PART 4: El Pico de Orizaba summit/snowboard descent. 10/29/20009-10/30/2009
-members of group: Craig Burger, Amanda Emerson-Burger, and Zach Taylor
ascent and descent route:Jamapa Glacier-crater rim-summit
El Pico de Orizaba summit 18,405'
photo-El Pico de Orizaba at sunset. photo by Amanda Emerson, 2009
El Pico de Orizaba is the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest mountain in North America. Only Mt. Logan in the Yukon and Denali in Alaska are higher on this continent. El Pico de Orizaba's Aztec name is Citlaltepetl which means, "The Star Mountain." The name comes from the Aztec legend that Quetzalcoatl(the Plumed Serpent Aztec god of learning and priesthood) was consumed by divine fire in the crater of El Pico de Orizaba. Quetzalcoatl then took human form and sailed across the ocean, saying that he would return to the land of the Aztecs in the future. Orizaba is very much a singular mountain. Coming from Colorado we are used to large mountain ranges with many peaks all very close in size. Orizaba stands alone, the area reminded me of a less snowy pacific northwest. Orizaba dwarfs every mountain around it, much like Rainier does in Washington. Orizaba is surrounded by many other smaller mountains. The highest of these only rise to about 14,000'. Orizaba at 18,405' towers over the area for a very long distance
I excitedly told them about the previous day's events and how I was determined to return. It did not take much convincing. I showered, we sorted gear, and were knocking on Paco's door an hour later. Gingos Locos! We loaded up his vehicle and took the hour plus drive back up to Piedra Grande at 13,900'.
We arrived in the afternoon and sorted our gear readying for another 1:30am start time. Another jeep driver was waiting for his two clients to return. They were quite overdue by the evening. The Mexican and Spanish climber were supposed to be back by early afternoon.
There was some unrest and talk of our summit attempt in the morning being cut short by a rescue attempt for these other climbers that might have been stranded on the mountain with edema or injury. Fortunately they arrived, exhausted but physically ok at the hut about 1:30 am, 8+ hours late, just when we were getting ready to head out.
photo- Zach Taylor in the Labyrinth before sunrise on summit day. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
Day 7: 10/30/2009- I had spent four nights and this would be my fifth day at Orizaba. While it was a beautiful day, Piedra Grande gets old after you spend that much time up there. Our alarm went off at 1:30 am. We got up and started brewing hot water for hot cocoa on the mountain. I ate a granola bar and took an energy vitimin supplement.
Everyone was feeling good and we started hiking a bit after 2:00am. We hiked back up the steep scree slog to Campamiento Alto where we swapped hiking boots for snowboard/ski boots and got out our axes.
We began climbing up through the Labyrinth in the dark. I led the way having done the climb two days previously. About halfway through the Labyrinth we strapped on our crampons as the chute we were in got a bit steeper and icier. We climbed the crux through a steep icy section that was about ten feet high. If you wanted to you could call this little move a "one move wonder" AI4. It was not really technical since there was little fall potential just beneath it. I swung my leg up to near chest
photo- Amanda Emerson(left) and Craig Burger(right) climbing through the Labyrinth in the early morning dark. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009
height, kicked my crampon points into the hard ice and pivoted up and over the icy, rocky, crux with my mountain axe.
We climbed on and emerged out of the Labyrinth just as the sun was begining to rise. The glacier climbed up to the summit above us. We stopped here to take a break and watch the sunrise. I ate a gu and drank a shot of hot chocolate out of Craig's thermos. We could see a guided group of six climbers from Colorado above us along with two Australians we had met the night
photo-The sunrise from the top of the Labyrinth. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
both photos- Amanda Emerson(left) and Zach Taylor( right) just above the Labyrinth, at the base of the Jamapa Glacier at sunrise. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
before, all about a third of the way up the glacier. Everyone stopped for the sunrise. A couple passed us here and began to climb up the glacier just ahead of us. We would climb close to them most of the day. The guy was from Spain and the girl from Mexico City.
We put on our heavy layers and prepared for the snow climb ahead. Craig talked to Amanda a bit about pressure breathing and we started our ascent. It was a beautiful early morning with very little cloud cover and much sunshine.
photo-A view of the Jamapa Glacier on El Pico de Orizaba at sunrise. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo- Zach Taylor climbing the Jamapa Glacier. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo-Zach Taylor on the Jamapa Glacier. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo- Amanda Emerson on the Jamapa Glacier. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
We climbed slowly up the glacier. It was a beautiful snow climb with good snow for cramponing and self arrest. We encountered no crevasses as we ascended the glacier. As we got a bit past halfway up the glacier the two Australians passed us on their descent. I said congratulations and they continued down past us. After climbing a bit more the guided group started descending from above us.
We climbed out from underneath them. Roped groups of inexperienced climbers above me always makes me a bit nervous. We shouted congratulations to them from a safe distance and continued up the glacier. We continued on above my previous day's high mark of 18,036'. Eventually it looked like the glacier was ending and might roll over to the crater rim. It still took longer than I thought but first a couple rocks and finally the crater rim came into view.
I was surprised again by how much better I felt than two days before. Acclimitization makes a big difference! I was still moving pretty slow at this point. We slowly climbed up and summited the crater rim.
I looked down into the crater of this massive, dormant(for now) volcano. This was quite impressive. Vertical rocks walls on almost all sides of the rim drop directly thousands of feet into the bottom of this deep volcanic crater. Amanda announced that she was happy with summiting the crater rim and would wait there for us to return from the top.
photo- Zach Taylor climbing the Jamapa Glacier. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo- Craig Burger at the summit of El Pico de Orizaba at about 18,405'. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009
photo- A look down into the deep crater of El Pico de Orizaba from its rim at about 18,150'. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo-Craig "relieving" himself into the crater of the volcano. photo by Amanda Emerson, 2009
photo- Zach Taylor summiting the crater rim of El Pico de Orizaba. The crater rim climbs to the highest summit behind and to the left of this frame. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo- Amanda Emerson, nearing the crater rim of the volcano. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
The summit climbed several hundred feet above us along the crater rim. Although the air was thin and we were a bit tired this crater rim walk was easy and relatively low angled compared to the glacier we had just climbed.
Clouds had begun to build beneath us but weather seemed to be holding. Finally Craig and I summited about 10:15 am. Blue skies above us, clouds swirling below, it was quite a sight. There was a pile of old metal crosses on the summit to mark the highest point in Mexico.
We hung out on the summit enjoying the view and taking pictures for a few minutes. I drank a bit of water and we both readied for our summit descent.
While the crater rim was easy to walk up it is a bit more complicated to descend. If you fall to the right at any point you automatically fall thousands of feet into the crater. It was definitely no mistakes snowboarding.
photo- Zach Taylor walking the crater rim of El Pico de Orizaba. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo- Craig Burger near the summit of Orizaba. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009
photo- Zach Taylor on the summit of El Pico de Orizaba. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo- Zach Taylor posing for the camera at the summit of El Pico de Orizaba, photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo- Zach Taylor getting ready to drop in of Orizaba's summit. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
I dropped in first descending along the rim back to where Amanda was waiting for us. Craig followed behind. Here are some more shots from the crater descent:
photo- Zach Taylor descending off the summit of El Pico de Orizaba. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo-Zach Taylor descending the crater rim. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo-Zach Taylor snowboarding on the crater rim(left) with Craig Burger looking on (right) . photo by Amanda Emerson, 2009
We returned to Amanda at the crater rim and dropped in descending the glacier. It was fairly hardpacked up high but still soft enough to lay an edge into and enjoy. As we got lower down the glacier it turned to powder. There was one point where I watched Amanda catch an edge and start sliding headfirst down hill. I was worried she would go for a ways but she reacted quickly swinging her legs back under her and digging her edges in arresting her fall. It was an impressive recovery. Enjoy our glacier riding pictures!:
photo- Craig Burger descending the Jamapa Glacier. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009
both photos-Zach Taylor descending the Jamapa Glacier. photos by Craig Burger, 2009
photo- Amanda Emerson descending the Jamapa Glacier. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo-Zach Taylor snowboarding down the Jamapa Glacier. Amanda Emerson pictured in background. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
The descent down Orizaba was classic. Overall one of the best mountain climbs and snowboard descents of my life so far. We rested at the base of the glacier for a few minutes and then began the downclimb back through the Labyrinth. We climbed slowly and carefully down and eventually made it back to Campamiento Alto.
It was a great feeling pulling off the snowboard boots and putting normal hiking boots on for the last of our descent back to Piedra Grande.
photo- Amanda Emerson sking Orizaba. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo- Amanda resting at the base of the glacier after her descent. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo- Zach Taylor preparing for the downclimb through the Labyrinth. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo-Zach Taylor downclimbing the "One Move Wonder" AI3 move in the Labyrinth. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo- Amanda Emerson downclimbing the "One Move Wonder" AI3 move in the Labyrinth. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
We hiked slowly back down the steep scree that led us back to Piedra Grande where Paco Cabo(our driver) was waiting with tequilla and beer!
photo- Partying at 13,900'. from left to right:Paco Cabo, Craig Burger, and Amanda Emerson, photo by Zach Taylor, 2009
photo-back at Piedra Grande, our Spanish friend taking a celebratory shot of Tequila. Zach Taylor on right. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo- More Piedra Grande celebration. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
Paco drove us back down to Tlachichuca where he invited us to dinner at his home. We had a delicious meal of chicken mole, fried chicken, beans, rice, etc... I would definitely recomend Paco Cabo to others looking for transportation to Orizaba. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org . Paco had reasonable rates for transportation, he readily let us borrow his stove, and invited us to his home two nights for a free authentic Mexican dinner cooked by his family.
photo- Paco in the driver's seat of his vehicle on the way down. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo-from left to right: Zach Taylor(background), Amanda Emerson, and Craig Burger on the drive down to Tlachichuca from Piedra Grande. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
I am interested to hear a bit more about the ski and snowboard history of El Pico de Orizaba. It is possible that Amanda accomplished the first female, tele-ski descent of Orizaba. I am fairly sure that at the least she was the first deaf woman to tele-ski down Orizaba. Craig must have also been the first gringo to tele ski down Orizaba in shorts. Hehe.
I am also curious as to who if any have snowboarded down Orizaba. I would guess that it has been done by someone before but I have been unable to find any info on someone else snowboarding Orizaba. It seems that I am the only one to have put up a trip report about it anwhere on the internet. Paco Cabo said that he had never seen a snowboard on Orizaba before mine.
If anyone has any more info on the ski/snowboard history of Orizaba please e-mail me at email@example.com . I would like to know for myself and I would like to post any other descents here so that that information is out there for others. Thanks!
After having dinner with Paco we said our good byes and drove to Puebla to find a hotel room for the night. This sounds very simple, it was not. We drove around for several hours trying to find a hotel room. When we did we found a hotel that charged by the hour! It was quite sleazy so we continued on to find another hotel. Again it was another love shack that charged by the hour. Eventually we found a normal hotel for the night. We had been up since 1:30am and were finally in bed about midnight or one. It was a long day.
Day 8: 10/31/2009- We woke up at our hotel room. I family friend of Amanda's that lived in Mexico City offered for us to stay with her since we did not have flights out till the next day. We took her up on the offer. She is a school teacher in Mexico City and we stayed in her downtown condo for the night which was quite nice.
We all went out to a dinner and wondered around the city a bit exploring. I had a long awaited bacon chili cheeseburger that was awesome at a restaurant in the city. We had a fun night out on the town in Mexico City!
photo-Amanda Emerson(left) and Rocio(right) at Rocio's condo in Mexico City. photo by Craig Burger, 2009
photo- Craig enjoying some wine at a restaurant in Mexico City. photo by Amanda Emerson, 2009
photo-Zach Taylor enjoying his chili bacon cheeseburger at a restaurant in Mexico City. photo by Amanda Emerson, 2009
Final Day, Day 9: 11/1/2009- We took a taxi from Rocio's place to Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City where Craig and Amanda boarded a flight back to Colorado. I boarded a flight to Puerta Vallarta to meet my girlfriend, Summer who was flying from Denver to Puerta Vallarta the same day. Summer and I spent the next week, eating, surfing, ocean kayaking, and snorkeling in Puerta Vallarta and Sayulita before returning to the states on November 7th. If you go to Orizaba I highly recomend another couple days spent on the beach in Mexico afterwards. Its great getting a bit of both the mountains and the beach while you are down there!
photo-Zach Taylor and Summer Roach swimming in the ocean by Sayulita, Mexico, photo by Summer Roach, 2009
photo-A look at the beautiful Sayulita beach. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009
photo-Summer Roach and Zach Taylor having fun at a beachside restaurant in Sayulita. photo by "our server", 2009
Day 6: 10/29/2009- We woke up about 7:00 am. Jeff and Paul were eager to get going and I was eager to find Craig and Amanda in Tlachichuca to see if I could talk them into coming back up to Piedra Grande for another go. We hopped in Jeff's SUV loaded with gear and drove the 4 wheel drive road down to Tlachichuca. Craig had left me a note that him and Amanda were staying at the Conchola house in Tlachichuca so we found them there. Jeff and Paul said their good byes and took off to find Jeff's fiance that was somewhere else in the country. Craig and Amanda had been invited to Paco Cabo's house(our 4 wheel driver) for dinner the night before. They were cooked a dinner of chicken fried chicken. Then they checked in at the Conchola house, showered, rested, and waited for me in the morning.