One of the more popular mountain climbing itineraries, aside from Mount Everest, is the Pico de Orizaba in Mexico. It is also referred to as Citlaltepetl (Aztec for Star Mountain) and is the highest mountain in Mexico, rising up to 18,490 feet above sea level. The mountain sits on the border between the states of Veracruz and Puebla. Pico de Orizaba is actually a dormant volcano whose last eruption occurred in 1687. It is considered the 2nd most prominent volcanic peak in the world after Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.
There are many reasons why avid mountaineers love visiting El Pico de Orizaba. First among the reasons is the simple factor of logistics. Because of Orizaba’s popularity, there are many facilities, accommodations, guides and equipment rentals available for people who wish to climb the mountain. For instance, you may choose to arrive and leave from Mexico City simply because of the numerous flight options. If you’re willing to spend more for your trip, you may have your choice of first class accommodations, shopping and dining within the city. The town of Puebla also has its own small airport as well as lodging and facilities for the more adventurous mountaineers.
However, if you want to get acclimated fast into the environment around Pico de Orizaba, you may want to try staying at Tlachichuca, a town which rests on the doorstep of the majestic mountain. The town may not have five star accommodations but they do provide complete facilities with beds, showers and toilets. Not too mention, if you stay in Tlachichuca, you will have a better chance of meeting other climbers and have better luck finding and negotiating with your tour guides. There are buses which can take you between Mexico City and Puebla. You may need to get a ride on a four-wheel drive vehicle, which you can rent if you want to travel by yourself. If you purchased a package deal from a reputable expedition service, more than likely your transportation is included in the service. If you prefer, you can rent horses and donkeys to carry your gear.
The best time to go up the mountain is between November and March when the moisture and ice have abated just enough for less dangerous conditions. There is a base camp called the Piedra Grande Hut that can accommodate the sleeping arrangements of 40-60 people. If you want more privacy, you can pitch your own tents. However, all your basic needs like food, water and fuel, you will need to bring yourself. If you discover that you didn’t bring enough water for the journey, water is abundantly available by melting the snow and ice from the glacier itself. It is advisable to boil the water as a safety precaution.
If you and your team are exceptionally fit, it should take you anywhere from 6 to 10 hours to reach the summit from base camp. The return trip will take approximately half the time it took you to reach summit. It is important that you return to base camp before early afternoon as the afternoon sun will start melting the ice, significantly elevating the risk level of your return trip. When you do reach summit, you will need to take extra precaution when you walk around the crater as there have been incidences of climbers falling into the crater.
As long as you are properly equipped with the necessary gear and you employ an experienced Orizaba mountain guide, you should be able to climb Pico de Orizaba without incident. One last bit of warning: don’t forget your sun block!