Elks and Beyond -- Jordan White's Traveling, Skiing and Outdoor Adventures

Traveling, Ski Mountaineering and Climbing in Colorado and…

Pico De Orizaba

After recovering from our climb of Izta a couple days before, it was time to give a go at the big boy of Mexico.

Every trip has to have some room for sight seeing.  Of all the towns I've been to in Mexico, Puebla is by far my favorite.

Every trip has to have some room for sight seeing. Of all the towns I've been to in Mexico, Puebla is by far my favorite.


The entire drive in we were teased with the view of the highest peak in Mexico, and the unusual amount of snow on it.

The entire drive in we were teased with the view of the highest peak in Mexico, and the unusual amount of snow on it.


After rallying our 4×2 Jeep wrangler up a rather gnarly and wet road we arrive at the 14,000 ft Refugio at around 11:30 PM. We are the only car in the parking lot, which is no surprise considering the hassle of the road. Inside there are probably another 25 people asleep. We find ourselves in bed by midnight and wake up about 45 minutes later to the first climber leaving for the summit (we found out later that he was trying to be on top for the sunrise). Around 6:30 AM we finally crawl out of our sleeping bags and proceed to get ready for the day. By 7:30 we are back to our normal routine of loading up our skis and boots on our backs, and climbing our way up a trail that follows along side an old aqueduct.

First light on Pico de Orizaba.  It's going to be a good day.

First light on Pico de Orizaba. It's going to be a good day.

Anton is out front and after keeping up for a while, I realize that I don’t need to be moving quite that fast. Dave has a water bottle explosion in his pack; realizing that he will need that water he runs back down to the Jeep to fill back up again. Anton and I continue up. Around 15,400 Dave catches back up to me. It looks as though Anton has continued in his trail shoes, but Dave and I decide to switch to boots and crampons instead of continuing the slip fest up the basin.

Climbing our way through the Labyrinth, we are all thankful for snow coverage down low.

Climbing our way through the Labyrinth, we are all thankful for snow coverage down low.

We find Anton sitting somewhere around 16,000 ft waiting for us.

We are all feeling good. The acclimatization we obtained on Izta is coming in handy today as we all feel as though the altitude is of far less concern than it was just a couple days earlier.

Myself and Dave heading up the glacier with the views dropping below us.

Myself and Dave heading up the glacier with the views dropping below us.

The views of the valley and foothills below constantly grabbed my eye.

The views of the valley and foothills below constantly grabbed my eye.


We continue up the snowfield towards the base of the glacier. Putting one foot in front of the other. The crunching of crampons on the icy snow; “frozen salsa” as we decided to call it, continued on for another thousand feet where we came upon a couple of packs and some skis stuck in the snow. With all of the white stuff above us, we can’t really think of why someone would leave their skis here, but after a quick snack and drink of water we are off. Just 1,500 feet to go and we are still feeling well. The day is incredible. Clear in all directions. Bluebird sky. The sun is coming straight down the glacier at us. The temperatures are pleasant and all of us are hiking in little more than a softshell jacket.

Sunny

Switching back and forth up the glacier, our altimeters keep telling us that we are getting closer, but as is typical of a glacier, the summit just never seems to look any closer.
Finally we arrive at edge of the crater.

Finally we arrive at the Crater.  Still a perfect day.

Finally we arrive at the Crater. Still a perfect day.

We had fantasized on the idea of dropping into the crater on some ski line, but this looks obviously impossible. The summit is just a couple hundred vertical away. Our pace picks up with our excitement and we are there in five minutes or so. The weather is incredible. Not a breath of wind. We stick around for awhile taking pictures and enjoying the view of the valley 10,000 ft below us.

Group Summit Shot.  Dave, Anton and Jordan.

Group Summit Shot. Dave, Anton and Jordan.

Eventually we realize that we should head on down and hit the road.
We drop in to some frozen corn snow and immediately spot some softer snow a couple hundred vertical down below. We B-line for it are pleasantly surprised at what we find. Recycled powder. We are skiing powder in Mexico! No face shots here, but powder nonetheless. For the first 2,000 feet of skiing we manage to ski more powder than anything else. The last couple hundred vertical to the end of the glacier is icy again.

Dave dropping off the top of Mexico.

Dave dropping off the top of Mexico.

The snow that isn't all that great, but the background is.

The snow that isn't all that great, but the background is.


Powder skiing in Mexico!

Powder skiing in Mexico!

Dave getting to play in the powder.

Dave getting to play in the powder.


Dropping the knee at 18,000 feet.

Dropping the knee at 18,000 feet.

No worries though, we remember that we still have another 1,000 feet of skiing before we have to click out. We drop into a couloir below the glacier that drops us into what we call the labyrinth.

The nice little couloir below the glacier.

The nice little couloir below the glacier.

The first pitch is more recycled powder, the second is bulletproof. Below we find ourselves skiing a gully down and eventually the rock dodging becomes less efficient than walking.

Anton making the most of the snow down in the Labyrinth.

Anton making the most of the snow down in the Labyrinth.

Finally we take our skis off at 15,400. A 3,000 foot descent! The entire way through this trip we have considered ourselves almost stupid for coming to Mexico to ski, but this really felt rewarding.

We strap the skis on our backs and proceed to plunge step through the snow and mud on down to the refugio 1,400 ft below.

Walking out the last little bit to the Refugio.

Walking out the last little bit to the Refugio.

It feels good to be done. Arriving at the bottom is supremely different from when we left in the morning. There are probably 30 tourists walking around, several trucks that put our little Jeep to shame, and a whole lot warmer. We yank the beers out and proceed to pack the rig up again for our drive back to the beach. The beach…well thats a story for another time, you might just have to ask about it sometime.

A shot from the drive out.

A shot from the drive out.

Random Thoughts on the trip:
There are a few things that really made this trip fun. I think the biggest factor in our enjoyment was the lack of planning. The extent of planning for this trip was really just buying plane tickets when they were cheap. Beyond that we just kind of flew by the seat of our pants. It’s really a fun way to do things. Perhaps not the most efficient, but fun nonetheless. We brought together a pretty good blend of friends. Much like Denali, I happened to be the only one who had climbed with everyone previously. Everyone is laid back about schedule and timing. And most of all, everyone is just there to have fun. The other big thing is that I feel fairly certain that we got to see parts of Mexico that most Americans never receive the opportunity to see. This is a trip I would absolutely recommend, but maybe wouldn’t go back for seconds on; mostly because I know how lucky we got with snow conditions on Orizaba. All you can do is pick an adventure and go after it!

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7 Comments

  1. Kim November 29, 2010

    I LOVE this TR! I have always wanted to ski in Mexico, which as you describe, might sound a little silly! What an amazing ski descent!

    And I’m curious, of the photos credited to Anton Sponar…. he must be a relative of Anton Sponar of ski Arpa? I have fond memories of Arpa. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Kim

  2. Jordan November 29, 2010 — Post Author

    Thanks Kim. Yes, Anton co owns Arpa with His father Anton “toni” Sponar.

  3. Jon November 30, 2010

    That’s a fun trip. You had WAY better snow conditions than I had last year. I skied that thing on a washboard textured sheet of ice. Travelling through that part of Mexico made up for it, though. Did you eat at Casa Blanca in Tlachichuca?

  4. Louie November 30, 2010

    Wow, looks like an amazing trip. That’s cool that you did it all “unplanned” and it looks like it worked out. That pic of dropping into the top of mexico is pretty sweet.

  5. Jordan November 30, 2010 — Post Author

    Hey Jon,
    Nah we didn’t spend much time in Tiachichuca after the climb. I think we felt a little bit beach bound. I remember your trip report from a couple years ago and was really praying for better conditions the whole time. Guess we just got lucky man. Where you at this winter?
    J

  6. Caleb Wray December 1, 2010

    Nice write up Jordan. It was a fun trip for sure. Rolling 60’s style was great. Hey you need to figure out how to allow the pics to be blown by clicking like Lou does. By the way, who has the apple?

  7. Anton December 3, 2010

    Oh God, do I have the apple?!

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