With our first Mexico Volcanoes trip of the winter season fast approaching, we sat down with guide Hannah McGowan for her words of wisdom when it comes to this iconic climbing trip.
Mexico Volcanoes: Top 5 Questions
What’s the food like?
Simply put, the food on this expedition is awesome! We eat at a variety of local restaurants that range from casual to more upscale throughout the trip. Most of the meals are Mexican style food, and menu options are wide ranging. For the days of the trip that we partner with Orizaba Mountain Guides (OMG) meals are provided by a full time OMG cook who does a fantastic job! They create warm soup to start off dinner, and a variety of dishes made from fresh ingredients, which makes it hard to save room for desserts. There are opportunities throughout the trip to sample snack food that is hard to find outside of Mexico, and climbers usually enjoy experimenting with novel flavors of chips (we found hot dog flavored Pringles last year!) And cookies. In fact my all time favorite mountain snack- Cacahuates Japones- is hard to find outside of Mexico.
Is this expedition a good next step for me?
This expedition is perfect for people who have developed solid footwork while walking on firm snow with crampons and want to take their climbing up a notch in terms of altitude. The Mexico Volcanoes trip is an excellent way to break into higher altitude climbing without the commitment level of a more remote expedition, as we will be acclimatizing on additional peaks and intermittently able to access luxuries like showers and wifi. Orizaba is markedly higher than Mt. Rainier (Tahoma) though your pack weight will be comparable to summit day on Rainier. Orizaba demands movement on ice/snow for a smaller portion of the climb, though the upper slopes of Orizaba are not maintained by guides in the same way that Rainier is, and a higher level of footwork in crampons may be necessary to safely summit Orizaba.
Do we camp on snow?
While it’s possible for it to snow any time during Orizaba climbing season, our nights of camping on this expedition occur at the base of Orizaba, (~14,200’) which is not glaciated nor is it typically covered in snow. Most people find it much easier to sleep warm while camped on dirt instead of snow, and it’s mentally easier to be able to leave your tent and just slide on running shoes or sandals rather than heavy boots. We arrive at this camp via 4×4 trucks, so the nights that we’re in tents are basically car camping at an established base camp.
Is it actually cold on the Mexico Volcanoes?
Though what comes to my mind when I think of Mexico is usually sandy beach vacations, yes, it does actually get very cold on the Mexico Volcanoes and even the altitude of Mexico City keeps things feeling cooler there than one may expect. Our gear list for this trip is carefully curated with layers that you’ll need to stay warm on the mountains. As far as clothing for the rest of the trip, pants and a T-shirt are usually perfect for Puebla and Mexico City, with a light layer for evenings and mornings. Some of our travel days usually feel warmer away from the shade of trees and buildings in the city, and it can be nice to have the option of wearing shorts or a skirt as well for those days.
What’s Mexico City like?
Mexico City is the largest city in all of the Americas, one once served as the capital city for the Aztec empire, then named Tenochtitlan. The city has an impressive amount of historical sites and museums, including the Museum of Anthropology- considered one of the great museums of the world- which we will visit as a group before departing Mexico City at the start of the expedition. The food, music, and art scene in Mexico City is incredibly vibrant, and the city feels alive at every hour. Most climbers find a highlight of the trip to be spending time in Mexico City.
Pro tip- The tap water in Mexico is not fit to drink, but I hate drinking bottled water because of the amount of plastic waste that it produces. Instead of buying bottled water I bring a steripen or Aquamiura with me to Mexico and drink treated tap water out of my water bottles.