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Mexican Volcanoes 1990




This climbing expedition was organized by American Alpine Institute, a mountain guiding company based in Bellingham, Washington.


6 January 1990 (Saturday) Flew to Mexico City from Portland, OR, via Dallas, TX. Met three other AAI clients (Tony, John, and Marcia) in Dallas and three more (Bob, Ken, and Matt) in Mexico City. Met our two guides (Tom Dickey and Todd Wells) at the Hotel Metropol in Mexico City.

7 January (Sunday) Met another client (Jim) in the morning. After breakfast we visited the Cathedral Metropolitana and the National Palace. After lunch we rode the Metro to Chapultepec Park and the Museo Nacional de Antropologia.

8 January (Monday) Changed money and walked near the hotel. Very busy day in the city. Several armored vehicles with guards carrying automatic weapons carrying money. Tom and Todd eventually arrived at the hotel with our vans and drove us to Amecameca where we bought food supplies at a market and had dinner. Drove up to Tlamacas Lodge (12959') and settled in.


9 January (Tuesday) Hiked to 14520' after breakfast for acclimatization, a new PR for myself and the other clients. Relaxed in the afternoon while Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl clouded in. Tom and Todd made us a vegetarian spagetti dinner.

10 January (Wednesday) Tom and Todd inspected our personal gear in the morning. We met again in the afternoon to review step-kicking, turning, the use of the ice axe, crampon use, and rope management. Packed for climb.

Popocatepetl Crater

11 January (Thursday) Up at 1:30 AM for breakfast and on the trail (El Ventorrillo route) before 3 AM. One client turns back soon, a second turns back before we reach Tuesday's high point. A third client turns back at the top of the tedious, steep trail above. The rest (2 guides and 5 clients) continue to the first (Queretano) hut where we stay until it gets lighter at 6 AM. We continue to the second hut at a fast pace. Here we rope up for the glacier and slow our pace to a comfortable one. Arrive at the summit about 11:20 AM. Popocatepetl is a big mountain. I keep up my strength by breathing deeply. There is a slight breeze on the summit but the sun is warm. We leave the summit at 12:20 PM and descend along the crater rim to above our descent route (Las Cruces) in heavy sulphur fumes. Our descent is icy to 16000', then is scree to the site of the Las Cruces hut, then is a trail back to the lodge (3 PM).

12 January (Friday) Weather is threatening on Popocatepetl in mid morning and it begins to snow by late morning. Todd drives one client down to Amecameca where he catches a taxi to Mexico City and plans to fly home -- Popocatepetl was harder than he had expected and he feels poorly. Todd barely makes it back to the lodge in the afternoon snowstorm. It snows all afternoon with thunder and lightening. Eventually the lodge looses power. Tom and Todd decide that road conditions ruled out an Iztaccihuatl attempt -- there is a long approach on a rough road. Some clients want to split the party, with some going on to Puebla Sunday AM while others try for Iztaccihuatl. Guides don't like the idea -- splitting up is bad policy.

13 January (Saturday) Up at 7 AM for breakfast. Very foggy and the snow has not melted. Snow thaws in late morning and we quickly pack and leave between busses of new arrivals. The road down the east side of Paso de Cortez is very rough. We stop at a village and Matt obliges some locals who ask for soda drinks. When they ask for money Tom says it is time to leave. We then drive to the Colonial Inn in Puebla through Cholula. I walk downtown around the Zocalo, have dinner at the hotel, then visit downtown again in the evening.

14 January (Sunday) We shop and relax in Puebla, waiting for another client to arrive who never does.

15 January (Monday) Leave for Cholula about 10 AM and visit the "pyramid". Shop downtown and relax again in the hotel in the afternoon. Attend the festival at the Zocalo in the evening.

Orizaba (photo by Mark Prince)
Orizaba from Piedra Grande Hut

16 January (Tuesday) Get up at 7:20 AM. The pollution is very bad in Puebla this morning. Walk around town to shop and take pictures with others. Pack up and drive to Tlachichuca in the afternoon. Pile our bags and climb onto a truck and leave for the Orizaba Hut. The transmission breaks shortly after leaving town, but Juaquien (?) returns home to weld some piece and returns to the truck. We continue on to the Piedra Grande Hut (~14000') in cool darkness on a rough road. At the hut where we settle in and have cold chicken (tasty) for dinner. The hut is dusty and cold but roomy enough.

17 January (Wednesday) I sleep well until about 2 AM, when I begin to have trouble breathing while sleeping. Whenever I am about to drop into sleep my respiration rate decreases to the point that I feel suffocated. I had taken an antihistamine last night and this depressant may be the culprit. My bivy sack and lightweight Marmot bag are adequate for the cold. Get up about 8 AM and have warms drinks and breakfast. The morning is cold until 11 AM. We leave for a hike at noon and climb to a bivy site at about 15200' in 45 minutes. Return to the hut for an early dinner and pack for tomorrow.

Jamapa Glacier on Orizaba
Paul on Orizaba summit

18 January (Thursday) Get up at 1 AM for breakfast, leave the hut about 2:30 AM. One client does not climb. The night is clear and cool with a half moon out. Our route is the Glaciar de Jamapa route. We have a good pace. Two more clients drop out near the bivy site we visited yesterday. We put on crampons soon after reaching the snow field. We rope up in two rope teams higher on the Jamapa Glacier in a cold wind. My fingers are cold in my Chouinard gloves -- they are definitely not warm enough for a McKinley trip. We are above the Sarcophogus when the sun rises. We reach the crater rim about 9 AM where we drop packs and rest. After a rest we continue toward the summit, placing two pickets on the traverse. Arrive at the summit about 10 AM where it is a little breezy but sunny with good visibility. Discover my roll of film is not advancing, so I reset it for summit photos. Leave the summit about 10:40 AM and return to our packs, then plunge-step roped up down the glacier to above the snowfield where we remove our crampons and ropes. Arrive back at the hut about 1:15 AM. Change clothes and catch the truck for a scenic ride back to Tlachichuca. Drive our vans back to Hotel Colonial in Puebla.

19 January (Friday) Drove back to Hotel Metropol in Mexico City, experiencing wild Mexico City traffic on the way. Made reservations with Tony, John, and Marcia to visit the Teotihuacan Pyramids tomorrow. Went shopping and did some laundry. The clients and guides have dinner at the Hotel Majestic overlooking the Zocolo.

Pyramid of the Moon
Pyramid of the Sun

20 January (Saturday) Rode busses to the Church of the Virgin of Guadelupe and then to Teotihuacan. We are lead around the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and then to a gift shop. Finally we are given an hour of free time, during which Tony and I climb the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun. Vendors all over the place -- very distracting. Return to Mexico City and overeat. Matt, Tony, and I have a beer at the top of the Latino Building with a good view of Mexico City.

21 January (Sunday) Tony and I are up at 6:30 and catch a taxi to the airport. I try to get on Tony's flight, but it was full. Try to get on other flights but unsuccessful and eventually take my scheduled flight to Dallas. Customs do not search my bags, only want to know if I have food and how long I was in Mexico. Learn later that Tony's bags were searched (he is a long-haired musician and may have fit some profile). Reflect on the trip during an uncrowded flight home. A Logan or McKinley trip would be a marked contrast to this trip: predominately climbing in an isolated setting, culturally much more familiar, and one major undertaking rather than several short ones. Met at airport by Bob True and Bill Brownlee and return home.


Summitpost (Volcán Popocatépetl)
Summitpost (Volcán Iztaccíhuatl)
Summitpost (Pico de Orizaba)


climbed = Peaks climbed   unclimbed = Unclimbed peaks

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