Peak(s):  Pico de Orizaba - 18500
Date Posted:  11/04/2009
Modified:  09/12/2018
Date Climbed:   10/27/2009
Author:  USAKeller
Additional Members:   Fred Moore, comin2getcha
 Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltepetl) Summit Ski via Jamapa Glacier   

Intro to International Ski-Mountaineering: Orizaba Summit Ski Descent

Date: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 (summit day)
Skiers: Lance and myself; Climbers: my dad (Fred) and Randy (close family friend)
Route: Jamapa Glacier standard ascent and ski descent from Piedra Grande Hut at 14,000'
Stats (summit day): ~6.5 miles; 4,500' climbed; 2,500' skied; 13 hrs RT

The eastern skyline begins to shine as I start ascending the Jamapa Glacier on Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltepetl):

Our routes (blue=climb; red=ski):

Photo courtesy of benners

Our group - Randy, Dad, me, and Lance with our guides Cato (left) and Fernando (right):

Where to start? This trip was more than just a mountain climb; it was an adventure, a genuine cultural experience, and a trip of a lifetime that we'll never forget. Orizaba has been in the works for at least a year and a half. A few years back, my dad and Randy attempted Orizaba in March, but weather halted their progress at 15,800'. They wanted to go back, and Lance and I wanted to start expanding mountaineering outside of Colorado (so why not start with Orizaba?!). After doing some research and talking to Sr. Reyes, we found out that around October/November, the Jamapa Glacier conditions are best, but the weather is less predictable; and the opposite is true during the more popular climbing season of January-March. The dates were set, and then the time came to decide whether to ski it - duh! We did a lot of research on ski descents, but there isn't much literature out there. Whatever we found seemed to lack certain information so I'm hoping this trip report will provide encompassing details for future skiers. **Although I'm sure it's been done, a few others and I have not been able to find any documented literature on other women skiing this peak from the summit.**

Days 1 & 2 (10.23.09 & 10.24.09; Travel Days)

We took an early flight out of Denver, connected in Phoenix, and arrived in Mexico City (the biggest city in the world!) where we spent the night. The following morning, we took a 2-hour Estrella Roja charter bus ride to Puebla (the biggest bus station any of us have ever seen), and, after a short layover, caught a $4.00/2.5-hour bus ride to Tlachichuca, a small town just below the foothills of Orizaba. A two-block walk down the street and we were at the old renovated soap factory, the Reyes' Family guide service headquarters. That night we enjoyed an authentic Mexican dinner prepared by the cook, played ping-pong, and watched a movie.

A few photos of the soap factory:

Day 3 (10.25.09; Travel to Piedra Grande Hut Base Camp)

2.5 hours; ~2,300' elevation gain

Most of us were up fairly early to a cloudy morning, still no sight of Orizaba yet. So we decided to walk around town to find the boys their mandatory cup of java. Sunday apparently is a big day in Tlachichuca - everyone comes to sell their merchandise (including used shoes) and sets up large tarps covering the entire main city square. After another genuine meal, we met and spoke with our guides - Fernando and Cato. An hour later, we packed up the vintage Dodge Power Wagon's and headed up on a dirt road, through the highest civilized village in North America (Hidalgo), to 11,700ft. The guides asked us to hike up to the hut from here to start with acclimation. The hike was easy, mostly on a dirt trail or the road, and took 2.5hrs to reach Piedra Grande at 14,000ft. About a half mile from the hut, we were greeted with our first views of Orizaba.

Hiking to Piedra Grande Hut:

First view of Orizaba, looming over Piedra Grande :

We arrived at 3:00pm to a nice lunch cooked by one of our guides, and would spend the next 49 hours at 14,000' or higher! Unless you have earplugs and sleeping pills, don't plan on sleeping well; we lucked out the first night with only one other Polish climber in addition to our group. Night fell early and we went to sleep planning on a higher-elevation acclimation day to follow.

Home for the next two nights:


Day 4 (10.26.09; Acclimation Hike to High Base Camp at 15,450')

2 hours up, 45min. down; ~1,450' elevation gain

Fernando cooked scrambled eggs for breakfast as we got our packs together. He suggested we bring our skis, crampons, ice axes, and harnesses to stash them at one of the high camps. At 8:30am, we started up the aqueduct at a rather slow pace, leaving the aqueduct around 14,150' and hiking up a steeper scree section. Dad turned around near 15,000' due to fatigue from lack of sleep; Randy, Lance, and I kept with Fernando and Cato to 15,450' (a new high point for us) where an established camp site provided us a place to stash our gear overnight. Fernando wanted to hang out up there for awhile, and we did so for an hour enjoying good conversation. At 11:30am, we headed back down and returned to Piedra Grande 45 minutes later. That afternoon, more climbers started to roll in, including cheeseburglar, his girlfriend, and taylorzs from! We enjoyed good conversation with them a majority of the afternoon. There were close to 20 people in the hut that night from all over the world -Brazil, Spain, Poland, USA, and Mexico. The next day's plan was to have Dad start at 1:00am, the three of us a half hour later for a summit bid...

Hiking up the aqueduct; Fernando, Randy, and Lance climb up the scree section (inset):

Acclimating at high camp at 15,540':

Day 5 (10.27.09; SUMMIT DAY!)

7hrs. 35min. total ascent time; 4,500' elevation gain; ~2,500' vertical skied

We woke to rain and snow. Fernando suggested waiting one hour maximum to see if the weather would subside. Just as we fell back asleep, the clouds broke and a "let's get ready to go," came from Fernando. Dad and Randy started at 2:20am; Lance, Cato, and I at 2:45am. An hour and a half later, we arrived at our stash covered with a layer of snow. Here, we switched into ski boots and everyone put crampons on. The next part, called the "Labyrinth" was a fun 500' section consisting of short ~50-degree pitches interspersed with some mixed alpine climbing on snow, rock, and ice. From the stash, we moved for an hour and a half as the skyline began to glow to reach the base of the glacier near 16,000' (at 6:30am).

Dad, Fernando, and Randy hike through the Labyrinth:

The group pauses for a break at the base of the Jamapa Glacier:

Starting up the glacier (Lance - inset):

We started up at 6:35am - the lower portion of the glacier is a mellow slope - maybe 28 degrees. Around 17,100', the slope gradually steepened, averaging around 35-40 degrees and maxing out in the low 40's (at least on the line we took). The guides asked if we wanted to rope up - Fred roped to Cato and Randy to Fernando, Lance and I elected not to rope up (but had harnesses on in case that changed). Lance took the reins, Randy and Fernando held a slow and steady pace behind, Dad and Cato were a half hour below me hiking all by my lonesome. Our route on the glacier primarily stayed near the center of the north face as we heard from a recent climber that he thought he saw some crevasse activity on the northwestern portion. Clear, sunny skies accompanied by a wind that was just cool enough to prevent constant changing of layers couldn't have made for a better glacier climb. The Jamapa Glacier felt relentless and looked deceivingly short to everyone! 3hrs. 45min. after starting the glacier, Randy, Lance, Fernando, and I were on the summit at 10:20am (7hrs. 35min. total ascent time). The volcanic crater was one of the biggest, deepest, and stunning craters we have ever seen.

Lance met me at the crater rim...

...before the final 30-meter effort to the summit:

Randy, myself, Lance (left photo), and Dad (right photo) stand as the highest people in North America:

Since Randy and Fernando each lacked the luxury (a pair of skis!), they started down shortly after and glissaded most of the bottom two-thirds of the glacier. We waited 25 minutes for my dad - so badly I wanted him to be up there with me, but he wasn't in sight and a low pressure system was closing in. Lance and I refueled and prepared to ski off at 10:55am. (My dad would then reach the summit crater at 11:25am - I'm so proud of you!). **As a side note: Lance was in contact with a guy about his Orizaba ski descent who mentioned that the first few hundred vertical averaged 50 degrees and to watch out for a sulfur pit; I would estimate the max slope angle off the summit (this time of year) was really no more than 40 degrees, and there was no sulfur pit we found to watch out for.**

I'm excited to ski off the summit of Orizaba!

Lance skis off first and hits the upper face:



My turn:



**SKI CONDITIONS: Around 18,000', we skied to my dad, gave him some words of encouragement to press onward, and continued making our turns. The 40-degree summit pitch soon gave way to fairly consistent ~36-degree slopes. A little farther down, I cut slightly across to the northwest part of the face and encountered 6 inches of breakable crust - I don't know if that was crevasse activity that had been covered up the climber encountered a few days ago or what. But I elected our ski route to flirt with the central and slightly northeast flanks. We skied on typical hard-pack, brushing through small pockets of wind-deposited powder. Skiing above the clouds was so cool.

Skiing Jamapa Glacier

Lance gets his well-earned turns above the clouds:







My turn to rip the face:







We were back at the bottom of the glacier in 35 minutes (at 11:30am), just after Randy and Fernando. Dad and Cato also glissaded, arriving at 12:30pm. The crampons went back on, and we joined with a few other climbers for a slow, cloudy descent through the Labyrinth. We returned to our 15,540' cache, anxious to swap plastics for boots. Twenty minutes later, the group headed down the trail and turned up at Piedra Grande at 3:20pm. The trucks were going to leave base camp at 4:00pm so we quickly packed up gear, gave cheeseburglar et al. an update on glacier conditions, and had a 2-hour ride back to the soap factory ready for real food. The only minor problem Lance and I had with the altitude was descending a little too fast (headaches).

Days 6, 7, & 8 (10.28.09 - 10.30.09; Travel Back to Mexico City, Tour, and Home)

We all crashed hard the night before, woke up on Wednesday and took the busses back to Mexico DF. Randy checked to see what it would cost to fly home a day early but it wasn't worth it. So, we killed time on Thursday by taking a tour of Teotihuacan, the largest pre-Columbian city containing some of the largest pyramids built by the Aztecs. We worked out both mornings in Mexico City, taking full advantage of the altitude and flew back to sea level Friday afternoon.

"Pyramid of the Sun" at Teotihuacan:

I must admit I was worried how I would do with the weight of skis on my back at an altitude I have never been at. This trip was exactly what I was hoping for - a pleasant surprise - not having any problems with either (thanks to CytoMax!). As I mentioned above, this trip was more than a mountain climb. It was an extraordinary experience from the initial planning to the return home and everything in between. We highly recommend Fernando and Cato (our guides) and Servimont as the guiding service. The Reyes' Family were excellent hosts and to share in their legacy was remarkable.

Other Notable Points

Things we wish we brought on the trip:
*Black Diamond Orbit lantern (would have been nice to hang in the hut for extra light)
*a tent (if we knew how loud the hut was ahead of time, a high camp for quietness would have been fun)
*protein powder and protein bars

Things we were glad we bought/brought:
*CamelBak StoAway (fully insulated reservoir, tube, and bite valve)
*Black Diamond Windweight fleece liner gloves (they do a great job blocking wind and were the only gloves we wore along the hike)
*Clif Shot Roks (protein bites)

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39

Comments or Questions
11/04/2009 13:16
Very, very cool.

11/04/2009 14:07
2nd to last pic of you and the clouds is pretty spectacular. Thanks for sharing, it‘s gotten me pumped to start skiing.

the first photo
11/04/2009 14:24
is awesome! nice trip report

11/04/2009 14:51
Well done everyone. The conditions look dreamy.

Very nice
11/04/2009 14:54
Looks like it was a fatntastic trip and climb. Jamapa conditions looked ALOT softer and better than when I climbed it in 2004. As you said, Orizaba is a great intro into higher altitude, international, climbing....congrats!

11/04/2009 15:18
Primo! What an fantastic adventure, and great report/pics! Ditto on 2nd to last photo. Looks like a Utopian place where you could just ski right off and ride a top the puffy white clouds for a while... Magical

Love it!
11/04/2009 15:22
What a great adventure to share with those who mean so much to you! Thanks for posting. Happy trails!

11/04/2009 16:06
Great photos! Looks like an awesome trip.

Congrats to all
11/04/2009 16:11
Awesome report, Caroline. We went with Servimont in 2008, and also enjoyed Fernando as our alpine guide. For me, it was the perfect combination for one of the best trips of my life.

I‘m not surprised to hear that Cheeseburglar went back for another round on Orizaba... it‘s such a fun peak, Gerry Roach has been doing it every decade since the 60s! Thanks for the great write-up, wonderful pics, and a report that really does Mexico, the Reyes compound and services, and Pico de Orizaba, justice. And BRAVO on the new personal altitude record, and the ski descent!

11/04/2009 17:12
great report, i love the pics above the clouds

11/04/2009 17:17
Great report and pictures. Orizaba really hasn‘t been on my radar but after reading this I may have to change that.

Way to Git-R-Done.

Cytomax ?
11/04/2009 17:27
Nice job...question for you..I‘ve been reading the reviews on the cytomax...any umm...bowel issues with using it?

Muy Pinche Bueno
11/04/2009 17:50
Looks like a nice time for sure. That looks like some nice snow. Hurricane season provides again and again.

Sweet Ski Pics!
11/04/2009 18:17
That looks like one awesome trip! Glad it worked out so well for you guys.

Great Report
11/04/2009 18:20
Thanks for sharing. Must have been a great experience.

11/04/2009 18:28
Amazing pictures! That one with the Refugio and Orizaba is awesome. This report brings back so many fond memories of Mexico and Orizaba.

Well done!
11/04/2009 18:32
Very nicely done! Amazing pictures, sounds like such a great trip!!!! I‘m also interested in this CytoMax...going to have to look into that. Thanks for sharing your adventure!

11/04/2009 19:35
What an adventure, thanks for sharing. How cool to go with your Pops too. Servimont is amazing and you incorporate the atmosphere of the compound really well in your trip report. Very cool mountain, sounds like you might be the first woman to ski it too eh? Either way it‘s quite the accomplishment.

Very cool
11/04/2009 20:21
...and inspiring!

11/04/2009 22:14
That looks like an awesome face to ski down... They ought to put in a resort there! (jus‘ kiddin‘...)

Great report, awesome pictures
11/04/2009 23:12
Nicely done. That snow looked nicer than the mid winter glacier I climbed. Why would want to fly home early instead of going to see the pyramids? This makes me want to go back!

Congratulations -
11/04/2009 23:51

Great report, congrats!
11/05/2009 01:49
I really enjoyed your report, esp. liked seeing your dad get out there too. Quite the family accomplishment! And yeah, Cytomax rocks (Tropical Fruit!).
Way to go!

Great Report
11/05/2009 03:38
I really enjoyed looking at that report. Sounds like you guys had a fun time.

11/05/2009 22:43
report and accomplishment!! The pictures and report are truly awesome! Thanks for sharing and congratulations!


That‘s one for the.....
11/05/2009 22:44
Lifetime trips catalog! Nicely done.

11/06/2009 06:59
Great TR !

100% Awsome!
11/06/2009 16:50
What a great trip.

nice work Caroline
11/07/2009 18:03
way to open up the TR with the sickest shot of the trip.

Chris P.
Wonderful pictures!
11/08/2009 00:23
Congratulations Caroline, Lance et al. It looks like you guys had great conditions and I can imagine that skiing a peak like that must have been amazing.

A fan for life!
11/08/2009 22:38
USAKeller...the great adventurer!! Great pics and great read! Congratulations to your whole team for a safe and succesful trip!

So cool
11/09/2009 19:47
Awesome trip. Makes me want to travel south of border for some different climbs. Damn good ski descent too.

11/12/2009 05:52
Hey Caroline, nice TR! congratulations on summiting and sking! It was cool running into some fellow Coloradoans and people none the less on Orizaba. It is a small world. We summited on October 30th and snowboarded/skied off the summit. I should have my TR from our Orizaba trip up here sometime in the next couple days...Happy turns!

That‘s a good TR.
11/12/2009 06:28
Nice to meet you guys!
Zach- you have your work cut out for you. You need to top that!
The snow was better the day we skied it. But our pictures are not as good, probably camera operator error.
You can not claim what you want, Caroline.
I‘m claiming mine... First man to tele ski Orizaba wearing shorts.

Fred Moore
Thanks Caroline !!
11/13/2009 19:05
Caroline, I remember helping you up your first 14ers (Quandary, Bross, Sherman etc.) and and thank you for helping me do the Orizaba adventure with you. It is my great fortune to be your father and watch you tackle the mountains and achieve your lofty goals.

11/13/2009 22:18
It was a special trip for everyone, and having you there was incredible. It wasn‘t just me who helped you - Lance, Randy, and Grandma too. It was certainly a most wonderful trip that none of us will forget! I see you finally figured out how to log on without my assistance Now let‘s look at Ecuador volcanoes...

D-Day: Thank you! I can‘t believe you‘re leaving the 14ers and heading to Kansas...!

cheeseburglar and taylorzs: Congrats to you both as well as Amanda on the ski too! Not to mention the other peaks you climbed too. It also was a pleasure meeting you all too!

fringe fatale
Great TR!
12/22/2009 04:49
Caroline-It was so good meeting you! I am so new at this mountain climbing lifestyle that I was quite intimidated by Orizaba but after the fact and reflecting back- I‘m so in love with climbing mountains, I can‘t sit still!! I admire all the ladies I‘ve met out there-you give me a sense of confidence and remind me that I don‘t have to grow up climbing mountains to love them. Mt. Sopris still remains my favorite but Pico de Orizaba was an amazing experience!! Any advice on waking up so early?? That is the hardest part for me. I hate that. Anyway-GREAT TR and again-so nice to meet you!! I feel lucky to be surrounded by stellar folks like yourself

Wonderful Trip Report
08/26/2010 05:50
Gorgeous photos of a beautiful mountain! Your love of adventure and of the people with whom you shared this trip shine through it all. Gotta love Senor Reyes' soap factory. Thanks for sharing this spectacular trip.

11/30/2010 17:28
I only had time to browse the pictures, I'll have to go through and read it later but for now, GREAT JOB climbing and skiing this beast Caroline! Looks like you had excellent conditions, your pictures rock...

11/30/2010 17:28
Caroline, Randy, Fred and Lance. But most particulairly to Fred!! You Dad finally made it!!! That must have been awesome to wrap up loose ends!
That sucks that the hut was so noisy. It's impossible enough to sleep at that altitude let alone having Germans, Koreans, Japanese, Texans etc. sleepwalking, cooking, talking when you're trying to sleep!
Those last pictures of you guys ripping it up look awesome, Caroline. I think I‘m going to breaking into AT this year, FINALLY. Gonna lug my alpine up Quandary first and get a taste. Wanna ski Cristo?
Glad to see you guys manuevered that crevasse at the bottom successfully. You could have stubbed a toe in it.
Sweet idea with the pictures too!
A HUGE congratulations!!!

09/12/2018 18:34
for your comments! I wasn't expecting all of this feedback. We really appreciate it!

I'll agree agian with Susan and JB99 that Servimont was phenomenal, and with others that Orizaba is a great intro to higher altidude glacier travel at an international experience.

To answer a few specific questions...
sstraus: Re: Cytomax: Definitely no bowel problems with Cytomax that I could tell! lol

JB99: As far as being the first female to ski's my take: myself along with a few others haven't heard of or found any literature on other women skiing it. Sr. Reyes and our guides have not seen of or heard of any other females either. Mind you, their guiding goes back 3 generations on that mountain and they pretty much know who travels that mountain using them or not, but there are other routes and people who don't use their service too. At any rate, because I am still a novice in ski-mountaineering, I do not feel comfortable claiming that title on a peak that is highly climbed. Sure, it could be the first documentation of a female skiing it, but I still can't claim it.

MountainHiker: My dad and Randy have been there, done that plenty of times in Mexico City. And with the way crime is right now there, it wasn't a place we wanted to be playing tourist. So that's why we checked to see if an earlier flight home was available.

Kiefer: I agree with you, my dad and Randy had some unfinished business up there and we were happy to be a part of their success! Thanks for your comments. And, I do agree 150% that you getting some AT gear is a fabulous choice! Cristo is definitely on my list!

Thanks again to everyone for your feedback!

02/05/2011 00:22
Caroline -- Another great trip report! This was an epic trip and more than just another mountain to climb, as you stated. It was a blast that far exceeded my expectations. I‘m sorry the trip ended so soon.

It was very special to be there with you. Fred and Randy also. The memories will last a lifetime.

05/02/2011 14:23
Awesome climb & ski! Great write up Caroline. Really enjoyed reading and hearing about your trip.

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