Mexico’s forgotten volcanoes

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Trip Report
Estado de Mexico, Mexico, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Mar 3, 2002
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Created On: Nov 14, 2003
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Not long after arriving in Texcoco I began to enquire about the tremendously large mountains that lay SE of the city. They rose what looked like a full 2000m above the Mexican valley so I knew they were big and when Javier’s bother in law Juan Carlos assured me that they were most assuredly above 4000 meters I became transfixed with them. I had trouble believing that here I was living in the shadow of two large speaks after a lifetime spent (except 1 yr. in Vancouver) in flatter than flat Ontario. Javier promised me that he would take me up them so I felt secure in the knowledge that my good friend would guide me up and I would resuscitate my climbing spirit that had lain dormant for the past 4 years.

Yet the months passed and I was starting to feel desperate I even had plans to head out in the morning on weekends with Rach to the eastern edge (of what I thought was part of Tlaloc’s main ridge) and make our way along what looked to be clear ridgeline up to the summit. SO desperate was I becoming that I was starting to ignore the voices of reason that told me there no way it could be that simple.

Fortunately before I could run off to ignominious defeat along came the school field trip to Nevado de Toluca. On this trip I summited el Pico de Aguila and Gustavo who kept the principals preoccupied while I slipped up the mountain was reminded of my mountainous obsession. So we really started to talk about mountains, of course there was beer involved which helped both of us smash down the language barrier (after all who isn’t a linguistic genius after 5 or 6 Negra Modelos.)?

Gustavo had assumed that Javier had already taken me up Tlaloc and Telapon, much to his surprise we hadn’t yet been so Gustavo who is a man of action immediately set about rectifying what we both saw as a tremendous wrong. He offered to take Rach and I up to Tlaloc’s lofty summit and if I so wished I could strike out on my own for Telapon on the following day. The offer was for the following weekend… I was ecstatic, at the time there was nothing that I would rather do.

The following week of teaching was a blur and as the weekend approached I grew more and more excited, until I was sure that Rach had nearly had enough of me… if she only knew that this was just the tip of a VERY large ice berg. Gustavo brought in his topographic maps on the Thursday and we ironed out the plan for the weekend. We were going to leave the following night and hike by the light of the full moon, camp at about 3400m and then make our way up to the summit the following day where we camp just beneath the summit ridge.

Day One
The plan sounded great so the following evening we boarded a third class bus to San Pablo, got off at the final stop and made our way up into the dusty hills. The hike was straightforward for the first hour or so, we took our time along the hard packed road to acclimatise and said little bathed as we were in the otherworldly luminescence of a full moon. Other than a gentle breeze and the odd call of a bird settling down for its nightly roost the silence was all encompassing and the four of us (Gustavo and his son Gus. Jr., Rachel and I) honoured Mother Nature’s wishes as we spoke little and when we did it was with a vesperant whisper.

The first two hours of the hike were very easy though we had left behind the open fields and were now slipping up through the darkened forests with only two headlamps to guide the four of us. The route soon steepened and became reminiscent of what I can recollect the trail was like on Mt. Marcy in the ‘Dacks… hard packed dirt with lots of roots and rocks littering the trail. This is how the rest of the hike went for the final 2 hours until we made camp at 1:30 in a quiet field. Instead of nodding off after we set up camp we stayed up and enjoyed the spectacular night, talking in low voices and unwinding as we let the serenity of the mountain forest seep into our bones.

Day 2
The following morning we took our time eating a hearty breakfast and breaking camp in our own time. The day was beautiful and clear and full of an endless promise. We made our way only the dirt road at last leaving behind the aqueduct that we had followed for much of the previous night. The more direct route followed the road through a maze of twists and turn offs that would have had me lost in the blinking of an eye were it not for Gustavo (this is why I suggest following the aqueduct up to manantiales as the best route to follow). The hike was through a cheery pine forest through slanting shafts of sunlight.

As time wore on I began to get the itch to reconnoitre, to have a look at my surroundings, to see where I was in relation to Izta, Popo and the city of Mexico. The urge to see what I can see is one of the major reasons I climb. There is no perspective like that offered from the top of a mountain. So after about two hours we seemed to be coming to a crest and I was eager to see what view it offered… sadly it offered only a hike through the long grass and thinning pines, up to another distant crest.

At the next crest the view wasn’t what I’d hoped but I was able to make out Izta to the southeast which heightened my spirits as I anxious to leave the forests behind and get above the tree line.
My crew’s energy was starting to flag so we stopped for a 45 minute snooze in the long grass, I was frustrated at first but after a less than adequate sleep the night before my body was.

After another hour and a quarter rocky spines were starting to rear from the ground and most of us were tired, we still couldn’t even see the summit. At long last though we emerged in a little dell where the dirt road ended and there were a series of ledges that looked up at the summit still 2km distant and looked out at Izta and Telapon and manantiales. This is what I had been waiting for… we were at about 3850m still 300m below the summit but the view was the best I’d probably ever had.

It re-energised me and I was soon off skipping up the trail beside the beautiful 20m high ridge that runs from where the road ends up to the summit on the mountains western side. This was far and away my favourite section of the climb. There was rock underfoot and all around and I was within striking distance of the summit. Gustavo pointed out where we would be making camp and let me have my reigns so I scuttled up to where we were making camp dropped my pack and picked my way up the cliffs that granted me access to the summit ridge proper.

I hiked up along the rock until I realised that the more direct route would be to walk along the grass hummocks on the northern side of the summit plateau along the barren alpine slopes. Only about 10 minutes later I was on the summit and I was elated.

I also went over to a secondary spot which could have qualified as the summit as well where I finally sat down and really surveyed my surroundings. After taking it all in for about five minutes I realised that this would be much more fun with Rach so I jogged back to camp to get her. Rach, being a woman was much less goal oriented than I was so she had decided that camp was close enough to the summit for her. I of course couldn’t fathom coming all that way without summiting so I coaxed her into joining me on the summit proper, our first summit together.

Rach was surprised how close the summit was and before too long we were both sitting on our first Mexican summit (my second). The day was starting to wind down so after about 30 minutes together on the summit we decided to head back to camp and set up out tent for the night.

Rach and I have a system when it comes to camping; she sets up the tent while I grab firewood and get a fire started… which seems to suit each of us just fine. We had a phenomenal supper Gustavo had brought up cecina (a type of beef) that I loved with onions, tomatoes, cheese and salsa verde. So I had 6 or 7 tortillas stuffed with all of the above ingredients for supper. I also cracked open a Bohemia (my favourite Mexican beer) to celebrate a successful day. Gustavo had thought along the same lines and soon all four of us raised a bottle in honour of a great day.

The sunset was spectacular, one of the best I’ve ever seen, the sun slipped behind a band of clouds that had emerged over Ajusco on the southern horizon and we all relaxed around the fire. Gustavo (beaming with pride) and his son Gus jr. (who had successfully summited his first peak today) were spent and turned in around 9:00. Rach and I stayed up for maybe another hour before we gave into exhaustion.

We awoke around 2am the wind was howling, maybe around 75kph, and our old school pup tent which had only three ties to keep it closed was fluttering in the wind and we were huddling together for warmth. The temperature had plummeted down to -8 or so and with the wind it was considerably cooler. Gustavo could hear us talking so he invited us to his big tent where the four of us and Chiquita there little dog fell asleep for the remainder of the night.

Day 3
I awoke early the following morning around 7:30 or so and after trying unsuccessfully to fall asleep for fifteen minutes or so I followed Gustavo out of the tent and worked out the kinks from a long night. The morning was crystalline in its clarity, Gustavo and Gus jr. were keeping their thoughts to themselves so I returned to the summit to explore the plateau, at least it SE section a little more thoroughly. It was nice to be moving again, my circulation returned to normal and I was feeling human again.

The sleeping lady and her torch bearing warrior looked awesome… from the edge of the plateau I could see Malinche and just behind it, wreathed in cloud was El Pico and on the far southern horizon I could make out Nevado de Toluca. The view was incredible… and strangely enough my eyes kept returning to Telapon as I debated whether I wanted to climb her as well… which was a moot point that decision had already been made. I explored the summit for an hour and a half before I figured it was past time to return to camp.

When I returned we all had a brief breakfast. struck camp and began the 90 minute down climb to manantiales beneath us. The down climb was fun we had to find away across a 15m deep canyon and we climbed down two steep 45 degree sections before we were parting. I was striking off on my own to summit Telapon while the remainder of the group was going to have a nap and relax in the afternoon sunshine.
I began hiking westwards, taking the most direct path to the Valley of Telapon, which lies at the base of the peak. I was taking regular, but brief rest intervals to ensure that I paced myself.

I skirted the 50m bluffs that dominate the base of Telapon from its northern slopes and headed generally southeast. I was bushwhacking the whole way enjoying the tranquil forests, dotted with the odd boulder and visited only by birds and squirrels. It was a great time to commune with this peak and I enjoyed it immeasurably.

After about an hour I was approaching a crest expecting to look out at the final short scramble to the summit. To my chagrin I realised that I had hiked a little too much eastwards and had come out on one of the mountains sub summits, I had two options to keep my altitude and follow a circuitous path to the main summit ridge or down climb fifty meters to the summit ridge and follow a rocky ridge up to the summit spine.

I chose to down climb and fifteen minutes later I was on the summit spine looking down 2000m at the sprawling mass that is Mexico City and taking in the steep southern slopes of Telapon. To the east was a cool rugged looking 25m high magma plug that looked awesome and seemed to block access to the peak that lay to the west. I wanted to check it out but was running behind so I headed to the summit where I spent about twenty minutes taking in the scenery.

Telapon is a beautiful peak, one of my favourites in Mexico and I will always treasure these three days where I was introduced to the Mexican volcanoes by my great friend (mi compadre) Gustavo.


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