Two Volcanos in Mexico (December 1983)

Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)

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).


Popocatépetl

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.

Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Vincente Guerrero Lodge (3,950 meters)
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Popocatépetl’s El Glaciar Norte looms over the Vincente Guerrero Lodge
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Scree, scree, and more scree enroute to the Queretano Hut (4,460 meters)
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Queretano Hut (arrow) and El Glaciar Norte
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Iztaccíhuatl (3rd highest peak in Mexico) from the Queretano Hut
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
El Glaciar Norte from the Teopixcalco Hut (4,930 meters)
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
On El Ventorrillo above the the Queretano (1) and Teopixcalco (2) Huts
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
El Glaciar Norte (gone now)
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Ascending El Glaciar Norte
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Summit Hut
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Descending the Las Cruces Route

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.

Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba) from the road to Tlachichuca
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
La Antigua Flor in Tlachichuca
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
The Octavio Alvarez Hut at Piedra Grande
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Climbing the ice field at about 4,500 meters at first light
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Climbing on the Glaciar de Jamapa
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Higher on the Glaciar de Jamapa
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Ascending along the crater rim at about 5,600 meters
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Summit (too oxygen deprived to work the camera properly or find the Mexican flag we’d brought)
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Descending the Glaciar de Jamapa
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Clouds swirl over the glacier
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Waddling down the Glaciar de Jamapa
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Thanking Señor Reyes for his help with our successful summit bid
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
Ron was not allowed to count the great pyramid at Teotihuacan as another “summit”
Mexican Volcanos Popocatépetl Citlaltépetl (El Pico de Orizaba)
The chaise lounge is, in fact, an indispensable piece of climbing equipment…

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2 thoughts on “Two Volcanos in Mexico (December 1983)

  1. Enjoyed your “stab from the past” trip report. Will you be doing more of these?

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    1. Thanks! Probably a half dozen or so of the more unique trips from days past (including 1994 Colorado River). I found a U.S. slide scanning service that does acceptable work at a reasonable price. Better than buying and fooling with a slide scanner.

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