Peak(s):  Pico De Orizaba~ 18,491ft
Date Posted:  12/26/2019
Date Climbed:   12/07/2019
Author:  jbealer
Additional Members:   MichelleLW
 Pico De Orizaba~ Jampa Glacier   

So climbing Orizaba was not really on my radar this year as i was so focused on finishing the 18-14ers i had left, Lucky for me my friend Michelle was thinking about it and when her plans fell through she sent me a message asking if i would join her. We started making plans in Sept and picked the first weekend of Dec as we knew leaving over thanksgiving was not an option. After asking some friends how they got to the peak and reading some of the great trip reports we contacted Nomada, originally just for shuttle transportation and to have someone at the hut to watch our gear and cook, in the end we did also add on a guide, Pedro. We found the pricing to be fair and worth it. Neither of us speak Spanish and the thoughts of trying to do the buses seem like a disaster.

Now that we were all booked all we had to do was get back to training, oh what is that about early season snow dumps in the mountains all Oct/Nov... we tried to get to a summit every weekend in Nov. We also bought ourselves a pair of double boots so we broke them in on Sniktau the first weekend in Nov. I also learned my boots did not fit great and we needed to do some work on them

what is needed when you have ladies feet in men's boots.

the rest of our training consisted of hitting the gym on the week days and we climbed Bierstadt, CO mines peak and towards Flora (breaking our boots in again) and due to weather spent the day in the lodge at Loveland ski resort on Sat then drove to Alma that night and climbed Quandary the Sun before we left. We also slept on Berthoud Pass Tue night before we flew out Thur morning. All that was left was packing.

We tried to check one bag (sharp things) but we ended up each having a checked back which worked better at the Hut anyways since we needed to put all our gear into something. I have the REI big haul 90 duffel and love how well it works for trips like this. Below is an image of everything i packed.

insulated sleeping mat, 0 degree bag, extra blanket, booties (i sleep so cold) slept in my climbing clothes, la sportive double boots, crampons, harness, ice axe, helmet, poles, OR mitts 0 degree, liners, NF exhibition fleece bottoms, BL LS top, R1, OR trailblazer pants, gaiters, Rab puffy, Columbia 3 in 1 down jacket, darn tough mountaineering socks- knee high, inreach, garmin GPS, 2- 1liter bottles, 2-17oz bottles and a 17oz thermos (carried 2.5liters for climb, wish i had 3), camera, first aid, TP, wet wipes, snacks. a pair of clothes for the hut (short hike) and then clean ones for town when we got back. i ended up putting the sleeping bag and sharp stuff in the duffel, my carry on had my boots and climbing clothes, and my backpack served as my under seat bag with electronics, food and street wear, those boots take up so much room!!!!

Gear packed for the climb and some street wear.

Pedro picked us up at the Mexico City airport and we sat in traffic for what seemed like forever getting out of the city. Once on the highway it was a breeze getting to the Cancholas home where we stayed pre and post climb. Side note, check holidays and religious days in Mexico before you go...We flew in on Dec. 5 and flew back to Denver on Dec. 9th. Just in time for the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe celebrations. We spent the first night in Tlachichuca with fireworks going off allllllllll night long, i mean well past midnight and starting up again at 6am, so much for that last night of sleep before a climb.

Our first night at the Cancholas we got a 3 bed room, there is no heat in the rooms and i was so cold that night i used the other wool blanket from the unused bed, it also helped pad the mattress that was pretty rough to sleep on, springs in my side. Every thing about this place is basic which is fine as long as it is clean, which it seemed like it was. They gave us one towel and one small bar of soap. There are 3 bathrooms next to the home, toilet, sink and shower in one. One shower did not have a door or curtain so we avoided that one for washing. Only issue i had was lack of toilet paper, seemed one would run out and if the others were in use you had to wait. Food was ok, i felt like our first day meals were much better then our return meals. When we returned after the climb we were put in a room with 3 bunk beds, the mattresses were better but the bed i got into smelled like strong BO, it was so gross, i changed sheets with another bed and it was better. They do have WIFI there and it works off and on in the rooms but i found i could make phone calls if i stood over by the bathrooms.

Our first night room at the Cancholas

After breakfast on Fri. we got everything together and the man himself, Mr. Joaquin Canchola who just turned 75 drove us up to the hut! He is a really sweet man and just loved Michelle and I, i wonder if they do not see many women there....

Mr. Joaquin Canchola with us the day we left.

The road up to the hut is pretty bad and i was shocked the truck we were in did not have more issues but i bet he can drive that road with his eyes closed!

Pee break on the road and a great view of Orizaba.

I was also able to zoom onto the glacier and get a great shot of the path we would take.

Warn path in the glacier

we reached the hut a few hrs later and there were a few teams just coming down. Once they left we were the only ones there, along with another guy from CO who was going solo on Sun. I forgot to get an image inside but by the windows there are 2 tables for cooking on and then the back wall is divided in half with 3 levels of long planks of plywood for sleeping on. we took the lower shelf in the back corner.

The Hut at 13,800ft and the truck we came up in

Bathrooms, there is this structure, just stay away from it. otherwise there are a few barrels in the ground that people are using, or well anywhere you want to go, it was kind of gross. Please LNT the best you can. Our guide had TP for us but i had some for back up as well.

don't ask me why i went over and looked in, but just don't!

Once settled in we took an acclimatization hike up the start of the trail, we gained about 1k ft in an hour with no packs, just some snacks and water, hung out and came back down. Michelle was having some head issues, i was feeling ok. She took Acetazolamide when we got back to the hut and started to feel better after eating lunch/dinner.

there are crosses all over

At this point we thought we were going to be alone and just as we were settling down for the night and watching the sun set all these people showed up! We had a 12:30am wake up and they pretty much filled the hut and made noise till about 9:30pm, i last peed at 10pm and they seemed all settled in by then, there were also people sleeping outside the hut in just bags, i would not advise that as people pee everywhere. Renting a tent was one thing we were going back and fort on and i really wish we would have had a tent!

Sunset at the hut

Our alarms went off at 12:30am, night 2 of no sleep for me, it was a repeat of my time on Rainier, i knew i could still climb, but it was not gonna be pretty. I had an on and off small headache as i was laying there so i took a Acetazolamide just in case. To our shock all the late people also were getting up to climb, gonna be a busy day on the mountain. We got on trail around 1:40am somewhere in the middle of all the groups, moving slower with packs and little sleep we reached the point of our hike the day before 30min later this time, Oh well. We finally reached the Labyrinth and were happy to have the guide with us leading the way. There were cairns but very hard to see in the dark and the path was not always clear as it went in and out of rocks. This section in the dark is the hardest part of the climb if you are not in a group or following a GPS track, which i had downloaded and we did stay fairly on track with what i had. At this point i was not doing so well, really uneasy on my feet, i do not know if it was the pill, the 2 days of no sleep, the giant ass boots but i just could not get steady feet. We finally made it to the base of the glacier just in time to watch sunrise.

sunrise at the base of the glacier.

We took a long break here, eating, peeing and putting on our gear. This was the coldest Michelle and I were the entire time, our hands just froze and it was really hard to get everything on. i don't know if it was the food and drink or the thought of the sun coming up but i started to feel better and assured the other 2 i would be fine on the glacier. We roped up per the guide, and headed up.

classic shadow shot, bummed i missed the sunrise on the glacier.

Making our way up, we are around 17k here i think

I know there have been talks about crevasses on the route~ We did see one not far off the standard route.

Crevasse to climbers left ascending the trail

Michelle breathing and all smiles
If you are looking for a faster way off the peak, there is this option. We heard it took them 45min from the summit back to town.

We also got to see Popocatepetl puff some smoke a few times while we were on the peak, it was pretty cool.


As we were nearing the crater rim our steps got shorter between breaks, it was Michelle's turn to struggle since i was feeling much better at this point. We were in no rush and i was loving the views.

can just about see to the bottom of the crater.

El Calvario

We made it to the summit in 8hrs, the max time we were hoping.

the crater from the summit
Chilling on the summit, the ground is pretty nice.

The weather was just amazing so we took a LONG brake on the summit 1.5hrs. Granted it would have been shorter but a group got up there just before us and decided the metal cross summit marker was a great place to sit and chuck all there gear around it!!!!! People please do not hog summit markers on peaks, everyone wants their picture with it and its rude. Our guide finally asked them to move for us to take pictures, almost an hour later. We were able to check our heart rate and O2 while we were up there, my HR was about 115 and my O2 was about 73%. While we were on Quandary (the weekend before) there was a group up there also with a finger reader and in comparison my HR was in the 70's and my O2 was about 96% on the summit of Quandary, crazy what an added 4k feet will do.

All good things must come to an end and we had to head back down, following the group that we had been waiting on, one guy in that group did not look so well and we were concerned for him.
walking the rim of the crater
About halfway back down, it was so warm at this point we took our coats off. Did we need to be roped, no, but it was good practice for me and Michelle learned rope management.
Off the Glacier and into the rocks we go. We were on hour 12 at this point, again no rush, all we were doing was driving back to town so take in the views while you can! I also striped my BL bottoms off and just wore my shells back down, Kept the shell coat on for the breeze and losing the sun in the rocks.

turtle rock!
half way though the Labyrinth, we tried to take a more direct route back down, but there were some tricky moves so we got through them (snow and ice) and made it back the way we had come. you can see in the daylight all the markers, seemed there were routes all over the place. i was shocked to see all the flowers still in bloom as well on the lower sections of the trail.
We made it back to the hut in 14hrs RT, we did descend from the glacier to the hut in 2hrs, we were really moving at that point, should have stopped and drank more water! What an amazing day we had even with our few struggles, i had so much fun on this peak i would love to go back.
We got picked up at the hut and driven back to town for the night, where there were still fireworks going off. I got "some" sleep that night and on Sun morning we headed back to Mexico city, were we saw a ton of people on the highway walking, running and riding bikes to the city for the pilgrimage for the Virgin of Guadalupe, quite the sight to see!
Last pic before leaving

We had booked the Hampton inn and Suites just down the street from Historic Mexico City, it put us in the middle of everything. We had the afternoon in Mexico City on Sun. to walk around and of course there were festivities going on but made our way around them. I would highly suggest checking out the city, many historic building and some good food and drinks

old ruins
popocatépetl and iztaccíhuatl


If you are looking for a fun glacier to climb i would suggest checking out Orizaba, this trip cost me less the Rainier, could be done in a day, the people are very nice and the views just incredible. This would also make for a great training peak for higher elevation climbs.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

Nicely Done!
12/27/2019 08:03
Great write up and well documented. My friend and I met you in the compound eating breakfast the day you both took off. It was pretty much the same story for us with no sleep in the hut, acclimatizing 1k ft hike the day before, and just got er' done on summit day. Only difference is we summited at sunrise and there were no other parties on the mountain. Esta muy bonito!

Chicago Transplant

12/27/2019 09:50
We stayed at the Canchola's in 2008, its so good to see a picture of Joaquin! Congrats on your climb, and that you got to check out the sights in Mexico City. We had a good time in Puebla too on our trip, its worth it to add the cultural aspect and not just make it all about the summit


12/28/2019 17:34
on a job well done!! Way to persevere and bag a good one!! Great accomplishment!


12/28/2019 19:34
Nice read, enjoyed it.

Excellent report
12/29/2019 02:05
I very much enjoyed your report. Thank you.
I hope to get there in the next couple of months.


Nice Job!
12/29/2019 06:42
Great write up. This was a big first for me breaking above the 14k mark. Its shocking for me to see how much the Labrynth has melted out in the few years since I have been there.


12/30/2019 23:27
I am so jealous of the paraglider. Hauling that crap up there would be hard, but imagine the views on the easy ridge back to town.

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