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Pico de Orizaba

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Pico de Orizaba

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: Puebla, Mexico, North America

Lat/Lon: 19.03024°N / 97.26814°W

Object Title: Pico de Orizaba

Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Scrambling

Season: Winter

Elevation: 18491 ft / 5636 m

 

Page By: Haliku, Matt Lemke

Created/Edited: Mar 15, 2001 / Apr 20, 2017

Object ID: 150192

Hits: 225582 

Page Score: 99.8%  - 141 Votes 

Vote: Log in to vote

 

In Memoriam

On Saturday, November 20, 2010, Chris Pruchnic (Haliku) lost his life in an ice-climbing accident in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park. Haliku was a valued contributor to SP, but his worth went well beyond the pages he created and is missed very much both from friends who have climbed with him, and by anyone who asked him for advice about climbing. I am honored to be able to continue managing this page and I believe it is in the best interest to keep as much of the text Chris wrote intact and that's exactly what I will do. Anything added will be clearly marked and credit will clearly be given to sections written by Chris. Although I never had the chance to meet him, he will be missed and as a member of the climbing community, he will never be forgotten. Written below is a beautiful tribute from one of his long time friends.

He always was willing to give a hand or advice to anyone in anyway that he could, and he always wanted to share his joy of climbing and exploring other cultures with his friends and fellow climbers. The climbing community and the world needs more people like Chris, not less, which makes the tragedy of his early parting so much more difficult to accept. He will live on in our hearts and memories. He and I had been talking about climbing Kilimanjaro soon, and someday when I stand atop that peak I will call Chris' name to honor my friend. --chicagotransplant

Overview

User Profile Image

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 reliability on GPS numerous informal and at least one scientific survey has been taken to determine the true height of the mountain. 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.

One very memorable aspect about climbing Orizaba is the shadow the mountain casts on the surrounding flat plains when you stand on the summit at sunrise. Witnessing this effect has been the highlight of many climbers' trip, including my own. See the profile photo above for an idea of what this looks like. It's something that truly takes your breath away!

Overview Section Written by Chris and Matt

Getting There

Almost there!
Almost there!

Planning
The following trip reports give an overview of the entire trip from planning to climbing. Half the fun is getting there!

Informative Trip Reports
  • 2006 Orizaba Without a Hitch
  • 2007 A New High in Mexico
  • 2008 Culture & Climbing in Mexico
  • 2009 Becoming a Part of Mexico's Star Mountain
  • 2010 10 Days in Mexico - Gimpilator
  • 2012 Spring Break in Mexico - Matt Lemke

  • Exiting the labyrinth at...Sunrise at the glacier's edge
    Jamapa Glacier after Five Months without PrecipitationJamapa Glacier

    Getting to Tlachichuca 

    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, which is the main bus station for points east of Mexico City. The cost for bus rides to Tlachichuca is between 100 to 250 pesos. Although many people use the bus system to get from their arrival airport to various towns and trailheads, some people would prefer to avoid them due to instances of losing their gear either at checkpoints or due to someone robbing the bus. There have also been a few cases where drug cartels have hijacked a public transportation bus and robbed tourists but recently, this has declined significantly and this has only been an issue closer to the US/Mexico border or coastal cities like Veracruz.

    If you do decide to avoid the bus system, you can hire a private driver (different than a taxi) who will be able to pick you up directly from the airport and take you and you gear where ever you need to go. This is what I did when I climbed Orizaba and it worked out very well. Not only will you get around more efficiently, but you will have someone to talk to on the ride and feel a little safer. Taking a taxi can sometimes lead to being ripped off. Listed below is the best option for a private driver. Antonio is very nice and very reasonable on pricing. Although it will be more expensive than buses or taxis (around $100 per person for just Orizaba), it's well worth it. Hiring a driver is actually better if you are in a large group. Antonio has both a large van and a Volkswagon car. His van can carry up to 8 people including gear and will be cheaper since you can split the cost with the amount of people in your group.


    Jesus Antonio Juarez Guzman
    044-55-39080-242 cell
    jajuarezgu@yahoo.com.mx

    Many people I know, as well as myself, have used Mr. Antonio Guzman for complete transportation needs, and he remembers every one of us! He will pick you up right from the airport and take you anywhere you need to go for a reasonable price.

    Getting There Section Mostly Written by Matt

    Logistics

    ServimontServimont Main Door
    Piedre Grande HutPiedre Grande Hut
    Cancholas HouseLimon's Hostel
    The town of TlachichucaThe town of Tlachichuca
    Standard TransportStandard Transport
    Orizaba with a fresh white...Orizaba with fresh snow

    Servimont

    There 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 trekking services. Their website is at Servimont or by email at info@servimont.com.mx 

    J.Ortego #1-ATlachichuca, Puebla C.P. 75050; Mexico - Phone: 01 (245) 451 5009

    Joaquin Canchola Limon

    Your 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 - info@summitorizaba.com or Summit Orizaba

    3 Poniente No 3 Tlachichuca, Puebla C.P. 75050; Mexico - Phone: 01 245 451 5082

    Guides

    Both 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.

    Transportation

    Both 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 through 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 Tape

    No 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. Note that towards the end of each season (Feb-March) the pit toilets will be overslowing with excrement, and the entire surrounding area is usually covered in shit. It's unfortunate this has become the reality for the area around the hut, but in an attempt to keep the area clean, consider carrying out your waste.

    When To Climb

    After the storm cleared off...After the storm cleared
    End of the storm. From Piedra...End of the storm

    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 link for current weather information: - Orizaba Weather


    Orizaba's Crater
    Orizaba's Crater

    Camping

    The hut at Piedra GrandePiedra Grande
    Accomodations inside the hut...Inside the Hut

    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. We locked our tent with a small lock to leave our extra gear. 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.

    Supplies

    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.

    The Labyrinth
    The Labyrinth in March 2012

    Standard Jamapa Glacier Route Map

    Map above generated by Matt - Zoom in and out or change the map type using the drop down menu in the upper right corner.

    Beyond the Jamapa Glacier

    glaciares orientales routeGlaciares Orientals

    What angle is this?
    Typical steepness on the Jamapa
    Sunrise on Orizaba
    Sunrise from the hut
    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. Later in the climbing season, the surface can become very icy which can make some people very uncomfortable if they have haven't used crampons much. Although crevasses are normally not a big issue on this route, they do exist, and you should always be on the lookout for them.

    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.

    Looking upward.Ice Route

    The Jamapa Glacier route is not the only moderate way up the mountain. The south side route is shorter, both in distance and time, but its also steeper and more sustained. There is no permanent glacier on the southern routes, meaning it can be quite dry at times with the typical loose volcanic rocks. There is some possible avalanche hazard on the south side if there has been a particularly rainy summer/fall. The most prominent landmark feature is a huge 25m rock spur just below the summit called the pulpito.  

    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.

    This Section Written by Chris

    Possible Schedules

    If you're already acclimated:

    Day 1 - Fly into Mexico City, take a taxi to La Tapo, catch a bus to Tlachichuca, find hotel accommodation, purchase food, water and supplies, arrange a ride to the hut in 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, or your lodging will include food.

    Day 2 - Catch the ride up to the hut and relax for the afternoon. There are many trails leading above the hut (start of the standard route) you can hike for a bit to loosen the legs from the uncomfortable 2 hour jeep ride.

    Day 3 - Summit via the Jamapa Glacier Route and return to the hut by 2pm and catch the ride back to your pre-planned lodging in Tlachichuca. Celebrate with beers!

    Day 4 - Return to Mexico City

    If you are not acclimated:

    Day 1 - Fly into Mexico City, find lodging and walk around the city for a while. Mexico City is quite high and will be good to spend your first night here to begin the acclimatization process. Purchase some last minute supplies like food and water. Arrange a ride to Tlachichuca in the morning, get a good night rest.

    Day 2 - Catch a ride to Tlachichuca, explore the town and try some of the local eateries. Find lodging and relax. Schedule your jeep ride to the hut for the next morning.

    Day 3 - Take the 2 hour jeep ride to the hut and take a short walk to explore the area around camp. Make base camp, cook a nice meal and drink lots of water. Sleep the night either in the hut or your tent.

    Day 4 - Depending on your fitness, you may be able to try for the summit on the 4th day, but it's best to wait another day at camp. Also nice to have a built in bad weather day. You could also move your camp up to the base of the Labyrinth to make the summit day shorter.

    Day 5 - Climb to the summit (leave no later than 2-3am) and return to camp. Ideally you would return to the hut by 2-3pm and catch the ride back to Tlachichuca and celebrate.

    Day 6 - Return to Mexico City

    Traversing the crater rim
    Traversing the crater rim

    Further Info

    A 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 Photos

    Orizaba's shadow...Orizaba's shadow
    Looking downLooking into the crater
    Looking down...Summit View at Sunrise

    Additions and Corrections

    [ Post an Addition or Correction ]
    Viewing: 1-11 of 11    
    ScottRe: Altitude correction

    Scott

    Voted 10/10

    If you are interested:



    No matter where you are, guides will probably usually use the highest elevation available.



    Anyway, it is 100% certain that Orizaba is around 18,400-18,500 feet rather than 18,700 feet as some older sources state. SRTM data confirms this and 18,700 is for sure an error. The latest Mexican topographic survey puts the peak at 18,409, close to the height listed on this mountain page. SRTM, topographic surveys, and the figure posted on the mountain page are all fairly close.
    Posted Aug 22, 2007 2:35 pm
    CoraxRe: Altitude correction

    Corax

    Hasn't voted

    http://www.viewfinderpanoramas.org/elevmisquotes.html#mexico
    Posted Aug 22, 2007 3:35 pm
    CurtissimoRe: Altitude correction

    Curtissimo

    Hasn't voted

    5610 meters (18,406') is the number now officially issued by the Mexican government (INEGI) as well as Secor and the Encyclopedia Britannica.



    Wikipedia uses 5636 M (18,491').



    Posted Oct 30, 2009 6:48 pm
    AlpineFunRe the Joaquin hostel

    Hasn't voted

    A quick review of Joaquin Canchola Limon hostel - aka the Cancholas Family Hostel - having stayed there with a group. The pros: the people are friendly, they make their livelihood off the service and know the logistics well and drive you up to the basecamp hut, and you can leave stuff at the hostel while you go up to Orizaba.



    The cons: The beds in the hostel are very uncomfortable (we put our camping pads on top of the so-called mattresses and it was still quite uncomfortable), the food was mediocre at best, you are sharing 3 shower/bathrooms with potentially a lot of people, and the prices are outrageously high. Yes it's a hostel so these conditions are to be expected, but the prices do not reflect that. If you break up the costs to separate out food and transportation, it's still $50+/night per person, with 3 or more people in a room -- i.e., $150+/night for a somewhat dirty room with no amenities.



    If you don't want to think about the logistics and don't mind spending a lot of money for it, then it's not a terrible option. But know that it's ridiculously overpriced for what it is.
    Posted Jan 31, 2016 7:30 pm
    jklloyd81Update: Crevasse Danger

    Hasn't voted

    February 8, 2016 on the standard Jamapa Glacier route:



    I was making a solo ascent of the peak, convinced that crevasse danger was minimal from all I had read online. I broke through the surface of the glacier at 18100', fell 8 meters to the crevasse floor, and spent the next 24 hours trying to get out of a 3 meter wide crevasse. I was eventually rescued. I feel compelled to advise climbers that this mountain is changing. Large crevasses do exist. One nearly took my life. I will return to Orizaba, but only as part of a roped team. In the spirit of common sense, I invite others to do the same.
    Posted Feb 16, 2016 2:58 pm
    steevoLodging/Transport option.

    Hasn't voted

    Oso of Orizaba Mountain Guides also now has a bunk house/hostel He has 4x4's and water logistics as well. . He is in "Zoapan" which on maps is "San Miguel Zoapan." It is closer to the mountain than tlachichuca and is a 2 dollar cab ride from tlachichuca. The lodgings were really good and the food was awesome. Zoapan is smaller and with less amenities than tlachichuca but I believe Oso's services may be cheaper. Worth contacting to find out.



    Also from Puebla you want to take the "VALLES" bus line to Tlachichuca. This information seemed to be hard to find (for me), but is quite simple at the Puebla bus station. The changing of buses in Puebla is very simple if you are coming from D.F (mexico city). The ADO allows you to check your bags and they are secure. Watch your stuff (sit passenger side over looking the baggage compartment) while riding the Valles line.
    Posted Dec 15, 2016 4:15 pm
    jeanpaulnoahrodneyRe: Lodging/Transport option.

    Hasn't voted

    We just used Orizaba Mountain Guides and were very happy with everything. Having everything taken care of (lodging, food, transportation to and from the mountain, guides, and gear rentals) made it much easier. We rented a car in Mexico City to get to Zoapan, which worked out, but going on the bus might have been more relaxing.
    Posted Jan 5, 2017 10:35 pm
    jeanpaulnoahrodneyAcclimitazation is important for an 18,400 foot mountain

    Hasn't voted

    I hope people will remember how important it is to acclimitize for Orizaba. Mexico City is about 7000 feet, most lodges/hostels near the mountain are at around 10,000 feet and the hut/refuge is a little over 13,000 feet. We met many people who were unsuccessful at attempting to summit after just one day at their lodge, and coming from home cities that are at sea level. In my opinion this is not a safe thing to do.
    Posted Jan 5, 2017 10:45 pm
    gimpilatorWrong Coordinates

    gimpilator

    Voted 10/10

    Currently the peak displays in the town of Orizaba. Try these and it should fix the problem (19.030498, -97.269848).
    Posted Feb 24, 2017 12:05 am
    amovasagiOrizaba March 2017 Update

    Hasn't voted

    Just got back from a 2 week Mexico volcano climb. Used Roberto's Orizaba Mountain Guide service for the whole trip. We customized the OMG-7 trip and was very ready and acclimated for the Pico do Orizaba climb. The OMG lodge was very comfortable, with hot showers, comfortable rooms and great food. They are located in the village of Zoapan which is higher and closer to the Piedre Grande hut. Juan was my guide throughout the trip and provided great service. All other posts regarding climbing Pico de Orizaba are accurate. Feel free to contact me with any questions.
    Posted Mar 17, 2017 1:46 pm
    MishaCZOrizaba in late March 2017

    MishaCZ

    Hasn't voted

    We climbed Orizaba, Izta and Nevado de Toluca, great trip. We used a small local company called Nómada (Mexican Travel and Adventure) - really good price and good service!

    Posted Apr 18, 2017 4:30 pm

    Viewing: 1-11 of 11    

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