By: randosteve|Posted on: November 12, 2007|Posted in: Broken Link to Photo/Video, International, Mexico | 13 comments

Cool views
Photo: Jason McGowin

Catching up to the SLC crew at snowlineIt was our last day in the Piedra Grande Hut and last chance to bag the summit of Orizaba before making our way back to Mexico City for our flights back to the US. The Brits got a super early start and were out the door by 1 am. Jason and I had our alarms set for 4 am and we leisurely got going and made it on the trail around 5:30. The wind was blowing again, so we were hoping it would get warm enough to soften things up high.

Taking a break in the labirynthWe felt good and charged up the slope after having spent a day acclimatizing, shaving time with every step. We caught up to the crew from SLC near where we had stashed our skis from the day before and we slapped on our crampons for the remaining 2500′ to the top. We passed some people at a high camp and stopped for some food in a spot sheltered from the wind in the Labyrinth.

 Jason McGowin hikes towards the Jampa Glacier on Pico de Orizaba

We had taken a little different route up the mountain this time, opting for lower angle terrain to make things less taxing on our bodies. It brought us closer to a cool area at the bottom of the glacier. I’m assuming these rows are formed by warm air venting out of the ground…but it’s just a guess.

 Steve Romeo hikes up Orizaba
Photo: Jason McGowin

A small village in the distanceAs we got higher, the views of the Mexican landscape opened up and we were able to enjoy thing much more than the day before…since we weren’t freezing our ass off this time. I felt like I was in Machu Pichu or something looking down on the villages of the high-country.

We were both amazed at how much quicker we could climb on this day. Though we were hiking in a rest-step fashion, we were moving steadily upwards, eating vertical quickly on the lower glacier. We could see the Brits moving slowly on the upper slopes and though we would probably catch up to them before the top.

 Steve Romeo and Jason McGowin climb Pico de Orizaba
Photo: Dave Shackleton

The slope steepened as we got higher and higher. I started to feel the altitude again when we got close to 18000′ and began to slow down. With each step I had to force myself to breath very deep and exhale completely to continue the pace. Jason seemed to be moving slightly quicker, but waited for me as we got close to the Brits and stopped for a quick chat.

 Jason McGowin nears the summit of Orizaba

The crater of OrizabaWe were pretty close to the top now and only a short pitch to some lower angled slopes before a 100 yard traverse to the summit. As we got to the flatter section, the summit crater became visible. It was pretty impressive…looking down into the crater and an experience you don’t get every day. I wanted to run to the summit, but the thin air kept me at bay and after a few minutes of sluggish walking we were at the top.


One of many crossesPsyched to be on top

Steve Romeo skies Pico de Orizaba, Photo: Dave ShackletonFrom what I understand the summit elevation of Orizaba is not quite official. Some estimates have it over 18,800′, but I believe the excepted height is 18,490′. This was the highest (altitude-wise) I have ever been and I was psyched at how my body handled it. Like everywhere else on the peak, there was a cross on the summit and this one was rather big, though not standing upright anymore. After a half hour of chilling, we got our gear ready for the descent. This was going to be my first run on my new BD Voodoos and was anxious to see how they skied.

Skiing Orizaba, Photo: Jason McGowinThe ski route off the summit is relatively north facing…depending on snow conditions and then wraps to more north easterly aspects lower down. A quick traverse and some exploratory turns got us lined up to start linking turns together. The snow was a sort of chunky powder and it would cascade down behind you, giving you that magic carpet feeling. I couldn’t help myself and let out some hoots…enjoying the moment. After about 800-1000′ we traversed east…to the skier’s right, hoping to find some sun softened snow on the slopes that had seen the most sun.

Skiing the Jampa Glacier, Photo: Jason McGowinWe were both surprised at the snow quality off the top and considered our selves lucky to have come all this way to Mexico and gotten such good conditions. Unfortunately, it looked like the rest of the descent was going to be refrozen boilerplate. The good part as that it was pretty smooth and consistent. As we made our way down the lower glacier, you could kind of find pockets of wind blown snow and time your turns accordingly…making it easier on the knees.

 The alternative
Photo: Dave Shackleton

It was all glazed over as we slide our way into the Labyrinth and we skidded and wind-shield wipered (sp) our way through. I had to sidestep a couple times after choosing the wrong slot to enter, trying to find the line onto the lower slopes. We stepped over some rocks at the bottom, milking the descent until there was no more.

 Not photoshopped
Photo: Jason McGowin

 Jason hikes back down to the Piedra Grande hut

Cooking up after the descentThe statsWe longed in the sun until falling rock stirred us down the hill to the hut. We had made it to the top in 4.5 hours (from the hut) and my lungs were feeling good. I learned that the record is under 2.5 hours from the hut to the summit. Our ride came after firing up some food to recharge the engines and the Brits arrived just in time to take advantage of the quick way down. Luck for us, they had some Mezcal…so we passed The bloks come preparedthe bottle around. Views of Orizaba opened up over the trees as the jeep descend and we asked the driver to stop for one last photo. Like every skier would be, we where psyched when we saw our tracks on the slopes above. Not deep, crisp s-turns in powder, but a small line of disturbed snow…just enough to provide the extra stoke.

 Our tracks seen from the valley

Cleaning the gearVolcano dust on our gearWe got back to the Senor Reyes and had a beer and got some nice warm showers before dinner. I spent a few moments to clean up my skis, as the snow had left them covered in volcano dust. The next day we were to travel back to Mexico City and have a little more culture before our flights home in the morning. Vive la Mexico!!!!!