Ascent of Cerro La Peñuela on 2014-02-09
|Other People:||Solo Ascent|
|Date:||Sunday, February 9, 2014|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
|Peak:||Cerro La Peñuela|
| Elevation:||3350 m / 10991 ft|
Ascent Trip ReportCerro La Peñuela was the first peak of my 2 week excursion to Mexico. This was the first international trip that I have taken with the explicit purpose of peakbagging. In other past international trips, I have mixed general sightseeing with a few peaks here and there.
My trip began Friday morning as I left the ship in Everett following my duty day to head home and meet my van to the airport. The flights to Mexico City were uneventful and I arrived in the evening with enough time to drop my bags at the hotel and head out to Mexico City's central Zocalo for dinner and a bit of sightseeing. I had previously been to Mexico City's Zocalo in 1995 as part of a 2 week Spanish language class trip in middle school to Mexico City, Taxco, and Acapulco. I found a prefect restaurant with the help of the front desk clerk - menus were in Spanish only - exactly what I was looking for.
The next morning I had some time before my rental car pickup time, so I went back out to the Zocalo in the daylight, checked out the cathedral, and the Aztec ruins next to the cathedral. I spent about an hour and a half wandering around before I caught a cab back to the airport to pick up my rental car. When I picked up my car, I noted that it had Jalisco license plates. Jalisco has some narco-traffic issues, but I thought nothing of it. This would prove interesting later in the trip. I had a few items to purchase that I forgot to bring with me, so I found a store that is similar to a Target/Wal Mart somewhere in the Ecatepec area to grab what I needed. I also procured a Mexican road atlas here as I couldn't find anything good online ahead of time and I wanted to see what I was purchasing. After these errands, I headed northeast to the Teotihuacan pyramids. I intended to ease into the acclimatization on this trip as I have basically spent an entire year at sea level, much to my physical detriment. Teotihuacan is around 7,500 ft and a great way to spend a day adjusting to the altitude (though 7,500 ft isn't that high). I made my way up all of the interesting points and did a lot of wandering in the ruins.
Following my wanderings at Teotihuacan, I headed for the Cerro La Peñuela trailhead, stopping in Almoloya to eat dinner at a taco stand. I chatted with the people who ran it and they had actually been up to the mountain where I was headed. They were the first of many Mexican people that thought I was a little odd for traveling alone and hiking mountains. They shared some pictures from the summit and invited me back the following day to share my story. I made camp along a dirt road near a clump of trees that hid me from view about half a mile from the main road and out of sight of any buildings. I had no issues with my stealth camp overnight.
Before first light, I was up and headed for the trailhead. I had made a number of GPS waypoints using google maps satellite view to determine when and where to turn. Some information for hiking in this area was provided by Rudolfo, a friend of Adam's who connected us via email. Rudolfo provided a very useful map that made planning and executing this hike much easier. Naturally my first turn after turning off the highway was blocked by a fence so I had to wing it from there. I eventually found myself on the north side of a ridge that I had intended to find myself on the west side of. Oh well. A road heading directly for the ridge I wanted was blocked by logs but could be hiked. I parked the rental car and began hiking. I followed a mix if old road segments, fire breaks, and use trails to the ridge. Along the way, I ran into a barbed wire fence that blocked a use trail at shin level. I did not see it and I was pissed that I now had a hole in my new pants and cut myself on this rusty barbed wire... There was very light bushwhacking to reach the ridge, which was not at all difficult. I bypassed a minor summit directly NW of the first of two main summits. I then found myself at the top of a very steep firebreak that headed directly NE. This would prove useful later in the hike. At the highest point of this firebreak, I found an overgrown trail that headed right up Cerro La Peña de Tepozán. This trail was surprisingly easy to follow all the way to the top of Cerro La Peña de Tepozán. Just below the summit of this peak is a cross with great views to the north. I had a snack in the sun on the summit and made my way down the use trail to the saddle that separates Cerro La Peña de Tepozán and Cerro Las Lajas. From this saddle I was able to follow some dirt roads that went up and then contoured around the NE side of Cerro Las Lajas. I followed this series of roads and then use trails to just below the summit of Cerro Yolo before I followed a nice trail down to the campsite on the saddle between Cerro Yolo and Cerro La Peñuela. The area below the summit of Cerro La Peñuela has been clearcut and proved more difficult to navigate over piles of brush and branches. Once I re-entered the forest, no use trail was evident, but the bushwhacking was easy. I made my way up to the summit, with a very small section of class 3, which I was able to avoid on my descent.
The summit lacked a register and I did not have one to place as this would be an ideal candidate for a register due to the infrequency of hikers. I took the obligatory photos and headed back down to the saddle where the campsite was. At this juncture, I chose to follow a dirt road that looked like I could contour around Cerro Yolo and avoid a re-ascent. I followed it all the way to a spring where it ended but I filled up one of my water bottles. I backtracked a bit and followed a use trail to the higher road that I had initially taken around Cerro Las Lajas. I chose to re-summit Cerro La Peña de Tepozán instead of going around it in order to follow the correct trail back towards my car. Just below the summit, I encountered a family hiking down Cerro La Peña de Tepozán, a man, woman, and small child. I chatted with them briefly, but they didn't really seem in the mood to chat with me. It appears that they made it to the trailhead I intended to use for my ascent. Oh well.
Once I reached the saddle to the NW of Cerro La Peña de Tepozán at the top of the firebreak, I chose to descend the firebreak, thinking that the firebreak would intersect the road that I was parked on. When I reached a dry streambed crossing, I cut left into the woods just above it, fearing that I was too low to hit the road and decided to contour back to the car. Luckily after just a few dozen meters, I found myself above the road and walked down to it, quickly making my way right back to the car, past an interesting campsite.
Following the drive out to the main road, I made good on my promise of visiting the family taco stand in Almoloya, and had a nice late lunch with them, sharing my pictures and answering their questions. They all found me to be quite the oddity and do not get a lot of gringo hikers in their neck of the woods. Following my visit with them, I drove to Rio Frio de Juarez to scout out a trailhead for my next hike, Cerro Tláloc.
For future hikers, you can continue east and then south from my parking spot to right near the firebreak. I did not see the actual firebreak and road intersection, but it's there. From there, the firebreak is followed straight up to the use trail leading to the summit of Cerro La Peña de Tepozán. Also of note, there is a bit of uncertainty regarding which peak is higher, Cerro La Peña de Tepozán or Cerro La Peñuela. Since one of these two peaks is the Hidalgo state high point, it will eventually matter. I did both, so I am good either way that this debate ends. Whichever peak is higher is also a contender for P2k status, as it appears that the key col is at 2,740m, for a prominence factor of 680m or 2,231ft.
GPX track & picture notes:
Follow my descent route instead of my ascent route for the best way up this mountain. Additionally, I left a point out where I turned off the main highway (paved) to the dirt road. Some of the final pictures in the set are from that turn from the highway for future hikers to use and spot the correct place. You will also note that I have a thing for license plates and take pictures of different states when I encounter them.
Zocalo & Teotihuacan
Cerro La Peñuela
4h 6m moving time
1.9 mph moving avg
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