Pico de Orizaba, México
I’m in middle of nowhere, México feeling about half alive in the back of a SUV. Driving is a man that doesn’t speak English and is carrying a rather large machete. It’s in this very moment that I’m realizing I have a difficult time saying no to climbing trips and should possibly start to reconsider some of these life choices.
Right now we’re heading back from our night at Pico de Orizaba. We’ve been in Mexico for about 48 hours at this point. This trip started as a conversation with our friends Cory and Jaylynn this winter and about two months ago was thrown together pretty quickly. These spontaneous adventures are typically how I roll but I was actually a bit hesitant to go along with this fast and relatively inexpensive visit to México. For one reason, it’s México and for another, 1.5 days is pretty quick to jump from 0’ to 18,000’. All doubts aside, I thought joining in was worth the risk knowing regardless of the outcome we’d learn something from the experience.
Day 1 - We woke up at 3:30 AM to catch our 6 AM flight. We flew from Seattle to LA and then LA to México City. Upon arrival in México City, we filled out immigration forms and spent a long time going through customs. We were eventually met by a driver that took us to Cory and Jaylynn and our new driver that would be taking us to a hostel in Tlachichuca about 4 hours outside México city. The commute was mostly chill until it got dark and we were driving through some sketchy looking towns. Things started feeling a wee bit tense and we were very relieved upon our arrival at a secured hostel in the middle of Tlachichuca.
Day 2- Around 8:00 AM we were served a quick breakfast at the hostel before showering and heading to the hut at Pico de Orizaba. We loaded up all our gear in a pick up and followed behind the truck with our driver in a suburban.
The day before, there had been a downpour on the mountain and the dirt roads were now muddy and rutted out. We made it about 1.5 hours into the backroads when we hit a spot and got stuck. The truck in front of us kept going without notice and our driver had no communication with them to ask for assistance. At first, the driver and director got out of the vehicle, grabbed the machete and started slashing down wild grass to try to add traction. After several tries backing the vehicle up and accelerating through the section, they finally let us help. We all got out, started foraging around for grass, logs, rocks, anything we thought would help the tires stick. An hour in, it goes. I’ll now be adding Mexican road work at 13,500’ to my resume.
When we arrived at the hut about a half hour later I wasn’t feeling particularly great. This had been the quickest I’d jumped up in altitude and time only made things worse. One ham + cheese quesadilla later and I was done for. I’ll spare you all the details but if you’ve been there, you know. If you haven’t, hopefully you’ll never experience this special kind of Hell. My body was a wreck and recovering well enough to climb in a few hours wasn’t happening. Joe decided it was best to stay back with me so when Cory and Jay got up to start their climb we attempted to catch up on sleep. I found some NyQuil in my pack and maybe got an hour in between the cold sweats, runs outside and endless tossing and turning.
Around 9:00 AM we heard that Cory and Jay had made it to the summit. I was super happy for them. Orizaba was a new highpoint for Jaylynn and the weather window they had was impeccable. I sat outside for awhile admiring the calm of the mountain and feeling a little bummed out although I knew there was nothing I could do. I drew a crappy card on this one but I guess trips like this are what keeps us humble. You can’t win them all.
Cory and Jay returned to the hut around 1:00 PM and shortly after we were on our way back to Tlachichuca to regroup at the hostel. By the time we got down to town, my stomach began to ease up just barely enough to eat again. We had a quick meal in Tlachichua and were en route to our 5 hour drive back to México City.
Upon arrival at our hotel in México City, we showered, repacked and got to bed in preparation for our early flights back to to states. The next morning navigating around the airport was hectic but we made it to our gate and eventually hours later, back to the homeland.
All in all, México was ROUGH. I learned some valuable lessons throughout the last 52 hours that’ll hopefully help me out on future trips but for now I’m swearing off international travel for awhile and healing my gut with some much needed kombucha. It’s so good to be home.