Pico De Orzaba (18,491ft) Mexico
Evan Haines and I were dedicated to make turns down the third highest peak in North America.
Starting the day in Zulipan, Mexico at the Orzaba Mountain Guides property and got a quality local breakfast in. Clear skies and warm temps at 9,880’ ready to get on the mountain. Lucky enough get our first glimpse of the infamous mountain, as clouds barreled past. We strategically loaded our packs and loaded up in the 25 year old Waggoner. After 1.5 hour drive we made it to our basecamp at 13,760ft. We set up our 4 season tent in moderate winds then a quick snack and a bit of water before packing our packs for the first acclimatize hike. We were carrying our hardwoods up 1,500’ for a gear cache. We planned turnaround for 30 before sunset to pack it into some rocks and start heading down. Feeling the altitude was very real within the first 20 min, some steep slope around 30degrees and short switchback compounded the heavy packs. Winds continued to build to 30 mph sustained and gusts of 50mph. We covered 1,540 ft in just over in an hour. Far faster than expected. After getting blasted by the winds we slid our gear in between a few large boulders just before the Labyrinth section of the ascent.
After a hasty unload we were on our way back down to base camp and caught an epic shadow sunset along the way down.
Fancy footwork and strong attention to traction was a must. We made it to the hut for a quick talk with local guides and were off to our tent for dinner and a relaxing 8 hours before our summit attempt the following day.
We woke up to another stellar day at 6 am with not a cloud in the sky. We put down some high octane calories and then grabbed our gear and headed upwards. Nights lows got around high 30’s and made for a stable and suitable trail before actually hitting the glacier 1,500 ft from base camp. We made it to our cache in the same amount of time it took us one day earlier but was great to have light packs for the first hour and a half. We loaded up the rest of our gear and started our way through the labyrinth pitch to the bottom of the glacier. It was a winding snowfilled ascent with little question of where to go with all of the careens and spray painted arrows. Made it to the base of the glacier with light winds and swapped from crampons to skins. Navigating our way around the terminus of the glacier we found a desirable pitch. We worked our way along wind drift and stratuggie until 16,500ft then swapped back to crampons for the sections of blue ice and wind effected snow areas that were inevitable to cross. Feeling the altitude Evan and I both started taking short breaks every few minutes to help calm our heart rates and keep perfusion at a maximum. Winding our way we made it to the final bench which lead along the volcanic rim up to the Summit. It was so beautiful and expansive over the inversion I couldn’t believe my eyes. We enjoyed views from the Summit for 5 and made our decision to start making turns. The snow was wind effected but very predictable and made for a full length ski. Working our way to the gully which isn’t topically skied we jumped in and made further turns all the way to 15,400!! This set us down nearly at our gear cache from earlier that morning. We were juiced and couldn’t believe we got to experience conditions nearly that good. Unreal and amazing experience!!
We called in for a shuttle to get us back into town and spent the day relaxing after experiencing the day break by hiking over the the East side and catching the sunrise. Unreal views and got to watch our Canadian friends hike their way up to the summit just as the sun start to hit the peak. Impeccable timing to say the least.. We celebrated back in town with some 40oz Carona’s and local eats.
We shot into Mexico City to explore the sights and the ruins of the Aztec ancestors.