Volcanoes of Mexico Overview
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, 18,850 ft.) and Iztaccihuatl (aka “Izta,” 17,343 ft.) rise impressively above the central plateau. Each fall we attempt to summit these two volcanoes. These two ascents are by far the most attractive climbs in Mexico. Alpine Ascents’ expedition provides a fantastically rich experience for the advanced beginner and intermediate climber. What continually makes these Mexican volcanoes so attractive is the relatively small cost it requires to participate in a successful international high-altitude expedition.
Our expedition lasts 10 days, during which we will attempt to summit these ancient peaks, they date back 10 million years, while their present shape can be dated at 2.5 million years. They provide a good introduction to high-altitude mountaineering. For those interested in high-altitude challenges, climbing the volcanoes of Mexico provides an excellent opportunity to begin developing the experience and skill 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, which form small glaciers at the higher elevations. There are relatively few crevasses to be found. For our summit attempt, we will depart by 2 a.m., enabling us to be high on the mountain by sunrise. This will provide extra hours at the higher elevations to ensure a gradual 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, enabling the beginning climber to develop skills and encounter only relatively few danger spots. Because of its great height, it provides a wonderful first experience with high altitude, along with fantastic panoramic views.
Those wishing to participate in this trip must possess basic mountaineering skills. These peaks, along with most other high-altitude mountains in the world, lack suitable low-altitude areas to practice your skills. Contact our office for consultation.
Our 2015 teams met with 100% summit success. 2014 saw summit success on both peaks and some of the best evaluations we have received; in 2013 Stuart Robertson guided 100% of all climbers to the summit of all peaks on the expedition. Details
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. And given its recent activity, many are reluctant to forego the romantic imagery of this great “Smoking Mountain”.
Mexico Volcanoes Frequently Asked Questions
Climbers should have successfully completed our 6-Day Training course, 8-Day, 12-Day, 13-Day or have equivalent skills and experience. Those who had a strong performance on a 3-Day Baker or Rainier climb may also join. They must have basic knowledge of progression on snow and ice, self arrest, crevasse rescue and glacier travel. Snow and ice slopes to be dealt with are moderate (up to 45 degrees). During the expedition we will spend three days on the Cayambe glacier reviewing skills. The requirements are also based on our desire to have similarly skilled team members.
Being in very good physical condition is highly recommended.
Along with the required technical skills, review the training page of our web site.
An American guide accompanied by local guides lead the trip. The ratio is typically 3:1.
October and November are excellent times to climb.
This trip usually has 6-8 climbers.
On the climb you will be sharing expedition tents. You will share rooms on this expedition in town but you can pay a higher fee for single rooms. Contact our office for information on single room supplements.
Please review the gear list.
All rental gear will be mailed to the climber prior to the climb. Climbers are expected to clean all rental gear. Those requesting rental gear must submit an expedition rental form with payment by fax or mail. Return gear to us by mail following the expedition.
While all items are required there may be times when some of the items on the gear list may not be used (such as warm weather or changing conditions). The gear lists are created by the guides to assist in having climbers be prepared to summit in any conditions.
While it is impossible for us to list all brands for certain gear, we do offer a wide variety of equipment in our Gear Shop, that has been hand-picked by our staff of mountaineering experts. Please feel free to call our offices with any gear questions or substitutes. Plastic boots are required for this climb.
Water is either boiled or treated with a water purification solution like iodine or a chlorine.
Time spent in town you may enjoy authentic Mexican food and while on the mountain dinner foods like pasta and rice are served. Breakfasts consist of nutritious hot or cold cereals.
You may bring power bars, Gu, or similar high energy foods. All meals will be provided on this climb.
Not at this time.
Fares are generally less expensive when booked early. You may use our Travel Agent (Charles Mulvehill 1-800-727-2157) or book flights your self. Please note that flights booked on-line are often difficult to change. Please send us a copy of your flight schedule as early as possible as this allows us to book pick ups and hotels
Your guide or an Alpine Ascents representative will meet you at the airport. Look for a large Alpine Ascents sign.
We are happy to make arrangements such as personalized tours, extra hotels rooms, airport pick ups and arrange for private rooms. Please indicate that you would like a private room on your application and we will contact you with information on single room supplement costs (for hotels only).
Not at this time.
In the cities and in hotels telephones are readily available. Our guide carries a cell phone while on the mountain.
Many books are available on Mexico’s history.
You can always call our offices and a guide will contact you, generally about 1 month before your trip departure. 30 days prior to departure, we mail a list of other team members to you.
$500 should easily cover any extra expenses and tips. Most climbers prefer to bring about $1000 and have credit cards.
Guides are permitted to accept and greatly appreciate tips. Contact our office for specific guidelines for your trip.
You may register online or call our offices with a credit card or mail/fax an application with a check or credit card number.
We accept MasterCard, Visa, American Express, personal checks and Alpine Ascents gift certificates. To reserve a space the deposit is $500 balances are due 120 days prior to departure. Unpaid balances can result in forfeiture of place on trip.
See our schedule and prices page.
This climb takes us to different locations, early departure may be difficult. If a climber needs to leave early our guides will assist in obtaining the necessary transportation to get you home as quickly as possible.