the fun is getting there!
|Informative Trip Reports|
Most people fly into Mexico City due to the numerous flight options, but Puebla or Veracruz also make for reasonable starting points. The Puebla airport is very orderly and efficient. A taxi into central Puebla is about 150 pesos. If you stay in Puebla the central area around the zocalo has numerous options for lodging, shopping, dining and sightseeing. Another option is to stay near the bus depot where you depart from for Tlachichuca etc.
Tlachichuca is the starting point for most climbers attempting El Pico de Orizaba. To get there from the Mexico City airport, you can take a taxi to La Tapo. La Tapo is the main bus station for points east of Mexico City. The cost for bus rides to Tlachichuca is between 100 to 250 pesos.
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
Lodging, Guides, Transporation & Red Tape
Lodging & Transport
ServimontThere are a few options while in Tlachichuca. One is Servimont, a climber owned operation, owned by the Reyes family. They have private rooms with showers and toilets.
They also offer horseback riding, rock climbing, mountain biking, as well as the treking services.
Their website is at Servimont or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. J.Ortego #1-A Tlachichuca, Puebla C.P. 75050; Mexico 01 (245) 451 5009 phone
Joaquin Canchola LimonYour other choice, and my favorite, is the climber's hostel run by Joaquin Canchola Limon and his daughter Maribel. They have ten privte rooms with three shared bathrooms and showers with plenty of hot water. The courtyard/parking lot is great place to sort and pack gear while the rooftop allows for excellent views and photo opportunities.
Email: email@example.com or Summit Orizaba
3 Poniente No 3
C.P. 75050; Mexico
01 245 451 5082 phone/fax
GuidesBoth outfitters can arrange guides for anyone requiring this assistance. Or if you prefer an independent guide one option is Roberto Rodriguez.
Roberto Flores Rodriguez (also known as Oso) Orizaba Mountain Guides
TransportationBoth outfitters will take you to and from Piedra Grande for approximately 500 pesos ($45 USD) per person.
From the town of Tlachichuca (2600m), a vehicle will take you on a windy paved road threw the village of Hidalago (3400m) and up to the Piedra Grande Hut at 4260m on the north side of the mountain. 4x4 vehicles are necessary for the drive due to many pot holes, washboards, big rocks and some huge tree roots.
Red TapeNo permits or fees are required. The hut is maintained by the climbers that use it. Please keep it clean and take your trash down with you when you leave.
When To Climb
The most popular climbing season is around Christmas. The dry season is November through March. April and May bring moisture and snow to the upper part of the mountain but it is still possible to climb. An alpine start is recommended due to the often cloudy afternoons. Get up and down before early afternoon should be your goal. A fit team should be able to make the summit in six to ten hours with approximately half that time to return to the hut.
A few links for current weather information:
- Orizaba Weather
- Tlachichuca Weather
Basecamp The Piedra Grande Hut is a large building that could sleep about 40-60 people. There is no charge to sleep there. Leaving your gear during your climb could be a bit of a risk. (On my three visits we had no issues with leaving gear while we climbed) The hut is in good condition but basic shelter is all you get. Any supplies (food, water, fuel) you need to plan and bring on your own.
A small hut, lacking half its roof in 2008 is located about 100m away from the main hut. There is plenty of space to camp around basecamp, which is a good option if you want some privacy.
Highcamp Another option is to establish a high camp either before the labyrinth at 4500 m or at the base of the glacier at 4900 m. There are several platforms on the moraine where a few tents can be set up.
Water is a major concern, especially if you are establishing a highcamp. There is a small water source about 500 meters from the hut, but it should be treated or boiled before being consumed. A better option is to bring water to basecamp. Water can be purchased in Tlachichuca in the numerous stores or possibly from your outfitter. The price for a 20 L bottle of water is 45-60 pesos including the return deposit on the bottle.
Camping above the hut requires a heavy carry of water or luck in finding a decent water source. Setting up highcamp at 4900 m would allow the melting of snow and ice from the glacier edge. Camping lower at 4500 m will be difficult without carrying water up from basecamp.
Beyond the Jamapa Glacier...
El Pico de Orizaba draws many international climbers; most of who are attempting the mountain via the Jamapa Glacier route. Although technically a straightforward route it does claims lives and should not be taken lightly. At 5000m the glacier begins and at the top reaches an angle of around 35 degrees
For the mountaineer seeking a harder challenge, there are routes on the east and west that provide some more solitude and a bit more technical climbing. A technical route called the Serpents Head exists on the west side of the mountain. It consists of 10 pitches of grade 3 ice.
For more detailed information study the Ruta Sur and Ruta Directa-Espinazo route pages.
Another excellent option is to include an acclimation climb or a traverse attempt of Sierra Negra, the fifth highest peak in Mexico to your trip.
Further InfoA somewhat dated resource on information about climbing Orizaba and other Mexican volcanoes is R.J. Secor's guidebook, Mexico's Volcanoes: A Climbing Guide. For complete information on getting to Mexico and traveling around I highly recommend the Lonely Planet guidebook on Mexico now in its 11th edition.
Another good site on the web for trip reports and conditions is XPMexico. Click the upper right button 'ENGLISH' for an English version.
It may be wise to buy the majority of your food before arriving in Tlachichuca. The selection is more limited though you can find enough basic ingredients. It all depends on how much effort you normally put into your camp cooking. Mexico City and Puebla have major grocery stores that carry many of the same items that can be found in stores in the US.
Summit PhotosSome summit pictures:
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