Add Heading HereThis trip to Pico de Orizaba was a personal test in order to decide if high altitude mountaineering is appropriate for me. My ultimate goal is to reach a mountain around 7000m such as Aconcagua. Having climbed already several 4000 meters peaks in USA such as Shasta and Longs Peak, I decided to try Pico de Orizaba as a test for higher altitudes. I went during a Spring Break (March 2012) and successfully summit on March 9, 2012.
I live in the Chicago area so, because of the low elevation, I decided to spend two days in Tlachichuca (about 2600 meter elevation) and two days at Piedra Grande (about 4200 meters) before my summit bid.
This worked fine for me and I only felt the altitude during the final hour to the summit. Not a sickness but only a marked slow rhythm.
The weather was perfect but there is a tradeoff. During Spring while the weather is nice, there is almost no fresh snow which means the glacier is practically 100% ice. It is critical to have crampons for ice climbing because there is little penetration with the ice axe in the frozen snow and, if a fall happens, a self-arrest will be very difficult.
I had no problems during the climb and I did not need to rope up with the guide but I had new crampons( Black Diamonds Sabre Tooth) that performed very well on the ice.
I slept at Cancholas who provided also with a guide and transportation to Piedra Grande. I also slept in my own tent at Piedra Grande which I highly recommend for the following reasons: Piedra Grande is infested with mice (not a pleasant night) and it can be noisy with all the tourists. Furthermore you will travel with a car to Piedra Grande so weight is no issue....There is really no reason to NOT come with your own tent.
All in all, I think the best lesson from this adventure is to have patience and lots and lots of patience before attempting the summit. I saw countless people with severe altitude sickness coming down from the mountain and vomiting along the way. I think if you take several nights at intermediate altitudes the summit will be within reach...And, it is well worth it...The view from the top is incredible...