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
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
The following trip reports give an overview of the entire trip from planning to climbing. Half the fun is getting there!
|Informative Trip Reports|
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.
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
Map above generated by Matt - Zoom in and out or change the map type using the drop down menu in the upper right corner.
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