Ascent of Cerro la Joya on 2012-01-04

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Duane Gilliland
Adam Helman -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Bob Packard
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Cerro la Joya
    Elevation:9646 ft / 2940 m

Ascent Trip Report

A 11.8 km round trip, approx 1100m total ascent, mostly bush whacking, with awkward brittle limestone. Local guide with machete recommended. it should be doable in under 12 hours (we were slow, especially in descent). We climbed it two days after our Pichacho San Onofre / Cerro Peña Nevada ascent.

A road leaves highway 102 at N21.27400 W99.15774, 1613m, paved as far as N21.30374 W99.18049, then continuing as a good dirt road, passing through Tres Lagunas (fork R at N21.32149 W99.20085) and Valle de Guadalupe, terminating at the small community of Lagunita de San Diego, N21.39604 W99.15755, 1910m. Note that the drive from highway 102 takes about 1.5 hours. The first two villages seemed quite affluent, with quite a few large houses - and quite an unfriendly feel, with our waves going unacknowledged. However the last village Lagunita de San Diego presented no difficulties.

Here we spoke to the locals (two of them have good English; one has lived in Virginia). The main issue is with thick brush, but we study the mountain as the afternoon clouds clear and decide to give it a try next morning.

We depart at 07:08, the four of us plus three Mexicans - one of whom was evidently located during the previous evening and has been to the summit before. All are carrying machetes so we had better behave! The route to the base of the mountain is pretty complicated - it was good that we had local assistance. We initially followed the "main street" (unpaved, but it has street lights!) then turned L at N21.39698 W99.15603 and R at N21.39809 W99.15669, then R at a clearing (N21.40475 W99.14949). There's a R fork at N21.40269 W99.15392 then the trail narrows, heading uphill, turning L at N21.41311 W99.14621, passing R of a cave at N21.41666 W99.14719, 2191m. (See GPX trail).

The sky was overcast initially but the cloud soon burned off and it was a perfect day, sunny and clear with quite distant views. The nearby summits are much like this one: thickly forested with plenty of steep ground.

As we gained height, the trail ran out and our three friends cleared a way through thick brush with their machetes; we climbed rocky gullies and skirted several small outcrops. Now and then fine views would open up. Eventually we were close to the SW ridge so we scrambled up at N21.42231 W99.14003, 2650m, reaching the crest at N21.42343 W99.13981, 2726m. The mountain is karstic limestone, sharp edged, brittle and unreliable and progress along the ridge was slower that we had expected, not helped by the viciously spined Agave plants. We had to descend a little before the final summit climb, and were forced off the ridge to the R, finally regaining it just before the final push. Arriving at a false summit, we had a final 100m climb to reach the highest point (N21.43094 W99.13250, 2923m).

There are at least 3 candidates of similar elevation, xxx, all in scrub. We continued a few metres to an open area with a fine view, and had lunch. A summit register was deposited (N21.43104 W99.13256), with a copy of the Mexican Ultras list. We seven signed it but wonder how long it will be until it gets another signature...

We headed down about 2pm and decided to keep below (L of) the crest as far as possible. This was probably easier that our upward route.

After a very slow descent (6h10 up, 6h30 down), we finished by moonlight, returning to the village at 20:30.

It was a very satisfying ascent, although quite tough, with quite a pioneering feel to it. We would recommend local assistance, not least for machete work. Leo Aguillon (a local official of some kind) proved most helpful, accommodating our vehicles on his drive, and accompanying us on the mountain along with his nephew and one other villager. We found him and his nephew in a kiosk at approx N21.39533 W99.15757; his house is at N21.39604 W99.15755, our trailhead. With luck you might show up there and make arrangements entirely in English - or bring your own machete!

Next day we drove back to Mexico City to meet Greg, Collin and Ryan and together we climbed Cerro Ajusco the day after.

A trip summary/overview can be found at the end of my Orizaba report

For a comprehensive illustrated description of the whole trip, see Adam Helman's expedition report
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4692 ft / 1429 m
    Extra Gain:656 ft / 199 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7.3 mi / 11.8 km
    Route:From SW; SW ridge
    Trailhead:Lagunita de San Diego  6266 ft / 1909 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 2+ / 3
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Scramble
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:6 Hours 12 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:6 Hours 30 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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