Friends, family, loved ones, Stuart here from Mexico Team #1. It seems that my last cybercast did not go through, so just wanted to give you all a recap of events and conclude the cybercasts for this expedition. I’m sure now all the climbers are safely back in the United States, albeit a little tired from our adventures and travels.
Two days ago now, I’m pleased to report, the whole team summited Pico de Orizaba, Mexico’s highest peak and third highest peak in North America (18,405 feet). We left our base camp at the Piedra Grande hut (which is just a little under 14,000 feet) just before 2 am in the morning and we worked our way up, steadily and conservatively, through a series of gullies at the base of the eastern cliffs of the Sarcophago to the base of the Jamapa Glacier. Here we roped up, donned some crampons, we were able to ascend fairly directly, occasionally switching back towards El Espolon de Oro, the Ridge of the Gold. This was to make the climbing a little bit easier but also to avoid some wind-scoured, icy snow patches, which has unfortunately been the scene of some recent accidents. After about seven hours, we reached the Aguja de Hielo, the Ice Needle, it’s a prominent landmark up by the summit crater and from here we worked our way up the crater rim to the summit.
From the summit, it was actually, it was beautiful up there! We were rewarded with fantastic views of Popocatapetl, Iztaccihuatl, our first objective, La Malinchi to the west. And to the east, we had the sea of clouds coming in from the Gulf of Mexico, couldn’t see the Gulf itself but some beautiful clouds. The strongest impression I got from the summit and climbing the mountain in general and Pico De Orizaba was one of isolation, solitude. We’re looking down on the plains below us; there was very little sign of man’s influence on the environment, which was completely different character to Itza, our first objective, which of course lies between two of Mexico’s largest urban conurbations, Pueblo and Mexico City itself.
After summiting, we descended back down, met up with Joaquin Cancholla , who had his 4×4 Jeeps there to meet us and take us back down to Tlachichuca and the Canchollas compound, where we had a welcome celebration dinner.
Just want to give a special mention here to George, one of our climbers. George was unable to join us on the summit of Itza, where he elected prudently to stay at our high camp at the base of the Aloyoco glacier as he was feeling the ill-effects of the altitude and the heavier packs, a little more than the rest of the group. However on Orizaba, George bounced back really well, which is a testament to that gentleman’s quiet determination and tenacity. One of the lasting impressions, I’m certainly going to have of the expedition, is George embracing his son, Dan, on the summit ridge and George, if you’re listening, you know, well done! And I hope that blackened toe’s not giving you too much trouble. You had some issues on the descent, with his toes and his boots, but hope all is well there.
Lastly, I just want to say, you know, as ever, I found the Mexicans that we interacted with to be honest, hardworking, more than hospitable and eager to make us at home and see their culture. Everywhere that we travelled was safe, and this trip is a fantastic trip for anyone who has perhaps climbed Rainier or Baker with us, and is looking for new challenges. You get up to climb at high altitude (above 16,400 feet) with a minimum of expense and time, and you get a glimpse of a fascinating culture while you’re here.
Thanks everybody for tuning in. It’s been a pleasure just to guide down here and lastly just want to wish Mike Horst’ expedition which is coming up, I hope it’s as safe and successful as ours.
So thanks again and bye for now!