Volcanoes of Mexico Overview
I had a great time on the expedition. The mountains were beautiful and challenging and the cultural tour was an unexpected extra! The trip plan made sense, giving us enough time to acclimatize, have a great opportunity to successfully summit the mountains and recover in between. – 2019 Climber
Following our biggest season in 2017, we look to have Stuart Robertson and Victor McNeil back as leads in 2018. One of our advanced beginner climbs at altitude, the Volcanoes of Mexico is 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.
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.
Those wishing to participate in this trip must have 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.
In 2017, we saw difficult conditions and moved our climbs to the South Side as the Jamapa Glacier on North Side was closed off due to dangerously firm conditions. For 2018, we have moved to early season climbs with hopes of accessing the glacier earlier in the year when climbing conditions tend to be the best. Our 2016 teams saw high summit success under the guiding expertise of Stuart Robertson.
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 guided 100% of all climbers to the summit of all peaks on the expedition. Cybercast 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. 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 any of the following Alpine Ascents Beginner Mountaineering Courses: Cascades 6 Day, Alaska or Rainier 8 Day, Alaska 12 Day, Cascades 13 Day, or have equivalent skills and experience. Those who have had a strong performance on a 3-day Baker or Rainier climb may also join. Climbers must have basic knowledge of progression on snow and ice, self-arrest, crevasse rescue and glacier travel. Snow and ice slopes are moderate (up to 45 degrees). During the expedition we will spend three days on the Cayambe glacier reviewing skills, a requirement based on our desire to have similarly skilled team members.
We highly recommend being in very good physical condition.
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 through December is the best season for climbing in Mexico.
This trip usually includes six to eight climbers.
On the climb you will be sharing expedition tents, however, in town you may share rooms or pay a higher fee for a single room. Contact our office for information on single-room supplements.
On average, packs will weigh 25-35 lbs. When we move to High Camp on Ixta, the pack weight for this one day will be 55-60 lbs.
Please review the Gear List.
All rental gear will be mailed to climbers prior to the climb. Those requesting rental gear must submit an expedition rental form with payment by fax or mail. Climbers are expected to clean all rental gear and return it 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 during warm weather or changing conditions). The Gear Lists are created by the guides to assist in preparing climbers 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 such as iodine or chlorine.
In town you may enjoy authentic Mexican food, however guides will serve dinner foods like pasta and rice while on the mountain. Breakfasts will consist of nutritious hot or cold cereals.
You may bring power bars, Gu, or similar high-energy foods. Alpine Ascents provides all meals 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 online 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.
The airport in Mexico City is challenging for pickups due to size and unpredictable amounts of time needed for clearing customs. The easiest option is to take a taxi to your hotel, which will be specified in your confirmation package. Alpine Ascents will happily reimburse this fee.
We are happy to make arrangements for conveniences such as personalized tours, extra hotel rooms, airport pick-ups, or 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 satellite phone while on the mountain.
Many books are available on Mexico’s history, please see our Reading List.
You can always call our offices and a guide will contact you — generally about one month before your trip departure. We will also mail a list of other team members to you 30 days prior to departure.
About $500 should easily cover any extra expenses and tips. Most climbers prefer to bring about $1,000 cash along with credit cards.
Guides are permitted to accept–and greatly appreciate–tips. Contact our office for specific guidelines for your trip.
You may Book Online, 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, with balances due 120 days prior to departure. Unpaid balances can result in forfeiture of place on trip.
See our Price & Schedule page.
This climb takes us to different locations so that 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.
We had a great trip (in every way). Could not have asked for a better planned trip. We were unable to summit Orizaba because of weather, but the weather provided an element that created a new set of challenges and with it a new set of goals. It all worked!