Places – Pico De Orizaba (Mexico)

Mexico is considered as one of only 18 countries in the world which is categorized as mega diverse. This category is used to describe countries that have “extreme diversity” among its Earth species. Apart from its species, Mexico has several active volcanoes have attributed for its being mega diverse. There are three mountain ranges that can be found in this country that form volcanic axis – Sierra Madre del Sur, Sierra Madre Occidental, and Sierra Madre Oriental. Most of the Mexican famous volcanoes are located along the volcanic axis such as Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl.

One of the famous volcanoes in Mexico is Pico de Orizaba. Located in the city of Orizaba, this volcano is also known as Citlatepetl and the highest Mexican mountain and the third highest in the whole of North America. Its height is estimated at 5,610 meters (18,490 feet) above sea level. The last eruption of Pico de Orizaba happened during the 17th century.

Photo: Robert Mijas

There are many reasons why mountaineers enjoy visiting Pico de Orizaba. There are decent facilities, accommodations, guides and equipment rentals available for people. Flights from Mexico City to Puebla are available, with a small airport in Puebla. If you want to get acclimatized to the altitude around Pico de Orizaba, you may want to try staying at Tlachichuca, a town which rests on the doorstep of the majestic mountain. The town may not have five star accommodations but they do provide complete facilities with beds, showers and toilets.

There are also buses which can take you between Mexico City and Puebla. You may need to get a ride on a four-wheel drive vehicle, which you can rent if you want to travel by yourself. If you purchase a package deal from a reputable expedition service, more than likely your transportation is included in the service. You can also rent horses and donkeys to carry your gear.

The best time to go up the mountain is between December and March with less dangerous conditions. There is a base camp called the Piedra Grande Hut that can accommodate the sleeping arrangements for 40-60 people, or you set up your own tents. However, all your basic needs like food, water and fuel, you will need to bring yourself. If you discover that you didn’t bring enough water for the journey, water is abundantly available by melting the snow and ice from the glacier itself. Always boil the water as a safety and health precaution.

If you and your team are quite fit, it should take you anywhere from 8 to 12 hours to reach the summit from base camp. The return trip will take much faster, up to approximately half the time it took you to reach summit. It is important that you return to base camp before early afternoon as the afternoon sun will start melting the ice, significantly increasing the risk level of your return trip. When you do reach the summit, you will need to take extra precaution when you walk around the crater as there have been incidences of climbers falling into the crater, due to being careless or the altitude sickness.

As long as you are fit, properly equipped with the necessary gear and you employ an experienced Orizaba mountain guide, you should be able to climb Pico de Orizaba without major problems. Enjoy the climb, and remember to put on the sun block.

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