Up until 2008, our adventures were retained only as memories and on Kodachromes. While our memories may have faded (just a bit), the Kodachromes haven’t – and we have a lot of them. So we’re digitizing a select few to bring some of our past adventures into the 21st Century. This is one of those.
The winter of 1983 was one of those sweet spots in life that I probably didn’t appreciate as much as I should have at the time. I was young and fit (having been climbing extensively in California’s Sierra Nevada that year) and generally unencumbered by life’s baggage (except for work, which was paying for all this…). After a few ascents of Mount Whitney, some of us were looking to try our lungs at a higher altitude. Because neither funds nor time-off from work were in the offing for Denali or Nepal, we turned our attention to the volcanos in Mexico (dubed the poor person’s Nepal by some). Because these volcanos took (overall) less time to climb, three of us (Ron, Lorraine, and myself) figured we could fit them in around work and other obligations during the peak December climbing season. Still, we only had time for a go at Popocatépetl, at 5,426 meters (17,802 feet) the second highest peak in Mexico, and Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba), Mexico’s highest peak at 5,636 meters (18,491 feet).
In 1983, Popocatépetl hadn’t erupted for almost 40 years and the government’s superb Vincente Guerrero Lodge at Tlamacas was only 5 years old. And Popocatépetl was still one of three tall peaks in Mexico to contain glaciers. We ascended via the El Ventorrillo Route and descended the Las Cruces Route – the altitude didn’t cause any issues other than to make us slow and tired. Then, in 1994, eruptions began, and continue to this day. Ice remains on the volcano, but the glaciers are gone. No one since 1994 has experienced the mountain as we did on that day in 1983.
Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
El Pico de Orizaba on the other hand, is still dormant, still has its glaciers, and continues to attract large numbers of international climbers every year. After summiting Popocatépetl, we spent a night in Puebla, then drove to Tlachichuca, where we arranged with Señor Reyes at La Antigua Flor [now Servimont, but still owned by the Reyes family] to get us to and from the Octavio Alvarez Hut at Piedra Grande (4,270 meters (14,010 feet)). After a near sleepless night in that crowded, noisy, smelly [someone decided to start their day at midnight by frying pork rinds] stone box, we summited the peak via the popular Jamapa Glacier Route – frozen water bottles on the ascent, pretty nice on the descent. That night we slept through whatever the hut threw at us. After Señor Reyes retrieved us the next day, we spent a few days touristing in Mexico City and visiting the Mesoamerican pyramids at Teotihuacan. A sweet, sweet trip.