Mexico Volcanoes

12-18 Nov 2000 - by Monty Smith

Every year about this time there are RFIs for the Mexican volcanoes. Since this is the second Mexico request I've seen today (the first via private email) I thought I'd post my summary from when I went there in 2000.

Hope this helps!

Mexican Volcanoes

Good website:
The specific Izta guide in English is at
Popo Webcam:
Popo Reports:
Here is a site for Popo eruptions also. It looks like they do three pics a day.

Orizaba Contacts

Mexico City Hotels

Price range: $40 &up (double basis)


Maps of interest by catalog number

Catalog NumSheetSubject
E14B46 Coscomatepec Orizaba in SW corner
E14B45 Salvador El Seco Tlachichuca
E14B55 Ciudad Serdan Southern approach of Orizaba
E14B56 Orizaba Southern approach of Orizaba
E14B42 Huejotzingo Ixta & Popo
E14B41 Amecameca Western approach to Ixta & popo
E14B43 Puebla Malincha in NE corner
E14B33 Tlaxcala Campamento approach to La Malincha
E14B34 Huamantla Eastern side of La Malincha
E14B44 Tepatalxco Eastern side of La Malincha
E14A47 Volcan Nevado de Toluca Nevado de Toluca

La Malinche (14,640 ft.)

Secor calls this his preferred acclimatization climb but the Reyes climbing service says that adding La Malinche would waste too much time in transit. It is high, access is very easy, and the distance and elevation gained provide a good workout for assessing one's conditioning and acclimatization.

In addition there is a government owned resort on the northern slopes that can provide accommodations, hot showers, a store and a restaurant, all while being very cheap. The trail is signed and climbs through trees to a grassy basin north of the peak. The summit is reached after climbing to the ridge that connects the true summit of Malinche with its northern subsidiary rock peak. It is an easy scramble to the summit from the top ridge. The 2.4 mile, 3,300' of elevation gain should take about three hours from the roadhead. The Tlaxcala and Puebla 1:50,000 maps, catalog numbers E14B33 and E14B43, are needed to do this hike.

Malinche is not a "time consumer" as Reyes may have said. It is a nice extinct volcano with superb views of Puebla and Tlaxcala valleys. I personally have made archaeological discoveries in their multiple summits, and modern weather rites are still in practice in both the main summit and "chiche" subsummit.

Nevado de Toluca (15,900 ft.)

Nevado de Toluca, Mexico's 4th highest mountain, is a perfect mountain for acclimatizing, it's accessibility and cultural richness make it a rare encounter. One can drive into the crater of this extinct volcano. Check the two lakes held inside its two craters!! These lakes are at 13,730' above sea level. The highest point is 1,600' above the end of the road. The preferred route of ascent is along the rim of the crater; the rock is much more sound on the ridges than on the faces beneath them. If there is a great deal of snow and ice, axes, crampons, and perhaps a rope should be carried. This mountain is on the 1:50,000 Volcan Nevado de Toluca map, catalog number E14A47. Nevado de Toluca is a good alternative to Malinche but slightly more technical due to its unstable rock and its tendency to be hit by lightning. Reyes has a good knowledge of Pico de Orizaba and some good hikes and camps in the woods, which are good acclimatization. If your target is Orizaba, then you can forget almost anything else, but if you're a peak bagger, don't downplay Toluca and Malinche.

Iztaccihuatl (17,343')

Considered the most beautiful and interesting climb of Mexico's three highest peaks, Iztaccihuatl has extremely varied and rugged terrain. We drive southeast from Mexico City to the traditional town of Amecameca where we shop for food and spices at an Indian market, and if time allows we take a short hike over a pilgrimage route to a small shrine of national importance which offers good views of Amecameca and Iztaccihuatl. As we leave Amecameca, we drive first through small Indian maize farms and then climb steeply through pine forests to emerge onto the open slopes leading to the Pass of Cortes at 12,000 feet between Popo and Izta. We turn south and drive a little higher to reach Tlamacas Lodge, our "base camp" at road's end just below Popo's north face. The lodge has good views of both mountains and is composed of a series of bunk rooms with separate baths and hot showers, several group lounges with fireplaces, and a small restaurant. With the lodge as our base at 12,950 feet, we day-hike to higher altitudes. Active acclimatization is more effective than passive, and our pattern of climbing high each day while sleeping low helps us adjust to the thin atmosphere and provides us with a proper and necessary physiological foundation for a summit bid.

Summit day we drive back across the Pass of Cortes between the two peaks and then continue north to the base of Izztaccihuatl. Rather than following the normal route up the south slopes and making the long traverse to the summit at high altitude, we contour the western side of the mountain through a beautiful ravine and across a series of grass slopes, and then ascend directly up the west face glacier, the Ayoloco. We bypass crevasses at the steeper, upper end of the glacier, then follow an attractive ridge line the rest of the way to the summit. Izta is a large, complex mountain and our route offers excellent photographic opportunities both of this peak and of the nearby north face of Popo. The ascent via Ayoloco glacier is rather simple for a mountaineer with intermediate experience, and it won't be any steeper than the steepest of Orizaba climb.

Izta was a place where people were carrying their full overnight packs all the way to the summit. Sigh.

Leaving stuff in the huts was a sure way to lose it, and even those who cached it part way up looked back an hour later to see it headed downhill with a stranger.

Rental cars left at the trailhead were stolen or trashed - hire a cab at the base of the mountain, and pay them only half the fare to be sure they'll be back at the appointed time to get you. Iztaccihuatl DOES NOT MEAN "Sleeping woman", but "White woman". The Sleeping Woman idea came from a 19th century poem of Jose Santos Chocano, a Latin poet was not even Mexican but was popular back then.

Izta Guide:

Orizaba: Mountain of the Star

For our ascent of El Pico de Orizaba (the Aztec name is Citlaltepetl) we drive to the small village of Tlachichuca, from which we use a four-wheel-drive vehicle to follow a road (sometimes a stream bed) to Piedra Grande Hut on the north side of the peak. On the way up we pass through more villages where agricultural production is non-mechanized. From the hut at about 14,000 feet we spend time day-hiking to higher elevations to gain further acclimatization.

Our route of ascent takes us up the mountain's north face. We first move through a rock ravine to reach the glacier and the north saddle, and then climb directly up the north face of the summit cone. We make a belayed ascent of one moderate ice gully, skirt a series of crevasses, and then follow the ridge at the crater's edge on to the typically windy crest of North America's third highest summit at 18,850 feet. From our first colorful views at sunrise over the low clouds of the Gulf Basin to our final views into the great summit crater and off to Mexico's central highlands and southern lowlands, this ascent is rewardingly varied in both its scenery and its climbing challenge.

There are often no crevasses on Orizaba, but people have died in them, too. You may want to consider camping at 16,200 as that would give you some experience with carrying loads and acclimatization. If you're experienced the Jampa glacier would be quite straightforward. There's typically running water near the hut, but I'd recommend treating or filtering.

Itinerary #1 (Iztaccihuatl and Pico)

Day 1 Fly to MEX, stay in Mexico City hotel

Day 2 Transfer from Mexico City by highway, then 4x4 through National Forest lands of woods, deep cliffs and ravines to base camp (11,800') on west side of Iztaccihuatl. Remainder of day spent acclimating.

Day 3 Ascend by use trail and XC to 15,200' Ayoloco Summit Hut. Remainder of day spent acclimating.

Day 4 Summit Iztaccihuatl (17,343') by way of Ayoloco Glacier. Return to summit camp.

Day 5 Descend to trail head (11,800'). 4x4 back to highway, transfer by van through Pueblo (lunch) to Tlachichuca (Reyes Climbing Lodge). Dinner and evening in the lodge.

Day 6 4x4 transfer to Piedra Grande hut (14,380'), El Pico de Orizaba. Afternoon spent acclimating.

Day 7 Ascend to summit camp (16,100').

Day 8 Summit El Pico de Orizaba (18,645') by way of Ruta Espanoza. Descend to Piedra Grande hut. 4x4 transfer to Tlachichuca. Dinner and evening in lodge.

Day 9 Transfer through Pueblo (lunch & shopping) to Mexico City. Depart Mexico:

Itinerary #2 (Nevado de Toluca, Iztaccihuatl, Pico)

Day 1 Arrive, stay in Mexico City

Day 2 Transfer to Nevado de Toluca hut

Day 3 Climb Nevado de Toluca

Day 4 Transfer from Nevado de Toluca to hut at the base of Iztaccihuatl

Day 5 Climb Iztaccihuatl and back to the hut

Day 6 Rest day in Puebla city

Day 7 Transfer to Piedra Grande hut

Day 8 Climb Orizaba and back to the hut

Day 9 Back to Mexico City

Itinerary #3 (Iztaccihuatl, Pico)

Day 1 Fly to Mexico City

Day 2 Get picked up at the airport by Senor Reyes' associates. This is not nearly as cheap as catching buses, but of all Mr. Reyes services this is the one not to pass up. Saturday night you can Reyes in Tlachichuca at about 9500 ft elevation.

Day 3 Take the Reyes 4X4 to the Izta trailhead at about 12,500 ft. This is a rough road and is the approach to the Ayoloco glacier. The Ayoloco glacier is a really enjoyable route, and the Reyes family's approach is scenic and superior to the normal approach to the Ayoloco. However it is not easy to navigate, despite the Reyes insistence that it is. Acclimatization/exploration hike in the afternoon. Sleep at the trailhead in the bushes.

Day 4 Hike to high camp on Izta to the hut 15,200 ft. This may be too high as well as noisy and crowded, so pitch your tent and spend the night in a drainage at about 14,000 to 14,500 ft.

Day 5 Summit day. Onto the Ayoloco glacier and hang a left at the ridge, from there on out you are on the Arista Del Sol route (the tail end of the normal route). This route has little objective danger, unless there is a lot of snow.

Day 6 Descend and meet the Reyes representative who takes you back down to Tlachichuca to sleep for the evening.

Day 7 Take the Reyes truck to the hut on Orizaba at 14,000 ft. (don't bring your tent; you aren't sleeping anyway so it might as well be in the hut)

Day 8 Either climb to the summit and return to Tlachichuca with Reyes or acclimatize (this is your only optional day).

Day 9 Summit by way of the Glacier Norte, 4800 Vt/Ft. from the hut to the summit, then return that night to the village.

Day 10 Reyes van takes you to the airport to fly home

Expect to spend $400-600 on ground costs, nearly all of it to the Reyes Family, who are reliable and trustworthy, in addition to being medical doctors, good climbers and cooks as well. There is no feasible alternative to the Reyes family.

The Reyes must be paid completely in advance for most of the services. The Tlamacas lodge has lockers, but bring your own padlocks The pyramids of Teotihuacan are only a short bus ride away from Mexico City Amecameca is the small village at the foot of Popo and Izta, 7500 ft above sea level. The hotel at the southeast corner of the central square is adequate. Amecameca is a nice enough place, but not much to do except walk around and visit the market. If you want to see incredible stonecarving, the 16th-century open chapel at Tlalmanalco is only a few miles from Amecameca.

Diamox, a prescription blood pressure medication, can be taken daily to combat the effects of altitude.

Ground Transportation

Basic Spanish is helpful in arranging transportation. Buy your bus ticket at the window in the station. First class bus tickets are for a particular bus/time, and include checked bags (you have to carry them to the bus) and reserved seats. Busses run about every 15 minutes on the routes listed below.

To get to Izta & Popo: Take a taxi from the Mexico City airport to the TAPO bus station. Take the first class bus from the TAPO bus station in Mexico City, (near the airport) to Amecameca. Take a taxi from Amecameca. Expect to pay $15-20 US for the taxi ride to Paso de Cortez or Tlamacas. The bus will cost less than $5 US. ADO is one of the first class bus lines. Figure a two-hour bus ride and a one-hour taxi ride. If the hut at Tlamacas is open, it will probably not be necessary to make arrangements in advance to go down, as there is enough traffic to make it fairly easy to find a ride.

To get to Pico de Orizaba: Take a taxi from the Mexico City airport to the TAPO bus station. Take the first class bus from the TAPO station to Puebla. Take the second-class bus from Puebla to Tlachichuca. Each bus ride is about 2 hours, and will less than $5 US. From Tlac hire a pickup truck, probably $100 US round trip for the group. Senor Joaquin Conchola was our driver. Traffic is scarce, so go in advance to be picked up. A less expensive alternative may be to take a taxi from Tlachichuca to the village of San Miguel Zoapan or Miguel Hidalgo, and walk the last four or five miles to the hut. This hike could help with acclimatization. The hut is crude, but it keeps the wind out.


We didn't do all those mountains - just Pico and la Malinche (time and Popo erupting stopped us from the rest). The notes were just what I had found out, and had them in case we could get to those peaks.

Richard Ferguson adds:

Sr. Reyes is servimont (

We used Joaquin Canchola. The phone number below may need to be converted to the new Mexican 10-digit dialing system (the 91 is the prefix for long distance calls within Mexico).

Joaquin Canchola Limon
3 Poniente No. 3
Tlachichuca, Puebla  C.P.  75050
Phone:  (91-245) 15-082

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