Pico de Orizaba is a stunning inactive stratovolcano and is the highest volcanic summit in North America and the continent's third-highest peak. While high, it is reasonably straightforward to climb with a difficulty rating of 3.
It is much easier than hiking up America's tallest mountain - Denali. Reaching the summit of Denali requires much more practice and expertise. The experience of climbing Pico de Orizaba is worth the effort and is a very different part of traveling in Mexico than what most folks normally think of.
Pico de Orizaba and Its Height
Pico de Orizaba is located in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt and is thought of as dormant but not extinct (the last eruption was in the 1800s). This central valleys region of Mexico is home to some of the highest summits in North America. Orizaba's neighbor, Ixtaccihuatl is the seventh-highest rising to 17,340 feet.
It just so happens that the three largest countries in North America also have one of the three largest summits on the continent each. They are:
- First: Denali Of Alaska
- Second: Mount Logan of Canada
- Third: Pico de Orizaba of Mexico (Highest Volcano In North America)
Pico de Orizaba has something else special. It is the second most prominent volcanic peak after Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro. It has a topographic prominence of 16,148 feet or 4,922 meters (ranked 7th in the world for topographic prominence and 16th for topographic isolation).
- Height: 18,491 Feet or 5,636 Meters
- Name: It Is Also Known by The Native Name "Citlaltépetl" Meaning "Star Mountain" (Other native Names Include Istaktepetl and Poyauhtecatl
Glaciers of Pico de Orizaba
Pico de Orizaba is also one of only three volcanos in Mexico that still supports glaciers (including the country's largest glacier - Gran Glacier Norte). They are located on the north side of the mountain out of the melting rays of the sun.
- Glaciers: Orizaba Has 9 Glaciers
The northwestern face of the volcano not only provides for the large glaciers but is also the traveled route for those going up to the summit.
One can hike up to the top of Orizaba. This can be done over the course of one short climbing expedition. The climb includes basic technical difficulties.
- Hiking Time To Summit: Most Climbs Take around 15 Hours From the Mountain Hut to The Summit and Back
- Times: Most Climbs Begin at 1.00 am, Reach The Summit at 10.00 am, and are Back By 4.00 pm
The glaciers on this mighty volcano are relatively non-technical and there are very few crevasses.
9 Day Expedition of Mounts Orizaba and Ixtaccihuatl
RMI Expeditions is one of the companies offering expeditions to its mighty summit. Their expedition by RMI Expeditions starts in Mexico City where one will spend the night in the central Zona Rosa part of the city. There is an evening orientation meeting in the hotel lobby, otherwise enjoy the pubs and restaurants of the neighborhood.
- Price: $3,200 (Deposit $900)
- Duration: 9 Days
- Difficulty: Level 3
- Meeting/Departure Point: Mexico City
On day 2 one will leave in private vehicles to cabins at the La Malintzi Resort located at 10,000 feet at the base of La Malinche. There the party will take an acclimatization hiking and stretch the legs and lungs - reaching the 14,636-foot summit is optional.
The next day the group departs for Ixtaccihuatl and stays at the Altzomoni hut (at an altitude of 13,100 feet). Here hike and stay overnight for acclimatization. On day 4 the party leaves the hut and hikes to the High Camp. Here the group will set up camp and review their mountaineering skills in preparation for the next morning's early alpine start.
The next day is summit day for Ixtaccihuatl. The hike takes the Knees Route to the Ridge of the Sun (La Arista del Sol) before descending:
- Day 5: Summit The 17,340-Foot or 5,285-Meter Ixtaccihuatl
On day six one is in the colonial town of Puebla and is a relaxation day before the big one. the next day (day 7) drive to the High Camp on Orizaba at an altitude of 14,000 feet - camp in the tents near the hut.
Day 8 is the big day one has been prepping for! Summit all the way to the highest point in Mexico. The day starts with an early start making way through the maze of rock and scree. On reaching the Jamapa Glacier, don crampons and ice axes and group for the remainder of the climb.
- Day 8: Summit Orizaba
After submitting its back down the mountain and the next day one is back in Mexico City.
But don't fly out of Mexico City immediately, take time to see the impressive Metropolitan Cathedral that is built on the ruins of the destroyed Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan. Visit the remains of the Templo Mayor where at once crowned the city.