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Christmas Mountaineering in Mexico

Pictures from this trip

Mexico trip over Christmas. Valera, Boyan, Dentcho, and I flew to Mexico City and spent 16 days in that country, climbed two mountains, laid on the beach, saw lots of Mayan ruins, and had an excellent time in spite of the facts that we are from three different countries (Russia, Bulgaria, USA) and none of us spoke anything more than basic survival Spanish.

The first picture attached here (DSCN0288) is two of Mexico's most famous mountains, Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl. (Popo is on the right, with smoke coming out of it.) The vantage point here is the Mexico City Airport. Ixta is about 17,100 feet, and Popo is 17,800. In spite of being taller, Popo is actually the easier climb, but currently the Mexican government doesn't let anyone climb it, for reasons related to the smoke: Popo is right now the most active volcano in North America.

Our plan for this trip was to climb another mountain, La Malinche (14,600 ft), as a warm-up, then Ixta, and then Pico de Orizaba (18,400 ft), the tallest mountain in Mexico. We did La Malinche first, starting from a trailhead near a campground in La Malinche National Park. There were several stray dogs hanging around the campground, and when we got up at 4:30AM and started hiking, three of the dogs followed us - ALL THE WAY TO THE SUMMIT. Tough dogs. DSCN0333R is a picture of one of the dogs at the summit, just before sunrise, with Orizaba in the background. SSCN0349 is Valera, Dentcho, me, and Boyan at the summit. Dentcho and Boyan are holding a Bulgarian flag.

Next we went to Ixta, and all of us except Boyan hiked to about 14,000 feet and made camp for the night. (Boyan fell sick the day before, and stayed in a hotel in Cholula. Bummer.) We started dark and early (4AM) the next morning to make for the summit. DSCN0370 shows one of us in dark silhouette, with the lights of several towns and villages in the distance below. DSCN0382 was taken a few hours later: a snowfield near the summit, with Popo puffing in the background. On the right you can see three other climbers crossing the snowfield. DSCN0390 shows Dentcho, me, and Valera at the summit of Ixta, and also nicely illustrates why you shouldn't pick people at random to take pictures for you.

After that we went to Orizaba, right? Wrong. We met several other climbers on La Malinche and Ixta who all told us the same thing: Orizaba is extremely treacherous this year. Long steep slopes of glare ice. Four people killed between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a dozen more injured. Now, there are techniques for mountaineers to handle such conditions, but none of us had that experience, and we decided that we'd rather get home safely than reach the summit of Orizaba and then get killed on the way down.

So we went to Yucatan instead. We saw some Mayan ruins (DSCN0495), hit the beach, and saw a VERY good band at a bar/restaurant with no electricity (DCN0529). I emphasize - a VERY VERY good band. Eight musicians, six of them percussionists, playing powerful, supple Caribbean rhythms that I could have listened to forever. These guys would do justice to the Slippery Noodle.

After four days in Yucatan we returned to Mexico City. Hung out, saw a bullfight (DSCN0609), got lost, enjoyed the food, the markets, and the people. Especially the people: I can vouch that Mexicans are among the friendliest people on this planet. Everywhere we went we found people who were patient with our butchered Spanish and gave us whatever directions/help they could.

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