Popocatepetl is a volcano with forested slopes,a snow-capped cone and a large crater. It is the second highest peak in Mexico, behind Pico de Orizaba (18,490 ft) and fifth highest in North American.
The name Popocatepetl is Aztec for Smoking Mountain; it is often shortened to Popo. Popo and its neighboring volcano Iztaccihuatl (17,343 ft) dominate the sky east of Amecameca. They are located less than 80 km from the Mexico City and are separated from each other by ten miles of high grounds referred to as Paso des Cortes .
Popo's last major eruption was in 1947, although on December 21, 1994, it awakened from dormancy, spewing gas and ash, which was carried by the wind as far as Puebla, 25 miles east. Surrounding towns were evacuated, and scientists have since been closely monitoring Popo for signs of a possible eruption.
The first recorded ascent of Popocatepetl was by the Tecuanipas tribe in 1289. The first Spanish ascent of the mountain was an expedition led by Diego de Ordaz in 1519. Emperor Montezuma sent ten warriors to climb the mountain sometime between 1502 and 1519. Only two of these warriors survived the climb.
Iztaccihuatl-Popocatepetl and Zoquiapan National Parks and their ecological importance
The Iztaccihuatl-Popocatepetl National Park was created in 1935 with an area of 25 679 hectares. In 1937 the lands of the former hacienda of Zoquiapan were incorporated increasing the area under protection to more than 45 000 hectares. The sylvan flora and fauna of the park are of nearctic and neotropical origin. In its geographic location it forms a part of the trans-Mexican volcanic zone, enabling it to have a great diversity of habitats, such as mixed forests of pine, evergreen oak and alnus, as well as high mountain prairies. Alpine habitats can be found at the highest altitudes, a great rarity in Mexico as the country is located in the subtropical zone.
These forests house nearly a thousand species of plants, comprising 45% of the reported species in the Valley of Mexico and 5% of the phanerogamous flora in the country. For its part, the fauna is an extraordinary richness of species, including mammals such as the zacatuche or teporingo rabbit, the puma, the lynx, the coati and the white-tailed deer, which constitute 40% of registered mammals in the Sierra Nevada. Also, the volcanic corridor serves as a resting point for diverse species of birds on their migratory routes to the Gulf and the Pacific.
Getting ThereIf the mountain is ever safe again, here's how to get there.
Internations flights can fly into either Mexico City or Puebla. From either of these locations take a taxi to the nearest bus station.
In Mexico City the closest bus station is La Tapo. It's about a 5 to 10 minute ride depending on traffic. Cost for the ride depends on your bargaining skills and what time of the day your there.
From La Tapo there are buses traveling in every direction at pretty much anytime. There were at least three different bus companies going to Amecameca, which is one - two hours away. Expect to pay between 14 and 30 pesos per person for that ride.
In Amecameca you can find accommodations right off the main square at the Hotel San Carlos. It is supposed to be a nice place where the owner speaks English.
Your destination is Tlamacas, which is reached via first Paso des Cortes, turn right and follow the road. The approach trails start here.
From México City take the toll road towards Puebla (190D) and exit to the south (right) after the first toll booth. Drive past Chalco and Tlalmanalco on highway 115 to Amecameca.
About half a mile south of town, take the road on the left leading to the Popo-Izta National Park, from here drive 15 miles up the steep road to Paso de Cortés. At this point take the paved road to the right which will take you to Tlamacas two miles away where the two lodges are located.
The big red tape issue is that you will probably die during an ascent right now. Popo has been erupting for several years, and shows no signs of stopping, so it may be a while before climbing is allowed again.
When To ClimbWhen it is again safe to climb the best months are December to March. It is possible to climb the Mexican volcanoes year round.
The last two weeks of December are very busy due to the Christmas holiday. April and May tend to be the wetter months.
Mountain Conditions & Additional InformationSince conditions on Popo can change quickly I am including several links that allow the reader to access up to date information in addition to more history on Popo.
This site has information on all active volcanoes showing their Ash Advisory status.
A good source of historical data and current information can be found through the USGS.
This Mexican University run site has a video cam and other information about the mountain. Select Tamano A or B for the video cam photo.
For a short range forecast for the area, check Yahoo Weather.
Another useful website for information and conditions has an English translation button in the upper left corner.
A Spanish language site with information on the mountain and the surrounding park can be read here.
For some great space photography of the mountain go here.
LodgingSince the mountain is off limits camping on it is not an option. See the information above for local accomodations.
GuidebookRJ Secor's guidebook for Mexico's Volcanoes: A Climbing Guide is one source of information on climbing Popo and all the major mountains in Mexico.
For complete information on getting to Mexico and traveling around I highly recommend the Lonely Planet guidebook on Mexico.