Situated in the centre of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, Iztaccihuatl is one of Mexico’s tallest mountains and a popular climbing destination for domestic and international moutnaineers.
On a clear day, the extinct volcano can be seen all the way from Mexico City. The peak generally takes two days to climb, but many mountaineers opt to climb it as part of a longer trip to the summit of Mexico’s tallest volcanoes, including Pico de Orizaba.
While not very technically challenging, most of the climbing for Iztaccihuatl takes place above 5,000 metres (16,400 feet), which makes it a popular destination for moutnaineers preparing for tougher climbs in the Alaska Range, Himalayas or Andes.
Quick Facts about Iztaccihuatl
- In the native Nahuatl language, Iztaccihuatl means “white woman” because the four snow-capped peaks resemble the head, chest, knees and feet of a sleeping female.
- According to Aztec mythology, Iztaccihuatl was a princess who fell in love with one of her father’s warriors. Her father did not approve, but promised that she could marry the warrior upon his return from battle. He later told his daughter that the warrior had died in battle and she died of grief. When the warrior returned home, he carried Iztaccihuatl’s body to the southeast of the Aztec capital and she was turned into a mountain by the gods.
- Iztaccihuatl is the third tallest mountain in Mexico and the eighth tallest in North America.
History of Iztaccihuatl
Iztaccihuatl is a dormant volcano that last erupted in 1868. The first known ascent of the peak took place 21 years later in 1889 by James de Salis.
However, archeological evidence suggests that Aztecs and pre-Aztec cultures made it to the summit of the peak several centuries beforehand.
Iztaccihuatl has long held an important place in Aztec mythology and was formally protected by the Mexican government in 1935 with the creation of the Iztaccihuatl-Popocatepetl National Park.
Experience Required for Climbing Iztaccihuatl
Iztaccihuatl is not a very technically difficult mountain to climb. During the peak climbing season, the top of the mountain is usually covered in some snow and ice, so some glacier travel with crampons and ice axes may be required.
However, climbing Iztaccihuatl does require a fairly high level of physical fitness. The majority of the climb takes place above 4,000 metres (13,100 feet). Participants should be prepared to hike over steep and uneven surfaces for four to five hours at a time with minimal stops.
Main Routes up Iztaccihuatl
The main route to the summit of Iztaccihuatl is La Arista del Sol (the Ridge of the Sun). The route begins from La Joya trailhead at 3,975 metres (13,040 feet).
The route climbs the mountain, starting with an ascent of (or around) “the feet”, followed by the “the knees” and on to “the chest”, which is the highest of the four summits of the volcano.
The first day is spent ascending steeply past “the feet” and “the knees” to the only hut on the mountain. Occupancy is limited, so make a reservation beforehand.
The second day involves the steep ascent over more loose scree and snowfields until you reach the top of “the chest”. From here, most climbers can descend back to the parking lot and return to Puebla or Mexico City.