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Exceeding Expectations on Orizaba Express

On Decem­ber 6th, I arrived in Mex­i­co City for my first high alti­tude expe­di­tion. The Oriz­a­ba Express trip was cho­sen to see how I can han­dle alti­tudes high­er than what is offered in the low­er 48 states. Since I’d be going to Mex­i­co and explor­ing alti­tudes that were for­eign to me, I need­ed to feel com­fort­able. For­tu­nate­ly, I did from the very beginning. 

Sun­rise after the 3 am start for the sum­mit. All pho­tos: Josh Collman

My expec­ta­tion for the adven­ture was to climb two moun­tains, stay at a few places, and hope­ful­ly feel reward­ed for achiev­ing my goal of sum­mit­ing Pico de Oriz­a­ba, the third high­est peak in North Amer­i­ca at 18,404 feet. My expec­ta­tion was exceed­ed! We had time to expe­ri­ence Mex­i­can cul­ture, fan­tas­tic cui­sine, and enhance our moun­taineer­ing skills while our bod­ies were accli­mat­ing to alti­tude. We explored Aztec pyra­mids, stayed at a Hacien­da built in the 1800s, and vis­it­ed small vil­lages. We became famil­iar with Mex­i­co through the local peo­ple. It was a climb­ing adven­ture and an expe­ri­ence of a life time. 

Roped glac­i­er trav­el en route to the summit.

Moun­tain Mad­ness pro­vid­ed an all-star climb­ing guide, Ricar­do Lugo. As a native of Mex­i­co, he has years of expe­ri­ence on Pico de Oriz­a­ba and oth­er high peaks. He showed us prop­er high alti­tude tech­nique while remain­ing patient and detailed. He made sure we were relaxed, hydrat­ed, and fed. In addi­tion, he was fun to be around. He didn’t miss a beat and I hope to climb with him and Moun­tain Mad­ness again soon. 

Sum­mit success!

P.S. — I miss the food already!

~MM Climber Josh Collman