Leaders: Leon Tokatlian, Luis Pena
Team members: Amy Binette, Norm Michaels, Bette Robo, Pete Crane, Darcy Hodgoob and Paul Stinson.
This was Summit Sensations Third visit to the highest peak in Mexico.
Day 1: After a joyful flight we met Pete in Mexico City at the international airport terminal, we loaded our large rental van with 16 bags and drove to Puebla 60 miles away to spend the night at 7090” to begin our acclimatizing, settled in our luxury hotel dined at a local restaurant and walked around the plaza couple blocks and retired to recover from our long trip.
Day 2: After breakfast reloaded the vans and drove to La Malinche National Park, on the way out of the city we stopped at a large super market to replenish our supplies, half way to La Malinche our fully loaded van hit a bump and heard a loud noise we stopped to find out we had lost our spare tire broken loose from it’s anchor, we had no choice but to put the dirty spare tire inside the van already packed like Sardines. We arrived at La Malinche N. P. 10,000” in the afternoon unlike previous trips we had two separate cabins this time with full kitchen and hot showers sleeping 4 in each cabin, After settling our packs we hiked to 11,000” to continue our acclimatizing process, we returned to the cabin had home made dinner in front of a cozy fireplace and retired.
Day 3: After early morning breakfast we started our climb for the summit of La Malinche we reached the summit 14,640 at 1:00 PM from the summit we could see in the distance Pico De Orizaba covered with it’s White glaciers, we spent 20 minutes on the summit enjoying the magnificent views and taking pictures. We returned to our cabins cleaned up and drove to a near by historical village “Humantla” for dinner at a local restaurant, in the restaurant we spend at least half hour selecting and explaining the menu to Four waiters despite having a master translator with us (the chances are without Luis we would not had the energy to climb the big mountain) we returned to the cabins and spend the second night at high altitude. Had to mention the drive from La Malinche N. P. to the village of Humantla is a challenge by itself to avoid endless pot holes deep enough to blow a tire at the same time to avoid donkeys roaming on the roads it’s an experience never to forget.
Day 4: Before noon we loaded the van and drove to Tlachichuca the nearest town to the mountain, as we entered the town we noticed the mountain had unusual amount of snow unlike our previous trips, as we checked at hotel Gerard to our disappointment we were told because of snow the road was impassable to Piedra Grande, we were shocked and puzzled started thinking of alternatives to climb Itza instead the second highest mountain in Mexico where the snow conditions were favorable, after a short consultation among us since we had plenty of daylight we decided to drive and check the road conditions to put our minds at ease we drove to Hidalgo (highest village in north America 11,000”) and hire our gear guard for base camp, we walked around the super dusty streets of Hidalgo to locate our guard “Julio” we found him after inhaling tons of dust, we returned to our hotel consulted with Gerard and Roberto ( our local guide) regarding the road conditions after which we decided to take a chance and drive to base camp next day, therefore we organized gear for next days departure to base camp.
Day 5: Near noon we loaded 2 trucks with our gears and drove to Piedra Grande (base camp of Orizaba 14,000”) the drive after Hidalgo was very muddy the snow had receded leaving nothing but thick mud on several spots we nearly sunk in the mud with our 4 Wheel drive trucks but managed to free, after 3 hours of suspense we arrived at Piedra Grande hut to discover there were only half dozen people staying at the hut which made our stay very comfortable, after settling down we had dinner and enjoyed the surrounding scenery outside the hut, some were feeling the altitude with minor headaches but not for long.
Day 6: After breakfast we hiked to acclimatize further, we climbed to 15,800” and returned to base camp to greet our local guide Xavier, we relaxed and enjoyed our dinner and slept very well that night no one having any altitude related problems.
Day 7: Today was a rest day and to prepare for our summit attempt next morning, we discussed and finalized our summit plans we practiced rope travel and knots, checked all gear including crampons, ice ax etc. During late afternoon we assisted 2 brothers that were camping near by one suffering from Pulmonary edema with only cure is to go down immediately, Paul volunteered to take the sick person down the road to lower elevation, fortunately on there way down they were met by a Mexican Mountain Guide calling for assistance with his radio. That night we went to bed around 6:00 PM.
Day 8: On January 11 at midnight we woke up to get ready, we started our summit climb from base camp at 01:00 AM it was cold and windy, Luis set the pace to keep the group together, at 16,000” we encountered nothing but snow and ice the Gullies that were dry on previous years was completely snow covered and icy, we cautiously climbed 45 degree ice fields with crampons at times on belay until we were at the edge of Jamapa glacier at Sunrise. At this point the glacier had a comfortable incline and soft surface therefore not having crevasse concerns we decided not to rope up but continued as a group at a slow pace, passed 17,700” we were climbing 45 degree slopes on very hard ice, we reached the south summit (edge of the crater 18,500”) at 11:00 AM where we regrouped rested and proceeded to the true summit 300 yards away, it was clear and sunny with visibility over 80 miles we stayed on the summit 15 minutes to enjoy the distant scenery take pictures and start our steep descend. We were down from the mountain and back to base camp by 3:30 PM exhausted after 16 hours on the mountain, we return to Tlachichuca cleaned up and celebrated the rest of the night.
Day 9: After a relaxing breakfast at Casa Blanca restaurant we packed and drove to Mexico City to play tourist for couple days, we stayed in a 4 star hotel in Zona Rosa had dinner in a authentic Mexican restaurant and retired in luxury.
Day 10: We rented a van to drive us 25 miles away to the pyramids of Theohuacan, we spent half a day visiting World famous ruins where near the end of the day Norm was interviewed by local media as a famous Gringo.. Celebrated our last night in Mexico City at an Italian restaurant.
Day 11: Returned back home This was our most successful trip ever outside the country, we had wonderful time from day one till the end, our acclimatizing process was so successful no one ever got sick at any time.