Ascent of Pico de Orizaba

The ascent of Pico de Orizaba-first time by our own means

 

ImageWhile we were still in Romania, preparing for Mexico and its highest volcano of North America, we had a serious talk about what to do and how to  do.

When I say “we” it means me, Dan Marcu and Alexandra, my14 years old daughter. She is also my trusted partner, a seasoned traveler by now and a climber who’s experience in increasing in a fast pace.

So, together, we decided that after, Dome des Neiges, Pic de la Grave, Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro and Kazbek we should give up paying top dollars to travel agencies and do it by ourselves.

I was proud to see that Alexandra was so eager to do this, while fully understanding that this time we will not have anybody to guide us on the slopes of the mountain, that it will be entirely up to us to find our way up and down the mountain. This decision was a landmark on the course of our lives, a whole new turn in our evolution as human beings, considering that just a year ago we did not have any experience of high mountains and did not even have an ice ax.

So we set up to work, ploughing the internet, asking questions in four languages in order to find the so needed information about the Pico de Orizaba, the Mexican giant.

Things seemed to get clearer once we managed to find our friend Walter from Puebla, Mexico. Walter was a friend of us that we met in Canada and whose wife had also worked for our company over there.Image

He had gone back to Mexico while we returned to Romania. Over the years we  lost contact and we were very happy to get hold of him again. Walter accepted to help us and was to became a keypiece in our adventure.

So, months later, armed with a lot of data, mountain gear and our wife and mother Dana we took off for Mexico.  MEXICO!!!!! 

We landed in the huge terminal of the huge city of Ciudad de Mexico and right after we cleared the customs we set off for Puebla. We took the bus from the terminal, using the company Estrella Roja. How ironical, the Red Star.

I have to tell you a little story about what happened to me while trying to clear the customs. The officer found the first of my two squares of pork fat, that I have taken with me from Romania to help me with the effort on the mountain. He asked me what it was and I said :it is pork. We confiscate-he said to me.

-man, what are you doing? I need this, I go mountain, I need food. He looked at me, clearly trying to help me but not being able to do it because I had offered the wrong answers. So when he found the second square he asked me again- What this?  I looked him in the eye and I said without blinking- it is sushi….Japanese sushi. He swallowed hard and said-OK, you go now.   Well, thank you. This attitude was announcing what I going to find during our trip to Mexico. An eagerness to help, a kindness that we met whenever we went.

We arrived  in Puebla and were taken in charge by a cheerful friend. We were so happy to see Walter again, after all these years. He took us to his house where we met the other people he was sharing his life with.

Two days later, on a beautiful morning, we took off for the mountain.  A very excited team we were.Image

The usual thing done by  climbers when trying to climb Pico de Orizaba is that they go to Tlachichuca, the city located at the base of the mountain and then buy a package from one of the 2 or 3 established service providers. Not only that we did not have that kind of money but we had decided to do things in a different way.So, Walter drove us up the mountain to the last village, Hidalgo. In case you, friends, want to do the same thing, just take one of the many taxis from center. The road is more than acceptable to the village.

Once there we checked in at the little hostel Flor de Hielo, a nice place run by a nice family and also for a fraction of what we would have paid down in the valley. That afternoon we went for a little acclimatization trip and then  came back to sleep. Next morning we took every thing up on our shoulders and off we were.ImageImageFor the ones not willing to do this, Flor de Hielo can provide donkeys or transport  by car. We took only some bottles of water with us because we knew there was a spring next to the refuge. Walter come along with us as he wanted to see the refuge and also to help Dana carry her backpack. At one moment the road spit in two. The main, large road carrying on while a small, narrow ramification went rightward. We though we would be better off by sticking with the large one, not  knowing that its meanders will delay us by 4 hours. So pay attention and take the narrow one that drifts right and you will get at the refuge in about 3 hours of walking.   Finally we made it to the refuge, tired, very tired. Walter was very happy and bid us goodbye after a  while because he had to go back to Puebla. We manage to find some available beds, unpacked and rested for a while.Image

Next day we went for an acclimatization trip, from Piedra Grande to close to the base of the glacier. There terrain was quite difficult to walk on, a lot of scree. One has to follow the well beaten track and also look for the marking that show up now and then.

Once we hit the beginning of the area named the Labyrinth we stopped and pondered the situation.

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view of Mexico from the slopes of Pico de Orizaba

Finally we decided that instead of setting off by 2 o’clock like everybody else, we would rather leave by 4.

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on the acclimatization ascent

The rest of the afternoon was spent in nice conversation with people around, especially a Frenchman that we befriended, Quentin.

Miss Dana also kept trying to keep things under control, her control of course, but it was OK. She was fascinated by everything as this was her first time at this altitude.

3 o’clock in the morning. The alarm goes off and here we are trying to prepare for the day and the adventure that was waiting for us. The adrenaline was pumping already in our veins.

Now we are out in the cold and darkness, kissing miss Dana goodby and we are off. Me and my daughter, in Mexico, on a 5600m high mountain, in the dark. Let’s do it, baby.

Once we passed the Labyrinth we stopped in order to rope up and we began our slow, painful and long march uphill. It is a long way and one has to be very fit and in good shape. Breathing is also difficult as the climate is very dry. I could not understand why we were breathing so painfully till I remembered what I have read about the dry air on Aconcagua and realized it was the same thing here.Image

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on the rim of the crater

The peak.  We made it. We managed to climb the highest volcano of North America. Me and my daughter. All alone.   This was great. So fantastic that I had a hard time trying to swallow it. Thank you, God. Thank you for letting me come here with my family. Thank you for helping me.

 

We stayed there for an hour finally understanding why in every picture I had seen about the peak of  Pico de Orizaba, people looked exhausted, kneeled down and out of breath. I was in the same situation.Image

We took the pictures of Alexandra raising the flag of our city, Deva, on top of the highest mountain of Mexico. We felt so privileged. To be there, and also on a commission of our city, promoting our city and country. Fantastic. I just wished my father could see me. And his grandchild. My child. Bravo Alex.Image

All around us we could see Mexico, beautiful Mexico. A breathtaking view. Even now I wonder sometimes if we really did this. But, yes, we did.

 

After an hour we set back off. This time when we reach again the maze the landscape changed and we had to struggle for a while but the GPS helped and also our experience.

By 5 o’clock in the afternoon we made it back, only to find an hysterical but happy  mother of Alexandra. Apparently she had  her adventures too down there, at the refuge. Image

Somebody told us there we spotted falling down and she sprinted uphill at a speed that left mouth open a bunch of Mexicans from the village that have come there for a walk. Que mujer, aj,aj aje.

ImageI will wrap things up here, thanking the city hall of our city for providing us with the financial meanings for coming here and also for understanding how important these kind of enterprises are for the image and promotion of our country and city.

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