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Peru with Mountain Madness

Success and luxury in the heart of Mexico

Just fin­ished the Oriz­a­ba Express trip and just want­ed you to know it was a great suc­cess. Jaime, Ricar­do and Cato were super! Every­thing went accord­ing to plan and the guides were very accom­mo­dat­ing. It was a great group and every­one got along well. This is the sec­ond Moun­tain Mad­ness climb I have been on and I am impressed with qual­i­ty of peo­ple you work with. Friend­ly, ser­vice ori­ent­ed guides with great skill and expe­ri­ence. I look for­ward to my next Moun­tain Mad­ness expe­ri­ence.”

Doug Peers, BC Canada

Moun­tain Mad­ness just wrapped up its sec­ond trip to Mex­i­co for 2014 with its Oriz­a­ba Express” trip, a fast track to the top of North Amer­i­ca’s 3rd high­est peak at 5700 meters or 18,700 feet. The week-long trip began with a night in Mex­i­co City (7,384 ft / 2250 m) and con­tin­ued with a vis­it to Teoti­hua­can, one of the most archi­tec­tural­ly sig­nif­i­cant Mesoamer­i­can sites in the Amer­i­c­as. Teoti­hua­can was des­ig­nat­ed as a UNESCO World Her­itage Site in 1987 and is the loca­tion of the 3rd high­est pyra­mid in the world. Par­tic­i­pants were able to get their hearts pump­ing dur­ing this vis­it by scal­ing the 248 steps of the Pyra­mid of the Sun and the100+ steps of the Pyra­mid of the Moon. This was the per­fect way to start the acclima­ti­za­tion process, as Teoti­hua­can sits at an ele­va­tion of 2300 meters or 7,500 feet. 

Pyra­mid of the Sun. Jaime Pol­litte photo

Pyra­mid of the Moon. Jaime Pol­litte photo

After the vis­it to the ruins, the group feast­ed on a tra­di­tion­al Mex­i­can lunch with local del­i­ca­cies like grilled meat served in a moca­jete and mole de pavo. Take a look a Lou H., tak­ing down the Turkey leg like a cham­pi­on! Lou, a past pro­fes­sor in Latin Amer­i­can Stud­ies turned out to be a mole fanat­ic and had sev­er­al spe­cial orders of the tra­di­tion­al Mex­i­can sauce through­out the trip!

Lou enjoy­ing mole de pavo. Jaime Pol­litte photo

With full bel­lies we head to our accom­mo­da­tion at the base of the La Mal­inche which stands at an ele­va­tion of 4461 metere or 14,636 feet. We start­ed our hike up La Mal­inche at 4 am the next morn­ing with a plan to set a slow acclima­ti­za­tion pace to the sum­mit. It is very impor­tant in the first few days to allow the body to adjust with­out putting out too much exer­tion. We reached the sum­mit in about 5 hours with beau­ti­ful views of a smok­ing Popocatépetl (5426m / 17,802ft), Iztac­ci­hu­atl (5230m / 17,160ft), and a snow cov­ered Oriz­a­ba (5700m / 18,700ft). This was old hat for Col­orado res­i­dent Robert L., who has climbed all of the Col­orado 14ers and has repeat­ed 41of them. Anoth­er 14er to add to the list of many!

On the approach on La Mal­inche. Jaime Pol­litte photo

Final steps to the sum­mit of La Mal­inche. Jaime Pol­litte photo

Our 8 hour day was reward­ed with a relax­ing after­noon at the His­toric Hacien­da San­ta Bar­bara (Moun­tain Mad­ness exclu­sive). This his­toric hacien­da is a throw back to a dif­fer­ent time yet sup­plies first class accom­mo­da­tion, home­made local food, and a spec­tac­u­lar view of your pre­vi­ous climb of La Mal­inche! This place is tru­ely a gem and posed a pleas­ant sur­prise to all the par­tic­i­pants in the group as they caught up on sleep and dined on some home­made favorites!

Sin­gle and dou­ble occu­pan­cy avail­able at Hacien­da San­ta Bar­bara. Jaime Pol­litte photo

The climbers raved about the deli­cious meals made from this kitchen. Jaime Pol­litte photo

The next morn­ing we were off to our final objec­tive, Pico de Oriz­a­ba! Access to the hut Piedra Grande (4270 meters or 14,010 feet) is from Tlachichu­ca, which is about 1 hour 15 min­utes by 4×4. Unfor­tu­nate­ly we would be depart­ing minus one mem­ber of the group, Mar­ty R., who was suf­fer­ing from a stom­ach ill­ness. The trucks were then loaded with all the equip­ment and food in prepa­ra­tion for 2 nights up at the hut. All eyes were on the sum­mit attempt now and with one final acclima­ti­za­tion hike ahead, the group was cross­ing their fin­gers for the weath­er to hold. 

Pack­ing up to head to Piedra Grande. Jaime Pol­litte photo

The next day was spent with a short hike up to just above 15,000 ft, below the noto­ri­ous sec­tion of the route know as the Labyrinth”. Once back at the hut, final prepa­ra­tions were made for the next morn­ings’ alpine start” at 2 am. At this point we strate­gized the rope teams and Lou decid­ed that he would set his sites on a low­er ele­va­tion side sum­mit the fol­low­ing day instead of gong for the Oriz­a­ba. This left Dave G., Doug P., and Bob L. on the sum­mit team. Doug and Dave, aka Team Cana­da”, would be on the first rope team, while Ricar­do and Bob would join me on the sec­ond rope team. Alarms were then set and an unusu­al­ly qui­et night in the hut fol­lowed before the ear­ly morn­ing took rise.

A view of the sum­mit of Oriz­a­ba from the hut. Jaime Pol­litte photo

In the morn­ing the weath­er looked sta­ble, yet windy and cold! Bob and I depart­ed at 2:30 and Team Cana­da depart­ed at 2:45. The wind con­tin­ued to increase as we ascend­ed and by the time we reached the Labyrinth” we were expe­ri­enc­ing heavy winds, cold wind chills and some blow­ing rime ice. We nav­i­gat­ed to the base of the glac­i­er and at this point the sun had come up but we were still sit­ting in the ping pong ball,” so to speak, with no vis­i­bil­i­ty. At this point Bob decid­ed that his suc­cess for the climb would be his record alti­tude at 16,615 feet and we decid­ed return to the hut. Team Cana­da” con­tin­ued to the sum­mit in less then ide­al con­di­tions and were reward­ed by reach­ing the top at about 10:15 am!

Team Cana­da” at the sum­mit! Ricar­do Lugo photo

Suc­cess on the moun­tain is often reflect­ed on mak­ing the sum­mit but suc­cess on this trip real­ly came down to the team and per­son­al suc­cess­es. It was a great plea­sure for me to work with this group, not only on the moun­tain but also in the day to day trav­el. The Mex­i­can Vol­canos in many ways are the gate­way to high alti­tude climb­ing. It com­bines all of the great things about an expe­di­tion, rich cul­ture, new expe­ri­ences, and of course a beau­ti­ful and chal­leng­ing mountain. 

On behalf of the guides, Ricar­do, Cato, and myself (Jaime Pol­litte), we hope to see you down there to expe­ri­ence it first hand!

~ NW Pro­gram Direc­tor and Guide Jaime Pollitte