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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: 18.85050°N / 97.1036°W

Object Title: Pico de Orizaba

Activities: Mountaineering

Season: Winter

Elevation: 18491 ft / 5636 m


Page By: Haliku

Created/Edited: Mar 15, 2001 / Jan 19, 2017

Object ID: 150192

Hits: 223570 

Page Score: 99.74%  - 134 Votes 

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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

Almost there!
Almost 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
  • 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

    Exiting the labyrinth at...
    Sunrise at the glacier's edge

    Travel Logistics
    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
    044-55-39080-242 cell

    Lodging, Guides, Transporation & Red Tape

    Lodging & Transport

    Servimont Main Door


    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 treking services.

    Their website is at Servimont or by email at info@servimont.com.mx. J.Ortego #1-A Tlachichuca, Puebla C.P. 75050; Mexico 01 (245) 451 5009 phone

    Cancholas House
    Limon's Hostel

    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
    01 245 451 5082 phone/fax


    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

    Standard Transport
    Standard Transport
    On horseback to Orizaba...
    On Horseback


    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 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 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.

    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 few links for current weather information:

    - Orizaba Weather

    - Tlachichuca Weather
    The Crater from the Summit
    A look at the crater


    The hut at Piedra Grande
    Piedra 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. (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.

    Our camp outside the Piedra...
    Who needs a hut?

    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.


    Filtering water from a...
    Last chance for water.

    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...

    glaciares orientales route
    Glaciares Orientals

    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.

    Looking upward.
    Ice Route
    The Jamapa Glacier route is not the only way up the mountain. The south side is another option. The route time is shorter, both in distance and time, but its also steeper and more sustained. There is no permanent glacier on the southern routes; they can be quite dry at times. 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.  
    Sierra Nevada and an Old Glacier Track
    Seen at Sunrise from Orizaba

    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 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

    Some summit pictures:

    Additions and Corrections

    [ Post an Addition or Correction ]
    Viewing: 1-8 of 8    
    ScottRe: Altitude correction


    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


    Hasn't voted

    Posted Aug 22, 2007 3:35 pm
    CurtissimoRe: Altitude correction


    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

    Viewing: 1-8 of 8