Prehistoric climb of Orizaba

4-12 Mar 1978 - by Scott Harden

It was a spring break trip: I couldn't find anyone else to go with me so went solo from Austin, TX. I'll try to be brief. Acclimatization was: Nights at (feet) 6k, 9k, 12+k, 14k, 14k. That turned out to be barely adequate, even though I was in excellent shape at the time. My little car could not get above Zoapan so I waited for a ride, and was blessed that Richard Rupp, of Albuquerque, came by in his old VW bug, in which we made it up to 12+K feet (dang tree root!). Camped there; hiked up to PG in the morning. Spent the next day resting / climbing to foot of glacier to cache crampons and axe. Summit day: Left PG just pre-dawn. (What's up with this 1 AM BS?) I was soon accompanied by a duo who'd arrived just after us, a couple of geezers from California. I summitted the peak *with one guy in his mid 50s and another in his early 60s*. Wish I'd gotten their names and addys; they got mine and promised to send pics of me on the summit; never got 'em. They'd done Popo and Izta earlier, as well as goofed around on the plateau, so were acclimatized, but I was still amazed at how fast they were. An inspiration! Snow / ice and weather were superb. Only "tough" part of the climb were the penitents / cups on the last 100 or so meters to the rim, which totally destroyed my pace and stride. The view from the summit was staggering; I was overcome by it and curled up in a ball with my eyes closed for a minute (anyone ever had that?). We could see the horizon to the east, which was about 165 miles away, and 100 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. (Summitters: If it's clear to the south, check out the east face of the Huautla plateau, about 80 miles(?) to the S; something like a 6000 ft. wall at what seemed like 70 degrees.)

(About 15 years later; trip to the east side of the mountain, non - climbing... got to about 12,500 feet. Awesome view. A couple points: -- The NE side, below snow / ice line is composed of steep slabs and cliffs. Anyone wandering off-route, e.g. in a whiteout, onto this side could be in deep trouble, esp. if covered with snow / verglas. Wilderness below. -- Weather. This was in mid - summer. During evening a fantastic T-storm came up over the mountain; one of those deals with multiple lightning strokes every second for a while. Anyone on the upper slopes in something like that could well be fried. *There's* a reason for 1 AM starts.

I'm posting this mainly in an attempt to get info and comments on the following:

-- The other, more challenging routes on the mountain. (I've bought TWO copies of RJS' book: one I gave to a young Mexican couple and the other is "temporarily" lost.) Am especially interested in the two eastern glaciers. "60 and 70 degrees" according to the old *Summit* article cited by RJ. A comment (e-mail) from someone on another forum said up to *80 degrees*, with lots of rockfall, as I'd suspected. Just that the Jamapa route is too easy. At least it was back then! (Technically, not aerobically!)

-- Retreat of the glaciers on the Mexican volcanoes over the past (however many) years. How depressing. Even semi - quantitative info is hard or impossible to find. In '78, the glacier began (estimated) no more than 700 feet above PG; which would then be around 14,700. This jibes with (IIRC) the maps, etc. in Lorenzo's "Glaciares de Mexico" and maybe with a photo in RJ's book (1st edition). This was a narrow tongue, but definitely part of the Jamapa; none of that mixed ice / rock I've heard about recently. Same with Izta, apparently. You shoulda seen it back in the 70s. I guess Popo doesn't count, or is hard to compare, what with the heating up and whatnot.

-- Has anyone here seen W. Crausaz' book on this mountain, and have comments? (Could we locate him and talk him into reprinting?!?)

Nice site. I'd welcome comments here or via mail or both.


Scott Harden

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