Peak(s):  Pico de Orizaba - 18491
Date Posted:  02/10/2013
Date Climbed:   01/18/2013
Author:  herdbull
 I climbed a really big rock with ice on it (Orizaba-Mexico)   

Let me start off by warning you that this will be long, full of punctuation errors and crap and more than likely borderline boring but I figured I should put together a trip report of my recent solo trip to Mexico while it's still some what fresh in my mind. I also warn you that me is no writer, nor do I want to be. This TR will also not win any awards or honors but I figured someone out there might benefit from it as I have of other trip reports. Did I mention that it's long, very long . So Bill, please don't hate me for taking up half a server with this report.

I'm just an everyday average Joe from NE WI who sits at his desk all day and dreams about climbing big mtns. Well, on this one day & one trip my dream came true. I'm not a superstar mtn climber and I don't live at 5000'-6000' and get to take trips up into the mtns on the weekends. I live here, in WI, where there is no mtns and no altitude to speak of. Consider this more than just a trip report though, consider it a recollection of the entire trip and a way for me to share the whole experience with everyone. For others that have done it maybe there's a couple things they can relate to in this maybe not. Maybe they won't even read it, personally, I don't give a crap. This was big for me, as big as it gets. I had a lot riding on this trip. 5 days to fly there and back, acclimate and climb. How hard can it be Looked good on paper. Fly, take bus and 4x4 jeep 6 hours out into the middle of nowhere in Mexico, climb big rock with ice on it, return home.

For the better part of almost 20 years I've been chasing deer and elk around the mtns of Utah, Colorado and Arizona but always found myself climbing the nearest peak and taking pics while watching the sunrise. So in the fall of 2011 I decided to just leave the hunting gear at home and head out to climb 14ers. First up Longs Peak via the loft route. Hey, go big or go home right? I should mention a few months earlier a buddy and I were out in Co and I attempted Longs up the same route. It was still snowed in and a technical climb in early July. I made it as far as the notch and turned back due to weather paranoia. My ax and crampons had arrived in the mail the week before we left. Yeah, I was green, as green as it gets.

The second trip in Sept. was a success and I was already "hooked" from my July attempt. I returned in the summer and fall of 2012 to knock out 29 more and started to turn my sights onto bigger things. One thing led to another, reading trips reports, internet research, talking with others..... and I found myself staring at a trip to Mexico to climb Pico de Orizaba at 18,491'. November was crazy with ordering gear, trying it out, more research, more gear. By the first week in Dec everything was here and being put through the motions. I felt if I ordered anything else I should leave a trip for the Fedex man . Somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 or 17 packages came to my house in a very short time. I was in gear utopia!

I found a local ski hill that allowed me train after 10pm and before 10am. So train I did. Mind you this "ski hill" barely has contour lines on a 7.5 min quad map but it's all I had. It wasn't so much for the physical part of it but getting used to the gear, trying to break it and break it in. Especially the Nepal Evos which pretty much break your feet in not the other way around.

By Jan. 1st I was ready, everything was tweaked, adjusted and ready to go, as was I. Here I want to thank SurfNTurf & Iman and the group of 5 for their trip and wonderful trip report from earlier in November. It pretty much was the deciding factor in me making this trip happen. So I'm kind of returning the favor for someone else who may be on the fence. It came down to it really was as easy as getting on a plane to Mexico, climbing a mtn, and flying home.

I went with one purpose and one purpose only and that was to see how the body would handle big altitude and how well the mind would hold up. The mental challenges that presented itself far outweighed the physical challenges for me on this climb. I don't even ever remember breathing heavy or being "out of breath" on the whole climb but yet was mentally exhausted by the time I reached the summit. But I also don't remember some of the fine details of the last hour or so of the actual climbing. For me anyways, I wasn't looking around, checking stuff out, smelling the roses..... no time for that. It was 100% focus on the task at hand.

This is by far the biggest accomplishment of my life, one of the biggest physical challenges and by leaps & bounds the biggest mental challenge I've ever encountered. Not to mention traveling into Mexico solo, without speaking the language and ending up in some small village in the middle of nowhere. What a ride it was and what a wonderful experience and a wonderful mountain. For those of you that climb 14ers this climb made those seem like a walk in the park. Like a simple walk to the grocery store to pick up bread and milk. You just battle so much more at these altitudes than you do in the states. It changes things when you have to deal with the altitude, low o2 levels and somewhat of a strenuous climb. This climb makes most 14ers look like a simple walk up. It's more a battle against the altitude than the climb itself.

I knew physically I was ready but was worried about the trip through Mexico and traveling in a foreign country where you don't speak the language. Did I mention I was going solo? I knew uno words in Spanish and that was uno . Screw it, a few emails later with the wonderful people at Summit Orizaba who came highly recommended and things were in motion. Everything that was relayed to me about the Cancholas was spot on. The Mexican hospitality was/is second to none and the closeness of the family was great to see. Staying with them was the icing on the cake and as big a part of the trip as the climb itself. I think we here in the states could learn a thing or 2 about family values, hospitality and how wonderful family can be. They truly do let you into their lives while you are there.

I told you this was long and I haven't even gotten to the trip yet. Now where was I.... oh yeah the trip. I had an early 5:50am flight out of Appleton, WI. Well it was 6:00am and I was still standing at the terminal. Delta had me on a 50 min layover (gulp) in ATL. 20 mins late departing left me pulling an OJ through the airport. And no, I wasn't trying on black leather gloves that were too small. Last one on the plane to Mexico City with about 2 mins to spare before the door closed. Let me tell you it's a long run from C37 to E33 in ATL.

Here's where it hit me for the first time, 90% of the people on this plane did not speak English as their first language or English at all. Holy crap, I'm going to Mexico ! After deplaning and heading towards the country check-in point I searched out another American and started to talk with him. He had done this dozens of times and told me some of the stuff to watch out for and how the whole process works. It's pretty easy, wait in line, give them the form, then go get your bags and head out. Important note here, bring a black pen with you in your carry-on. You will need it for the forms and more than likely the flight attendant won't have one. It saves time at the check-in process. And learn some Spanish too!

While in line I met a 19 year old girl from the states, she was alone, heading to see the sights and hostel jump. her first time in Mexico too so I think she was also searching out for fellow English speaking friends. I give her all the kudos in the world. What an adventure she was going to have.

Upon getting your bags go through the minimal security check point and head to the right. Do a $$ exchange at one of the numerous places and head on out the big set of glass doors to the bus terminal. As was passed on to me when exchanging money wait till your farther towards the bus station. Don't go to the very place you see because more than likely they have a different (lower) exchange rate than if you wait. Cancholas take U.S. Dollars so I only exchanged $80. That should cover the bus fare, some minimal food and maybe some other things in Tlahchichuca. The bus station is right there through the door and actually pretty small. You can't miss it. Go to the ( ticket counter and grab your round-trip (redondo) ticket (billete) to CAPU in Puebla for 420 pesos and wait for the proper bus. I emphasize proper bus.
Bus out of Mexico City

This is where some Spanish may come in handy. There are no monitors, scrolling displays or signs for the buses that are coming and going. Sometimes they announce them most of the time they do not. Every time a bus would pull in I would show my ticket to the lady at the security screening area because you really didn't know which one it was going to be. She kept saying next bus, next bus in English. Well so has it "next bus" came and went.... with my bag on it! They gladly and easily exchanged my ticket for the next bus. My one and only concern was my bag, which had all my gear in it. Uhhgg. Where would it end up? Would my trip be done before it started?

About 10 mins before my actual bus arrived she motioned for me to come over and sent me through the check point and out towards where the bus was arriving. I jokingly grabbed my ear and pulled myself through the checkpoint. They all laughed and smiled. I was told by a new friend before I left that smiles and laughter break language barriers. He was right. I was assured everything was ok and my bag would be waiting for me in Puebla. This bus was fantastic, complete with movie, choice of beverage and a small gift bag of treats. So I kicked back and enjoyed the views out the window as we cruised through Mexico City.

Tadaaaa..... there it was. All locked up and waiting for me. I grabbed that and headed towards my departure terminal to Tlahchichuca and timed it perfect as the bus was just ready to leave. 58 pesos later and we're off. It was now almost 6pm and getting dark. An hour later and it's pitch black. and I mean pitch black. Not much for lights in the middle of nowhere in Mexico. Leaves one a little uneasy. Riding along into the dark of night not knowing basically anything. Makes for one heck of an adventure!

Another hour or so goes by and I'm thinking I missed my stop. I have no idea where else this bus might be going so I pull out the instructions from the Cancholas (thank you for these) and ask the senorita in front of me for some input. I point to the paper which is in Spanish and point behind, then point to the paper and point forward. I do this a couple times and she points behind..... I'm instantly struck with fear and overcome with an unexplainable emotion. The fear that I'm now riding into who knows where in Mexico. The next 15 mins are filled with anxiety, fear, caution.... and whatever else. where will I end up?

Then there it is...
The front wall of the hostel
we pull into a small village and I see the orange wall and CitlaltÚpetl out the window and quickly move to the front of the bus and ask the driver to stop. He apologizes over and over as he missed the stop. Whewwww... there was no better feeling in the world when I rang that door bell and Maribel opened the door and welcomed me in with open arms. I had made it! She immediately welcomed me into her home, family and life. And then fed me... a lot. After eating what felt like food for 3 I went back to my room which I had all to myself and arranged my gear for the next day and headed off to bed. It had been almost a 17 hr travel day and I was beat. Quick check of the o2 levels and they were at 94-95. Not too bad considering I was at around 8800' or so.
Stay here!!!!

My room all to myself

I was up early the next morning, maybe 5:30. Finalized the gear, showered and went looking for cafe. Me's gotta have my cafe in the morning. Low and behold Maribel is whipping up a Mexican feast for breakfast. Her cooking is excellent and you won't be hungry or leave hungry. The food just keeps coming and coming and coming. She assured me again that my $$, passport and other stuff that I wasn't taking up the mtn was safe in my room. Some more cafe and I decided it was time for a quick walk around the city center and then off for the hut.

Man, what a sight when you open that door
view right out the front door of the hostel - she's a biggin!
for the first time in the daylight and look east. It's huge, it's massive the prominence is amazing. I can't believe I'm gonna climb that thing! It towers over the town. Another footnote I should mention is that they have tons of gear for rent if you don't have it or couldn't get it to fit in your bag or just plain old forgot it. I was good as I'm overly anal about my stuff and knew 47 times over I had everything packed. They also supply you with white gas and tons of bottled water. I left with 19L of water for 2 days all included in the prearranged price.

It was just me today and we were on the road around 11:00am.
Someone's morning commute
What a beautiful ride up the mtn. For the first part of the trip you drive right at it. I'm soaking it all in.... the mtn, the corn fields, the sights, the smells. It's just flat out fricken awesome. Life doesn't get any better, well not at least for another 24 hours or so. It's about a 2 hour, bumpy ride up to the hut but it goes by fast. You go through big stands of massive pines and open grasses. Before you know it we're pulling in and unloading my gear into the big hut. I'm the only one here except for some day hikers. Current o2 levels were dropping near 80 but I had just arrived at 14K and this was expected.
Ahhhh... The Hut

My driver swept up, picked up garbage and did some other housekeeping before departing. I think he was there for maybe an hour. Not knowing me and my abilities I also think he hung around to see how I handled 14K and to check me out before leaving me alone. They all seem to take care of the place (climbers hut) as if it's there own. The place looks to be in pretty good shape too. It appears to have a new concrete roof, an additional room on the back end that is maybe going to be the "kitchen" area. Bathroom maintenance is also evident. Home sweet home for up to 60 climbers.

About 2 hours later another group from town arrived and I moved to the small hut. Which has also seen some recent maintenance. I was settled in when 2 guys from AK asked if they could bunk with me. Heck yeah it was good to have some company. Another hour and they were settled so I took off around 3:45 for an acclimation hike.
Acclimation hike
No need to rush things so I took my time up to about 15,200' or so. I felt like a million bucks, o2 levels during the hike 78-80. It's nice, maybe 50ish w/light winds. I got back to the small hut around 5:45, had some more food and did one final gear prep. Everything was pretty much ready for the morning. But was I? Nervous, anxious, and feeling the affects of being driven to 14K and dropped off. It was all new to me but I would adjust quickly.

It was going to be the longest "short night" of my life and sleep would be hard to come by. I crawled into the bag sometime around 7:00 pm with the alarm set for 1'ish. 8 o'clock, 9 o'clock, 10 o'clock.... why can't I sleep? Slight fever, HR a little elevated... hmm.... this wasn't good. Next thing I know the alarm is going off and I hadn't slept a wink. (1) 7 min. snooze and I dragged my hinder out of the bag. Initial o2 levels in the 70's WTF , really. I was worried. Then it hit me, 3 guys sleeping in a little tin can without a lot of fresh air movement. So I went outside to use the restroom and let the body take in some good fresh mountain air for 10 mins or so. Levels immediately started to rise and within mins was hanging around 88. What a mental relief.

As I was standing out there another big group from the main hut was heading out. It looked to be around a dozen or so. It was game on now after being totally rejuvinated by the o2 readings. After no sleep and really only feeling about 50% that was the only spark I needed. Boiled some water for some coffee, I know, not the beverage of choice but I love me some coffee in the morning. I had packed along some of my signature home made muffins for the trip and slammed that down. Topped it off with 24oz of water while gearing up and it was out the door I went. I know the other 2 guys didn't give me a chance in hell at this point and quite honestly, neither did I. I even made that comment in a short video I took right outside the hut as I headed up the aqueduct.

HERE I GO, 2am, 30 degrees, clear skies, an absolute gorgeous morning to go climb a big rock with ice on it. The huge first mental hurdle of the trip had been overcome.... getting out of that warm and cozy bag on zero sleep and really not feeling all that great but heading down the trail anyway. Cause that's what I do and that's why I'm here. Little did I know how much this mental toughness was going to pay off later. The climb starts out somewhat uneventful. You cruise up the aqueduct, veer to the right and start climbing through the rocks. This area is much like climbing most any 14er, loose rock, dirt, not overly steep. The Nepal Evos aren't the greatest boot in this terrain and if you had a lighter pair of hikers it might be beneficial to wear them starting out. Staying farther to the right as you pick your way through the lower end was the route of choice this year as well. It's pretty straight forward and easy to follow.

I still have this sense that I can't believe this is it, I'm actually doing it. Wow, 1 lone headlamp heading to the summit of the 3rd tallest peak in N.A. I smile , this is awesome. I'm now about to where I turned around yesterday. I'm maybe an hour or 90 mins into it and lovin it. All the crappy feelings I had when I got up are gone. Even though I'm gaining altitude and working I'm feeling better with each passing minute. In fact I feel strong, real strong. It's haul ass time!

Another hour passes through the rocks and I see head lamps. Within a half hour in the rocks I pass a rope team and head for the next one. The group of 11 is in 3 teams. They don't say much at all. They speak English as I heard them talking but they really didn't acknowledge me as I pass them. Just about to the Labyrinth now and I catch the next rope team but things come to a screeching halt as they set anchors and head up the ice. I'm torn.... do I pass, or do I stay behind, once they get moving they are going at a pretty good clip and I feel in the way so I let the 3rd team catch back up their group.

At this point the trail is still obvious, even in the dark. We leap frog a bit more on some different routes through the Lab but both end up at the glacier at about the same time. It's now 6:15am. I'm somewhere near 16,250' standing at the bottom of a glacier and staring at what lies ahead of me as the sun just starts to lighten things up enough to where you don't need a headlamp. WOW....
sunrise from around 17K
is all I can muster to myself. To say this is cool is a huge understatement, by far the neatest thing I've ever done. Again the group isn't very talkative. I'm not hitching along so to speak but I get the feeling the guides think so. They left almost an hour before I did but due to being in rope teams I easily caught them.

Man I feel like a million bucks, I can't believe it. I'm still waiting for the effects of the altitude and ever thinning air to take hold. Over hearing some of their conversations they aren't doing nearly as well. I give them a 10-15 min head start out onto the glacier but catch them very quickly. Torn again on what to do I tell myself this is now their summit, they were first on the mtn so they deserve the honors. I wouldn't pass a single one of them even if I feel I could and even if they stop for hours. They would summit first, it just seemed like the right thing to do. I relayed this to the last rope team as I stopped with them during a break. Not sure if they took it in the right context but I just wanted them to know I'd push their sorry butt to the summit if I could or had to just as long as they were there first.

The route is easy to follow at this point... angle to the right and then work your way back to the left and stay to the right of the big rock. You can't miss the rock. It's slow going, right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot and so on and so forth. Another hour and they stop for a break. I hang at the back end not getting in their way and letting them do their thing as I do mine. Some short videos and a few pics but this is no place to mess around. One must stay 100% mentally attached and focused on what they are doing. We're probably around 17,200'
the rope team near 17,500'
and it just keeps getting better and better. It's been around 15 degrees since I hit the glacier with a never ending relentless 15 MPH wind. At first it's no big deal, 1 hour into it you hate it but it's not going anywhere. It's not cold, but it mentally eats at you.

A guy at the back end of the group tells me I look strong. Amazingly I feel strong, no affects of standing almost 3000' above my previous maximum altitude. Take in some food and water and off I go. I let the group get 5 mins in front of me to stay out of harms way in case of a slip but I catch them quickly (again). Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.
somewhere near 18,100'
The sound that comes for a rope teams crampons and ice axes on ice and hard packed snow is forever etched in my mind. It's a great sound. Stay focused, think about what you're doing, stay engaged. This is no place for the mind to wander. No place to think about summit pics or celebrations or how nice a shower is going to feel.

17,800' brings another stop and one of the guides has to turn back. He can't handle it today. I'm still feeling near 100%
Smilin all the way
. I feel better now than I did 6-7 ago when I got up. Someone else makes a comment about how well I look and ask if I've ever done this. NOPE, first time on a glacier, first time this high, first time in Mexico. I'm just a guy that likes to climb sh!t. I don't want to sound like I'm gloating or on some sort of ego trip but a couple of them were impressed that I looked great and reassured me I would summit from here. What a mental boost.

Come to find out in talking they had hit Izta and Popo in the week leading up to this climb and some of them were pretty accomplished mtn climbers with some world traveling experience. What a boost, feeling strong and hearing praise from other climbers. But in the back of mind thoughts of "when" still lingered. When would the altitude be a factor. All the years of training, running, lifting and leading a very healthy lifestyle make the physical part of this climb very manageable for me. I love this sh!t.

A push to about 18,100 or so yields a small 2 min break before the final push to the summit
because I always wanted one of the pics!
. The sun is close now, just up the glacier a short distance. It's steep but doable, just don't drop anything or slip. The mental engagement of the upper end of this climb is way more than I had anticipated. It's a struggle, but you have to stay 100% focused, a screw up here is bad news. The wind that was a problem has been put out of your mind an hour ago it's mentally nonexistent. It's still there but you learn to focus on the task at hand... left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. A combination of low oxygen levels, lower brain function and the now 7 hours into the climb make focusing and thinking all that much harder. It's weird, I can't really describe it. But mentally this is becoming exhausting. Physically I feel as if I could do jumping jacks right now on a 40% grade at 18K in full gear. Did I push too hard? Did I not acclimate enough? Would the altitude crush me and would I be able to climb to high altitudes? Questions.... damn questions, no time for questions. Stay focused.

I'd say the last 600'+ of vert on the climb is literally chopped into the ice. Almost like steps. Onward and upward......18,200' WHAM just like a damn freight train. I'm hit with instant nausea, body aches, head aches and just an all around crappy feeling. At that very instant I wanted nothing more than to be back at the hut or at the hostel enjoying some fresh baked goods. But you can't think about that stuff. Focusing is harder and harder, oh no.. what is happening. I tune it out and concentrate even harder on the task at hand left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, that sound of crampons and ice is there leading me to the summit. Now is the time to mentally push through it all. For the first time the trip has become hard, very hard but don't think about it, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. My mind is now mentally numb...... then..... just like that I hear them yell in front of me.... 30 feet, 20 feet, 10 feet.... I'M HERE!!!
The summit
summit shot
summit shot
readings immediately after reaching the summit

Even now it still sends chills down my spine. I'm at the summit and the huge, massive mental weight that the climb puts on you has been lifted. I pushed through the last few hundred feet and the hardest thing I've ever done in my life and I'm here. It's sunny, warm, maybe 40-45. I get a hug from Anne (cause she's a hugger) a few other congrats from the group and I'm off to the side to enjoy the short moment on the summit by myself. A quick check of o2 levels shows me at 73 and a HR of 79. Not to shabby considering less than 52 hours earlier I was standing at my terminal waiting to board a plane at 780'. Not to mention at this point I have been up for 28 hours straight without sleep with roughly an 8 hour ascent to the summit. I snap a couple pics of the group for them, take in some water and food and prepare for the journey down. I realize now I haven't brought enough food and maybe not enough water. So I sort of ration both on the descent.

Things are becoming easier the longer I'm on the summit but within 15 mins or so it's time to head down.
the descent, where's my sunscreen again?
The group has already gone and I enjoy just a few minutes standing atop the summit being the highest person in all of North America. The group is out in front making super fast time. Doesn't seem like a very long time on the summit for such a great journey but at this altitude and feeling like I did the last couple hundred feet it's best to head down to 16,500' at a moderate pace. I'm now still smiling, I can't stop. It feels great and I don't care that I'm alone. I'd rather the whole climb be like this. It's just who I am, it's just "how I roll" so to speak.

The trip down the glacier is uneventful and before you know it you're back down to the rocks and have stripped off most of the heavy layers. I search for my sunscreen only to find it later in the hut under my sleeping bag , uhggg. So a slightly burned neck is obtained on the descent. Back at the top of the Lab I talk with one of the guides and tell him they left an hour before me. At first he hardly even acknowledges me. I think he's pissed and I think he thinks I had a free ride but I tell him that's not the case. He asks if I'll help and carry ropes down for them and my response is HELL YES! Cause I love this mtn stuff, all of it, whether I was a part of it or not, I just love it. Plus it was a show of good faith for the "other" hostel/climbing group in Tlachichuca. I didn't want to create any waves.

The weather is absolutely gorgeous and I have nothing else to do on this trip but get home. I had 2 days set aside to climb. Today (Friday) or the next day as my return flight out wasn't until Sunday afternoon. I stick around and help pulls ropes for them and offer to carry them to the hut but they insist that the bottom of the Lab is fine. I'm still smiling even though I just ate the last bit of my food and still have maybe 90 mins down. An uneventful trek down through the rocks. It's now maybe 50ish, sunny, no wind, so I set into a nice slow stroll down. Finally to the aqueduct and a few mins later I'm at the hut. I still feel pretty good as I meet my driver, shake hands and congrats are had all around. What a great day, a great experience and a great accomplishment. I fire up the stove for a mtn house on the ride down as I pack up gear.

Adios hut. It's just me on the way down so I get the front seat and manage to eat an entire mtn house without dripping/spilling any on that rocky trip down the mtn. We stop for a couple pics on the way down and before you know I'm catching a nice warm shower and inhaling food back at the Hostel. It's around 6pm now and there's some other climbers that have come in. I talk with them go over the routes and discuss conditions. I'm still smiling as I head off to bed around 10pm and dream of the days events. What a day, what a wonderful day.

I'm up the next morning around 5:30, grab a shower, mess with dirty gear and head in for breakfast. I ask if I can head back up the mtn. They look at me like I'm crazy. I have the day to hang out why not spend it hanging at an internationally known climbers hut? She says sure, as long as there's room, climbers and gear first. With a couple hours to kill I head the few blocks over the city center and enjoy the atmosphere. It's nice, it's amazingly safe for a small village in the middle of nowhere and even pretty clean. I recommend heading over there the night before and grab some fresh baked goods for the breakfast and to take up the mtn.

11:00am and the next group is going up. 2 jeep fulls but there's room for me in the back in the form of a makeshift bench seat. Yippeeee I get to go back up to the hut We stop for a bathroom break and to lock in 4 wheel drive and I grab some video of the mtn.
Awesome shot on the way back up the second day
captured some climbers near the summit on this one
Little did I know I would capture some climbers on their descent. This pic is a still taken from my video and zoomed in. Wish I knew which group it was once we got up to the hut. It would have been neat to meet them and send them this pic.

Upon arriving I check o2 levels.... 93!
readings on my second day at the hut at 14K
What another great feeling knowing my body can acclimate to this level so quickly. My future for bigger badder climbs looks great as this trip was a test to see where the body was at and how it would handle it. I highly suggest a small pulse ox meter. It could honestly be the one thing that sent me down the trail the morning before. I felt terrible but all signs pointed to being acclimated and able to climb. It's a great tool to carry with you and they can be found for around $40 at Walmart of Walgreens.

So we unload everything and people are gathering gear, organizing, everyone's everyone's happy and chatty. By now the hut has maybe 20-25 people in it and the other smaller hut has filled up too. There's even a handful of tents being put up. Which brings me to the mice. We battled with them for the first 20-30 mins in the small hut. The second you turned off the flashlight you could hear them climbing and running around. If you stay in there put every single thing used for cooking, during cooking and all your food and water bottles in a duffel or sealable bag right away. These things were into everything we had out. Even the windscreen for my stove. You may even be able to bait them outside with some food. That way at least they are out there and not inside. I also suggest a tent either bring one or rent one as there's enough flat open places right there at the hut to put them up.

By now the main hut was a food mecca, a couple double burner propane stoves, fresh sandwiches and plenty of other stuff. Kind of community comida. Everyone here shares and what is theirs is yours. It was sunny again, maybe 50 but the winds were a bit heavier today. Gusting to maybe 30 MPH at the hut. And it was dry, really dry so sand ended up going everything and getting in everything. I had left my glacier glasses at the hostel - stupid me. My contacts were taking the brunt of it. I Took another hike and literally flew up to about 15,500'.
the aqueduct
I was feeling great. This was a wonderful extra day spent up on the mtn. If you had the time I'd ask your service to take you back up the mtn if they have room. What a great way to spend the extra day. Talking with climbers, hangin out, the people you meet from all over the world really makes for a neat experience. I felt happier than a porn star at a Vegas sex convention on my extra day up there!

Back down the mtn we go arriving around 6:00pm just in time for..... yepp more Mexican food and time enjoying the hospitality and warmth of the Cancholan home. Maribel speaks pretty fluent English and Joaquin speaks enough to communicate. He showed me around the house and the pictures of his father years ago in the same small village. It was a great ending to the trip. I ended up sharing my room that final night with a younger kid who walked in from the bus station. He was from turkey and was going to climb in a few days. We talked and went over the route and shared climbing stories and eventually crashed around 10pm. I hated for the day to end knowing what was coming the next day.

I had an early start the next morning. Showered, packed everything up and went in the house and grabbed some breakfast. No one was up yet but Joaquin who I passed outside. He was going to "speak the truths" at 6:00am. We hugged, a real hug with meaning, said our goodbyes and some final parting words in which he pointed his fist to my chest then to his and said in English "2 big friends". I know it was only a few days but these people really let you into their lives, their homes and everything they have. What a great final memory to be sent home with.

The mtn was glowing
the morning I left - what a view to leave with!
as I opened and closed the small door to the hostel for one last time. The bus was right on time and picked me up in front the hostel. Off I went, 1 journey almost complete many more new ones to come. It was pretty much an uneventful trip back to Puebla and an easy transition at the bus station to Mexico City. There's a handful of English speaking security guards and other people working at the bus station so just in case you have issues or questions you can find one of them fairly easy. In terms of bus stations it is huge but easy to navigate.

I arrive back the airport with plenty of time to exchange my money back to dollars, grab something to eat and check in. Once at the gate I am somewhat relieved to see and talk with mainly Americans returning to Atlanta. As nice as it was there it's comforting, to say the least, to see other English speaking Americans. No hiccups and before you know it I'm in ATL. I absolutely cruise through customs and recheck the bag. I'm standing at my next gate roughly 20 mins later than when we got off the plane. Wow, that was speedy and it's probably got something to do with the new International terminal at ATL.

I don't eat out much due to my healthy lifestyle but with 90 mins before I had to depart for ATW I picked out a burger joint and wolfed down a burger and some fries. It just felt so American. I figured I had earned it by this point. I was saddened by the fact that very soon I would be landing at home and it will all have come to an end but hopefully it will only be the start of many more trips to foreign lands to climb their wonderful mtns.

Hope you enjoyed my journey, the recollection of the trip, the climb and 5 days of my life. Feel free to ask any questions about anything. I love talking about climbing, the gear, the trip and everything in between. I know there's probably some details I left out that I will think of later but hopefully someone gets some good data from this. If you're on the fence about this climb, just go and go with confidence. I have all the photos and videos uploaded to my FB page along with the ones in the report. Please stop by and view them if you feel ever so compelled to. This trip has changed my life for the better and things are.... well..... different. It has also opened many new doors for me. At least for now it still has me smiling on the inside and it has changed my thinking about life and the things in it.

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

02/10/2013 17:40
Not too shabby for a solo climber! What were the snow/ice conditions like up there?

Maybe I'll save this one for a year or two into residency; I think it'd be a very welcome respite. Not to mention wanting to get there while the Cancholas are still around!


Just do it
02/10/2013 17:49
And you did. What an adventure. Great job, nice trip report, enjoyed reading your solo journey. Living a healthy lifestyle really does make a difference at times like this.


Great narrative
02/10/2013 21:05
Enjoyed reading your story. Good job!


Nice job!
02/11/2013 04:07
Thanks for the report. Sounds like you had a great time, congratulations!


02/11/2013 16:36
The title alone deserves a thumbs up.


02/11/2013 19:23
Sweet trip, and I'm glad you decided to write a report. Always cool to see others' perspectives on a climb. Loved how you made it personal. Congrats, and good luck on your future classes and climbs.


Glad you liked it.
02/13/2013 00:35
Once I started to put some stuff down on paper things got a little carried away and I couldn't see doing a ”normal” trip report. So it ended up going this route and being sort of long. I really wanted to share the whole trip/experience with others and I hope this somewhat did that.

I should go back and edit to add a gear list though. I see I missed that. Even though just about every piece gear was new for this trip it all worked perfectly.

As for the title. I was lost after gringo solo....


Great Report
02/16/2013 23:34
The title demands attention almost as much as some others on this site desperately search for it. Great job and awesome report!

Nice report!
05/03/2013 05:39
Good info and photos. Glad you were able to make it solo. You seem to have a fondness for baked goods, yes?


Damn the baked goods!!
05/03/2013 23:36
They are my kryptonite

I even brought my own homemade muffins on the trip. I tried to make it somewhat personal and informative. I hope maybe someone will pull something from it if they ever go.

the coon

01/15/2014 17:07
Awesome TR. Way to set off solo. Agree the drive up to the hut is so incredibly cool going through all of the changes in environment and scenery.


10/06/2014 23:49
Looks like a great time and I enjoyed your writeup

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