The road head for Iztaccihuatl is very high although I did not get a reading it is about three hours walk to the hut which is at just unde 16000 ft. After arriving at the end of the road we got our gear together and after a short break we began to walk to the hut. So in only two days I am already up way too high and I could feel the lack of energy in my legs. It was slow going until we got to a gravelly slope and I knew I would not be able to make it. I was suffering from a very bad cold and had a rib injury which did not allow me to breath properly and I knew I would not make it to Base camp. Chris went on and our Russian born guide Luba took me down. When we got to the road head again around 8pm I was feeling very sick she would go ahead and get the vehicle which was parked further down with the drivers. Supposedly the radios or phones were not working. I set myself up in one of the covered shelters you see in the pictures and proceeded to become violently sick. As this is the first time I had felt the full effects of altitude part of me was happy to discover what it feels like the other part just wanted to sleep but every time I tried to lay down I would feel nauseated again. After two hours the car arrived and we headed down to the town Amecameca and only then did the pounding in my head stop. It was 2 am when I laid my head down to sleep in the hotel room so there was a few little glitches on route like a park gate which was locked and the guards had gone for a "break" so our drivers attempted to break it open while I lay comatose in the truck. Eventually the guards did show up to release us and we were on our way.
Amecameca is a nice town with a big central square and market which I was able to explore since I had a summit day off. If it wasn't for all the trash which is left around the streets and fields it would remind me of any small town in Italy. I tried some interesting dishes but I would urge some caution when buying certain food. Chris ended up making it to the Base Camp but also succumbed to altitude sickness and returned back to town. An extra day somewhere on the mountain or even in Mexico City may have helped. I knew it was too much altitude in too little time. Lesson learned is descending is the best remedy.
Climbing Orizaba, (Citlateptl) at 5700 meters or 18700 ft. was a great deal less painful. Although no walk in the park with my cold and ribs healing I felt much more energy and we were up and down in 12 hours. We spent a rest day in the town of Tlachichuca which is at 8000 ft. This helped us acclimatize more and get a feel for the town which grows mainly corn and a cactus which is big now in Japan for its rumored medicinal properties. I will have to find the name out. We always ate at this really great family restaurant in town and I think between me and Chris we definitely tried everything on menu. The following day we were driven to Base Camp and again had a little adventure when our truck broke down in the forests on the slopes of Orizaba. After a few hours enjoying the clean air we drove the rest of the way to camp which is a decent stone building at the foot of the path heading up to the summit. I felt good enough and we woke at 2am and set off at 3am. I made an effort to drink enormous amounts of water and eat very little simply because I wanted to prevent more sickness from altitude and didn't have the appetite to eat. I woke up several times during the night but I think all the water I drank made a positive difference. It was fairly warm when we set out so the water never froze and I forced myself to drink each time we stopped. We started on the glacier around day break and took a route more or less straight up and untied. Luba had been replaced with a Mexican guide because she had come down with a cold and when we returned to Mexico City and met up with Luba again I asked her about this type of approach and she said the vertical ascent of the glacier was due to the fact that accidents had happened where individuals crisscross the glacier and cut a piece of it loose so sometimes it is better to go straight up. She also claimed that four Russians had died on the mountain a few years back because they were roped up and one fell taking all of them with him. I could only see this happening if they were climbing far to the right of the normal route because there is a sheer drop off after the glacier ends. There are no large crevasses that I could see and the ice is very good for crampons. It requires a lot of constant awareness of how you step and move.
The peaks slope is about 45 degrees and may hit 50 at the crux so it makes for a good hard workout. Like Chris says its hell going but great to look back on. We made it down for the 31st. and walked into the town square to find our favorite restaurant closed for a private party. Disappointed we passed a few street vendors roasting chickens on a large rotisserie. They looked good enough so we bought one each. they chopped them up put them in a bag and we were off. We jumped into a grocery store and bought some olives and chips and four beers. Half starved I rushed back to the hotel room where we feasted on our very Mexican dinner watching the local TV hit series. A Mexican version of the little rascals played by adults dressed as kids. Supposedly it is really old but still one of the highest rated shows. It's actually quite addictive like a lot of Mexico is. Happy New Years.
Iztaccihuatl is 5286 meters or 17,342 ft. high
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