GeeVee - I am definitely planning on going back. My little brother is taking my dad climbing there in a few weeks, and I am jealous. The outhouse is bad-but you should see the one for the Illinizas in Ecuador. Wow, I would rather use a bathroom in the Times Square subway station.
Beta. I have a webpage about climbing the volcanos at:
There are some nice pictures there. I have no idea how long it will take NYU to figure out I am not a student anymore and shut off the page, so let me know if it disappears.
Beta. This is very specific beta to getting around Mexico and very little for the routes. The normal routes are easy and obvious, and pretty safe. I didn't need a rope on Orizaba. There is really no crevasse danger, but if you are uncomfortable on steep snow you will probably want one. No rope is needed for the Arista del Sol on Ixtaccihuatl. Some of the other routes on Ixta would probably be more fun and less crowded, like the Ayoloco Glacier(which you need a rope for). If you do decide to bring a rope, prussiks, a few snow pickets, a few 22cm ice screws, and maybe a deadman would be useful.
The prices and exchange rates have probably changed, and the bus lines may have as well. YMMV.
The Mexican Volcanos are probably the ultimate value in mountaineering. Nowhere else can you go so high on beautiful mountains for almost no money. The three main peaks for the area are Pico de Orizaba, the highest peak in Mexico and the third highest in North America, Popocateptl, and Ixtacchihuatl. La Malinche and Nevado de Toluca are both higher than anything in the continental United States and are great for acclimating. Popocateptl is currently closed to climbing because of volcanic activity, and the roads to Ixta's normal route occasionally is closed because of Popo as well.
All of these peaks are relatively easy to climb, but can be dangerous. The standard routes on the big three are on glaciers, requiring the use of ice ax and crampons, as well as some crevasse rescue knowledge and equipment. Additionally, their altitude alone makes them dangerous. La Malinche is 14,500+, Nevado de Toluca 15,000+, Popo and Ixta 17,000+, and Orizaba is 18,400. High Altitude Pulmonary Edema(HAPE) and Cerebral Edema(HACE) are both caused by altitude, and are deadly. I saw someone evaculated for HAPE on Ixta, and someone was killed in a fall on Orizaba a few days before I got there.
That warning aside, these mountains are a lot of fun-and central Mexico is a great place. All costs were from March of 1998, and at the time the exchange rate was 7.5 pesos to the dollar. I also highly recommend either knowing Spanish or being with someone who does. Neither Dave nor I speak Spanish, and very few people there speak English-getting into a cab or ordering food was always an adventure. It is certainly possible to get by without if you must, but it would make your trip less frustrating and probably more enjoyable.
Fly into Mexico City and catch the Estrella de Rojas bus to Puebla. The bus is nice, express, and you don't have to deal with going into Mexico City. You can catch the bus right outside of the airport. The cost was 60 pesos.
In Puebla, take a cab to the zocalo area, 30 pesos-though the driver will almost certainly charge you that per person. The Hotel Santander was clean, convenient, and very cheap. 111 5 Poniente, one block from the large cathedral. 64 pesos for a double room with no bath. Puebla is a beautiful city-try to spend a day sight-seeing and shopping for onyx and tipico pottery.
It is a good idea to warm up on La Malinche before you climb Orizaba, especially if you are coming from sea level. We didn't and still did fine on Orizaba, but we were really sick our first few days at Piedra Grande. If you want to climb La Malinche, it would be easiest to rent a car in Puebla. If that is not possible, take a bus to Apizaco and catch a cab. This can be exciting if there aren't any cabs when you wish to return.
Take a bus from Puebla's CAPU station to Tlachichuca. We rode on Acosa, cost was 21 pesos. The ride takes about 2 hours, and is very interesting. People get on and off at every village selling everything you can think of. Turn left out of the bus station and walk about two blocks. Senor Reyes can be found in the building across the street from the gas station. Anybody in town can tell you where it is if you get lost. Senor Reyes is famous all over the world for taking in climbers, and his hospitality was one of the best parts of the climb. The rate for two nights, two meals, white gas, and 4WD transportation to Piedra Grande is $82 American and they take American Express. The Casablanca restaurant is also very good, and we were lucky enough to get fresh fruit at an open air market before we left. If you are climbing during a busy season(like Christmas), it is best to make reservations with the Reyes at least 3 months in advance.
There are other outfitters in Tlachichuca besides the Reyes, but I haven't used them. I also highly recommend buying some fruit at the market in Tlachicuca to eat at Piedra Grande.
Enjoy the dusty ride in the old Power Wagons to Piedra Grande. Some other climbers with us wore bandanas over their mouths-very good idea. Piedra Grande is at 14,000 and is a good place to spend a few days acclimating. Bring some rock shoes if you have them, as there is some good bouldering around the hut. Tents are not necessary aside from during the peak climbing season. Water is available at a spring downhill from the hut. Also bring some nails and a hammer to repair the tin roof if you can. The loose tin shingles made some of the most horrible sounds I have ever heard.
We climbed Orizaba after only two nights at Piedra Grande, but that was cutting it very close. It would have been much better to spend another day hiking. Start climbing around midnight as the weather is much better in the morning than the afternoon, and watching the sunrise from 17,000 is very nice. We returned to Tlachichuca in the afternoon after climbing.
Take a bus back to Puebla, and then to Mexico City. Don't take Estrella de Rojas on the way back unless you are flying back after Orizaba. If you want to climb Ixta, take a bus to the TAPO terminal, and then catch another bus to Amecameca. Los Volcanos was 12 pesos. Keep your eyes peeled, as Amecameca is not the last stop on the bus. It would be best to cache any unnecessary gear in the TAPO lockers, because you have to pack in a little for Ixta. Also, be sure to get water, because unless there is snow cover down low none is available on Ixta. Minivans are waiting to take you up to La Joya. While I was there Popo was closed to climbing due to volcanic activity-inquire with other climbers if it is open. Locals assured us the way was open to Popo, and it wasn't. Hike up to the hut from La Joya. Don't leave any gear laying around La Joya for thieves to enjoy. It is several miles to the hut, so if you arrive late you may want to camp at La Joya.
Nevado de Toluca is a little out of the way, but worth going to for the city of Toluca alone. Take a cab from Mexico City's TAPO to the Terminal Poniente(35 pesos for two people). We took a first class bus to Toluca for 35 pesos, and then a cab from the terminal to the Portales(30 pesos). The Hotel Rex was one block from the Portales, and a double with TV and shower was 90 pesos. Don't miss the interesting candy. The Aztec ruins of Teotenango are just south of the city. They are not as spectacular as some of the sites around Mexico City, but the solitude more than compensates for this.
Nevado de Toluca is very easy-the Mount Evans of Mexico. A road goes all of the way into the crater, and we jogged to the summit while our cab waited. This would be an interesting place to be stranded, so either renting a car or negotiating with your cab driver before your climb is a good idea.
For specific route beta and driving directions, get RJ Secor's wonderful guidebook, Climbing the Mexican Volcanos.
For current conditions and other good info, check out
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