Pico de Orizaba questions

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ddeckys
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Pico de Orizaba questions

Post by ddeckys »

Hello! After a fun summer full of 14ers, I have been looking to attempt Orizaba with my climbing partner late December/early January. I have read that for its size, it is a straightforward climb. I am comfortable on and have experience doing class 3 and class 4 14ers, as well as a bit of crampon/ice axe experience, we did longs in early summer and it required crampons for almost all of the trough and homestretch. I'm thinking about trying it unguided, but my concern is a lack of a super detailed route description. I am not completely fluent in spanish however I've studied it for years and can maintain long conversations so I don't believe that will be an issue. I have read different things about footwear, are true mountaineering boots required, or can stiff heavy duty waterproof hiking boots be sufficient assuming my crampons fit well? Thank you in advance!
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Re: Pico de Orizaba questions

Post by mtn_nut »

Its a fairly straightforward climb, however when i did it the glacier was essentially a sheet of ice, so having good crampon form was key, and self arresting if you tripped yourself up or something would have been painful and difficult. If you'd like my GPS track my ascent route, i'd be happy to share. earlier in the season there should be more snow, so hopefully it won't be as icy. I did it at the end of January.

I showed up at the Cancholas without a reservation, paid up i think $100/person for a gas canister, some clean water, a ride up there and back in their 4WD, two meals at there house (before and after), and a night at their place. Maribel speaks english well, and they are very good people. We had good weather, so we camped at 15,100' right at the start of the labyrinth (at the top of the first big incline). There are a couple good spots there. Summited the next day.

As far as footwear goes, you're on the north side of the mountain during the climb, and it can be very cold in the morning. I did it in single mountaineering boots and was okay, but i run warm. My partner runs cold, and was wearing spantiks (very warm double boots) and was still a little cold. I would not recommend anything less than a mountaineering boot in case there is significant hard ice on the route or if you have to kick steps in portions of hard snow.
Last edited by mtn_nut on Sun Aug 27, 2017 11:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Scott P
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Re: Pico de Orizaba questions

Post by Scott P »

In good weather the route is mostly easy to find, but sometimes the Labyrinth is confusing in the dark. It helps to scout it out the day before.

As far as boots go, that's up to you to decide. They sound reasonable, but if you have cold toes in them after climbing a spring or late fall 14er, then don't take them.

Also, keep in mind that the standard route on Orizaba is on the north side and is thus colder than other routes on the Mexican Volcanoes.
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Re: Pico de Orizaba questions

Post by Rue »

You might want to consider finding someone that speaks spanish and climbed it before. We found a very good guide that which was very resonable and really helped find someone that watched our camp while we climbed. It was well worth $400 each. Be prepared with crampons and ice axe. The glacier has a few places that may need to be roped up. We found the locals to be very friendly and very helpful. It was a fun trip with amazing views.
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Re: Pico de Orizaba questions

Post by Trotter »

The route finding is easy, EXCEPT for the labyrinth. Even when we hiked up there the day before and scouted it, we missed our scouted route in the dark the next day.

I went in my waterproof winter hiking boots and was fine.

You don't need spanish if you room with the concholas, however, we did discover very few people in that area of the country (Mexico city and Puebla) speak english at all, so some spanish and google translate will serve you well.

We saw no need for roping up. Only crevasse we saw was about 6 inches wide and maybe 6 feet deep.
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Re: Pico de Orizaba questions

Post by nyker »

ddeckys wrote:Hello! After a fun summer full of 14ers, I have been looking to attempt Orizaba with my climbing partner late December/early January. I have read that for its size, it is a straightforward climb. I am comfortable on and have experience doing class 3 and class 4 14ers, as well as a bit of crampon/ice axe experience, we did longs in early summer and it required crampons for almost all of the trough and homestretch. I'm thinking about trying it unguided, but my concern is a lack of a super detailed route description. I am not completely fluent in spanish however I've studied it for years and can maintain long conversations so I don't believe that will be an issue. I have read different things about footwear, are true mountaineering boots required, or can stiff heavy duty waterproof hiking boots be sufficient assuming my crampons fit well? Thank you in advance!
Like many mountains, it's a straightforward climb in good conditions and if you're in good health, if either of them are not ideal then things could get difficult at 18,000+ft.

If you studied Spanish for years then you probably know enough to get around there, which will help tremendously. Transportation logistics and local knowledge is key down there and everyone I interacted with was generally very nice and helpful.
If you are comfortable on a long, sustained 35-45 degree slope with crampons and axe, you should be fine, but you should probably test that out before you go on a snow slope that will take 3hrs to ascend.
The slope gets steeper as you climb higher possibly exceeding 45*, but that's an estimate as I didn't have an inclinometer.

Packing a rope is not a bad idea if you and your partner know how to use it well. Crevasses are usually not a major risk on Orizaba, however, a slip and fall on the upper glacier, might sent you sliding down 1000+ft especially if its icy, which is often, and which might not end well, especially wearing crampons which you'll have on. There were some spots when I was there that were hard ice and would have been tough to arrest on.

Boots - use what you'd feel good with on an Spring 14er in snow and see how your feet are after a few hours and judge from there. I saw people with 6000M boots and saw some folks with 3 season boots, so to each is own. Sock choice and gaitor choice matters also and will impact foot warmth as will your pace up the mountain, ie slower movement will make your feet more susceptible to getting colder vs faster moving at an even pace.

Not sure where you are, but if you live in CO, then you'll be able to save several days acclimatizing since you are already higher up and can get to 12-14k pretty easily, if you're coming from lower down or sea level, plan on getting up on a peak or two before Orizaba to save yourself some grief. La Malinche, Sierra Negra, Nevada de Teluca, Izta are all good choices to ascend before Orizaba.
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Re: Pico de Orizaba questions

Post by kaiman »

I climbed Orizaba on Thanksgiving Day 2014 unguided, starting from the hut at 14,000 feet and we had near perfect conditions with no snow or ice in the Labrynth and great snow conditions on the glacier (not too hard and not soft). We warmed up by climbing Itza several days before. The average temp during our ascent was 10-15 degrees and it had warmed up into the 20s by the time we returned to the bottom of the glacier and was in the 30s by the time we returned to the hut. Several days after we summited, however, it snowed 6-8 inches and made parts of the route treacherous to a few parties that climbed after us. So you never know what you're going to get condition wise and just have to roll the dice and take what is thrown at you.

Climbing wise, Orizaba is pretty straight forward snow climb, so long as you are comfortable using crampons and an ice axe on 35-45 degree slope. As Orizaba has very few crevasses a rope is optional and really depends on your and your groups comfort level. The same goes with a guide. Many others I've talked to who've climbed Orizaba claim that the snow and ice in the Labrynth is the most difficult part so be prepared for that. Also, others who've gone later in the season (January-March) often encounter icy conditions on the glacier, so expect that if you go during those months or plan to go earlier in the season (November-December) before the glacier has started to deteriorate.

As far as your boot choice, it is of course yours and is based on personal preference and depends on how cold you get. I personally run warm and I used La Sportiva Nepal Evos with a mid weight Smartwool sock and was fine, but did see others with heavier footwear. If it was me, I would err on the side of caution and wear a single layer mountaineering boot rather than a 3 season boot. Also, whatever boot you decide on, make sure they are crampon compatible as you don't want them coming off mid climb.

For logistics we stayed at the Concholas in Tlachachuca pre and post climb and had them provide meals and transportation to the hut for us. I highly recommend them and I think it was around $125 or so for each of us for 3 days. I don't speak much Spanish but my climbing partner is fluent, but the Concholas are bi-lingual and the language barrier was never a problem while pre-planning or on the mountain.

Anyway, that's my two cents, I hope that helps answer some of your questions.

Good luck and have fun, it's an incredible mountain!

Kai
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Re: Pico de Orizaba questions

Post by macgyver »

These are great responses. I've been reading trip reports on mid-end of March climbs. That appears to be nearing the end of the ideal window. What would be expected around that time? With the grade being fairly sustained, would you recommend a longer ice axe for comfort (say 70cm for a 5'11 guy)? Mtn_Nut, I'd be interested in your gpx. Any good photos of the labyrinth out there that could help with confusing sections? Thanks!

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Re: Pico de Orizaba questions

Post by CorduroyCalves »

Dunno if you’ve seen, but the conditions have been terrible on the north route this season and there have been many accidents including one death. I’ve recently heard the outfitters in Tlachichuca have been taking people over to the south route due to the better conditions. I know at least one person from this site made it successfully so ultimately it’s up to you.

I recommend joining the Senderismo Mexico Facebook page to get the latest info. Nearly everyone on that page speaks Spanish but you should be able to get the jist of what they’re saying.
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Re: Pico de Orizaba questions

Post by macgyver »

CorduroyCalves wrote:Dunno if you’ve seen, but the conditions have been terrible on the north route this season and there have been many accidents including one death. I’ve recently heard the outfitters in Tlachichuca have been taking people over to the south route due to the better conditions. I know at least one person from this site made it successfully so ultimately it’s up to you.

I recommend joining the Senderismo Mexico Facebook page to get the latest info. Nearly everyone on that page speaks Spanish but you should be able to get the jist of what they’re saying.
I'll summon the power of the google translate... and use it to brush up on that year of Spanish I took 22 years ago. Time to research the southern route - which I have yet to read any trip reports on. Good to know! Thanks.
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Re: Pico de Orizaba questions

Post by rkeuchel »

Hello,

I haven't read much of the thread so forgive me if I repeat some info. I climbed pico about a month ago exactly. The route is super straightforward. However, the ice on the upper glacier is pretty bulletproof and someone fell the length of the glacier the day before we summitted. I would definitely recommend being comfortable in crampons as there is no real place for a rest during the last 1000 vertical feet. I would also recommend some kind crampon with front prongs. Descending the glacier is definitely a pain in the ass. Pretty sure the descent is why the party had to be evacuated via helicopter a couple weeks ago. If you feel solid ascending and descending hard ice then go for it. The people are awesome and it is a beautiful area of the world.
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Re: Pico de Orizaba questions

Post by seano »

macgyver wrote:Time to research the southern route - which I have yet to read any trip reports on. Good to know! Thanks.
That's how we did it, and I highly recommend it, especially if you can split a rental car with a friend or two. There are many better opportunities than Orizaba to walk on a glacier, but few better scree-skis.
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