HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR MEXICO VOLCANOES EXPEDITION
- Alpine Ascents guides lead each trip.
- There is a low climber-to-guide ratio.
- We offer a fully inclusive trip with no hidden costs.
- Our 10 day itinerary greatly increases chances of summit success.
- We hand pick our local guides and transportation.
- Cultural activities are included in the itinerary.
- Alpine Ascents has 30 years of experience guiding in Mexico.
- This trip provides excellent preparation for Denali.
- See more on our Why Climb With Us in Mexico page.
We had a great 2019/2020 season with both teams reaching the summit of Ixta and Orizaba. This comes off our biggest seasons in 2017 and 2018 (100% team summit success), and we look to have Stuart Robertson and Dylan Cembalski return as leads in 2020. The Volcanoes of Mexico is one of our advanced beginner climbs at altitude, a perfect follow-up to Mt. Rainier or other Beginner Mountaineering Courses, and is particularly beneficial for those needing more experience before climbing Denali. In most cases our Mexico climbs are led by the same guides who lead our Denali expeditions.
ABOUT THE TRIP
In the heart of Mexico, about 800 miles south of the United States border, rise the third and seventh highest mountains in North America. El Pico de Orizaba (also known as Chitlalcotepetl, 18,491 ft.) and Iztaccihuatl (also known as Izta, 17,159 ft.) rise impressively above the central plateau. Each fall and winter we attempt to summit these two volcanoes, which are by far the most attractive climbs in Mexico. This Alpine Ascents expedition provides a fantastically rich experience for both the advanced beginner and the intermediate climber. It also serves as an excellent preparation for climbing mountains such as Denali and is an affordable way to participate in a successful international high-altitude expedition.
The Volcanoes of Mexico expedition lasts 10 days, during which we will attempt to summit ancient peaks that date back 10 million years (while their present shape can be dated at 2.5 million years). For those interested in high-altitude challenges, this climb is an excellent opportunity to develop the experience and skills necessary to succeed on the world’s highest mountains. Successful ascents will provide the climber with a strong sense of their individual ability to handle altitude. They are also wonderful destinations in their own right.
Iztaccihuatl is crowned with snow and ice that forms small glaciers at higher elevations with relatively few crevasses. For our summit attempt, we will depart by 2 a.m. in order to be high on the mountain by sunrise and ensure we have extra hours at the higher elevations for a gradual and safe ascent. Izta is known in Aztec mythology as the “sleeping lady.” When we speak of Izta, we use body terms to describe parts of the mountain: la caballera (the hair), la caveza (the head), la orega (the ear), etc. With many false summits on the approach, Izta poses a challenging climb.
After completing Izta, we will take one day to rest and regroup before advancing to our second objective, El Pico de Orizaba. Orizaba is North America’s third-highest summit. It is an eroded volcano that retains most of its symmetrical shape. While the summit is heavily glaciated, these glaciers have few crevasses, allowing the beginning climber to develop skills while encountering relatively few danger spots. Because of its great height, Orizaba provides a wonderful first experience with high altitude and fantastic panoramic views.
THE LEGEND OF POPO AND IZTA
This traditional story is well known throughout the Puebla regions and is quite famous throughout all of Mexico. As the legend goes, while Popo (the Smoking Warrior) was at war, the emperor’s beautiful daughter, Izta, died of heartache. When he returned and learned of her death, he built two mountains. On one, he laid her body and on the other, he stood holding a funeral torch. Some days it still appears as if Itza is stretched on her back while the steam of Popo watches over her. Given its recent activity, many are reluctant to forego the romantic imagery of this great “Smoking Mountain.”
Upon sign up, we will send you our richly detailed Climber Information Package.
Flight to Mexico City, early afternoon arrival (not evening). We’ll begin with a thorough equipment check and orientation at our hotel, including a discussion of Leave No Trace practices. After a nice dinner in the neighborhood near our hotel, we will spend the night in Mexico City and rest up for our first climb.
After a hearty breakfast, we will tour the Museum of Anthropology, the national museum of Mexico. Considered by some to be “a national treasure and a symbol of identity”, the museum contains an excellent selection of archaeological and anthropological artifacts from Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage. From the museum, we will drive to the small town of Amecameca (8,200 ft.). Situated in the highlands, Amecameca rests at the base of Volcanoes National Park, along the foothills of the mountains. We’ll have lunch and spend part of the afternoon enjoying this beautiful traditional Puebla town. The people in this region are known for their warmth and hospitality. The marketplace is filled with foods and spices indigenous to the area, while the surrounding countryside is covered by rich vegetation. After final preparations, we’ll drive to La Joya (12,200 ft.). our Base Camp, for our first objective, Iztaccihuatl. We will overnight in tents during this first phase of acclimatization, either at the Altzimoni Hut (space permitting) or La Joya.
We’ll actively begin our acclimatization today and then return to spend the night once again at the Altzimoni Hut or La Joya. We’ll spend the rest of the day relaxing and prepare to move to our High Camp.
We’ll break camp, load our packs, and slowly climb above 15,000 ft., where we’ll establish a High Camp and prepare for our summit bid and early morning summit departure.
We will depart for the summit of Iztaccihuatl (Sleeping Lady) in the pre-dawn hours via the Ayaloco Glacier. On clear mornings, the sunrise has proven to be exquisite and will find us climbing high on the mountain. Depending on conditions, might don crampons and ice axes for the upper regions of the volcano where we’ll encounter an easy rock ridge, navigate across ice cliffs, and finally traverse into a couloir just before our final push to the summit. Viewing the terrain, it is easy to visualize the geologic cataclysms that created these giant mountains and look across to Popo, keeping watch over the sleeping lady. By late afternoon we’ll return to La Joya and drive to Puebla for much-deserved showers and rest.
We’ll take a rest day in the colonial town of Puebla and visit local market, shops, and cultural sites such as churches and other prominent buildings in the town. Midmorning, we will drive out to Cholula to visit the largest pyramid in the world. Later, we can do some laundry at our hotel and relax by the pool while we organize equipment and make preparations for the early morning wake-up and following day’s journey to Orizaba.
Our second objective is Mexico’s highest mountain, known as Citlalcotepetl or El Pico de Orizaba (Mountain of the Star). At 18,850 ft., it stands almost 1,000 ft. higher than legendary Popo. We’ll drive to Tlachichuca, where we’ll meet our outfitter and load our gear from transport vans into rugged 4x4s for the drive to our Base Camp at Piedra Grande (14,000 ft.), the lower slopes of Orizaba, where we’ll spend the night.
We’ll sleep in and enjoy a leisurely brunch followed by an acclimatization hike. We will spend the rest of the day relaxing, hydrating, and fueling to prepare for our summit bid the next day.
Our ascent of Orizaba is similar to Izta: we’ll begin before dawn to take advantage of optimum snow conditions and provide ample time to complete the climb before dark. En route, we’ll climb through a rock ravine, make a moderate roped ascent, and traverse a series of crevasses. On the final stretch, we’ll maneuver the ridge along the crater’s edge. From the summit, we can scan the Gulf of Mexico to the east and the central plateau to the west. We’ll return to Mexico City and spend the night
Depart for country of origin. In the instance of poor conditions on Ixta, we will attempt an alternate itinerary consisting of a three-summit climb (Nevada de Toluca, La Malinche, and Orizaba) without Ixta.
POOR CONDITIONS ITINERARY
In case of poor conditions on Ixta, we will attempt an alternate itinerary consisting of a three-summit climb (Nevada de Toluca, La Malinche, and Orizaba).
Arrive in Mexico City early afternoon. We’ll spend the evening visiting Mexico City’s central square, which includes the Metropolitan Cathedral and various federal buildings. We’ll have a nice dinner near the square, then prepare for our first climb. We’ll also have a thorough equipment check and orientation, including discussion of Leave No Trace practices.
We will drive toward the town of Valle de Brava where we’ll have lunch at an outdoor restaurant. Along the way we will visit an area with a large population of monarch butterflies. After lunch, we drive to High Camp at around 11,000 ft. at the base of Nevada de Toluca and stay in a refugio.
Departing early, we will drive to around 12,500 ft. near the Lakes of the Moon and Sun and climb to the 15,500-ft. summit of Nevada de Toluca. We will then return to our van and drive to the town of Valle de Brava (the adventure sports capital of central Mexico), have dinner at a restaurant in Valle de Brava, and then stay at a hotel.
We’ll have lunch at a Hacienda and continue -style beds. We can do a short hike if the members of our group are feeling up to it. We’ll have a home-cooked meal and go to bed early.
Rising early, we will have a home-cooked breakfast before leaving for the summit to La Malinche (14,500 ft.) We’ll be back in the late afternoon for a home-cooked meal.
We’ll drive to Tlachachuca to meet our 4×4 driver, then continue to the refugio at Piedra Grande, 14,000 ft.
After a leisurely morning, we’ll move up to 15,600 ft. to our High Camp, and go to bed early.
Wake up early and summit Orizaba. Next, we travel to Tlachachuca, then continue on to our hotel in Puebla.
After a half-day of sightseeing in Puebla, we will drive to Mexico City for a group dinner.
- All in-country transportation
- All lodging
- Hotel accommodations
- All group camp supplies, such as tents, stoves, etc.
- All meals (excluding drinks)
- All airport transfers (if arriving on scheduled day)
- All group climbing gear
- All meals while climbing
- All hut fees, park fees, and permit
- $25 wire transfer fee (if applicable)
- International round-trip airfare USA-Mexico
- Single room supplement (hotels only)
- Personal gear (see Gear List)
- Excess baggage charges and airport taxes
- Personal items
- Trip cancellation insurance
- Charges incurred as a result of delays beyond the control of Alpine Ascents