Ascent of Nevado de Toluca in 2010-12

Climber: David Howells

Others in Party:Maria Folch
Neus Folch
Date:December, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Nevado de Toluca
    Elevation:15354 ft / 4679 m

Ascent Trip Report

I am an experienced UK hiker and climber and in addition I spend a lot of time out in Latin America, especially in gorgeous Mexico. I generally know what I am doing in the mountains and also have considerable experience of leading groups abroad. Therefore the information I will partake about this great mountain is born out of experience as I have done it several times and I have spent a considerable amount of my life in mountains in various parts of the world.

First of all this is a great mountain, I absolutely adore it. If I said to people that it is literally the spitting image of the Snowdon Horseshoe in my native Wales then British people will totally understand the nature of this mountain massive. It has exactly the same characteristics of the latter named horseshoe. It has a circular route, two lakes, scrambles, a classic ridge and a generous amount of escape routes. The only ways it differs is that Toluca is at 4,700m and not 1,100m and the summit on Toluca is somewhat more constricted and devoid of a café.

I have attached an information sheet (bottom) I wrote on the mountain and this explains how to get there as well as other things. In addition you need to purchase a 1:50,000 map of the area too (you will have to get these from an outdoor retailer in Mexico City). If the weather does come in you will also need the skills to use that map and a compass. Generally though you will get a blue-sky day. A word of warning however if you are doing this mountain between Oct-March or it is cold/snowy then it is a different prospect altogether and you will need ice axe and crampons. A final word on safety, this is a rocky mountain so take a helmet and if you are doing the complete rim traverse then err on the side of caution and be equipped for a simple rock climb. Saying that we didn’t but if you do go off piste with no protection then you may be walking into trouble.

There are also a number of routes to do on this mountain. I will stick to the two routes I have done namely the standard route from Las Plumas Refuge and The Complete Rim Traverse (aka the Snowdon Horseshoe) from the same place. If you have a car, you can drive from Mexico City, do any one of these routes and return in a long day of 12 hours.
NOTE: When my notes refer to photographs. Excuse me but I have mislaid these items at the moment.

1.Standard Route: Read my information sheet about how to get to Las Plumas refuge. After parking the car you will need to walk along the footpath (SW) that runs alongside the guardian hut. It is plainly marked and this will take you to a small col (20mins). From the Col, marked on my photo NT1 as the ‘main exit/entry pass’ you will see a fantastic alpine amphitheatre in front of you. Walk straight down the natural path in between the two lakes (lake of the sun and moon) and you will see a path rising on the far side of the valley. From the valley floor you hike up from 4,000 to 4,400m to a ridge. This brings you to the start point of the route highlighted as the standard route on my photo NT2. (The bottom of the Campanarios). This will take you about 1.5-2hrs from the start.

From here, or shortly thereafter, it gets to be a great scramble so it’s time to put on your helmet. You generally stick to the summit line or just to the left. Should you get to a point where you are not happy with the terrain then there is normally an ‘off route’ to the left or right. The grade is a UK 1 scramble (Crib Goch/Tryfan), simple un-roped stuff. It generally goes on like this for a good two hours and you simply just pick your way upwards to the highest point until you get to the summit of Pico de Fraile. See my photo NT3. Now the views from here are great but there is not a lot of room so if it is the weekend it may be busy. If so, get up there, take your picture and get off. WARNING: There is a huge drop on the Western & Eastern sides.

You are now on the down leg of the trip and heading slightly NW. It is a bit precarious at first but it soon gets easier and after 30 mins you get to a natural col. Here you take a detour steep downhill to the right towards the Lake of Sun/Sol. This downhill is amply shown in photos NT2 & 4. This is a 30-45min sandy/shale gulley skid that takes you all the way down to the Lake of the Sun. Here you simply walk along the Western edge of the lake and follow it all the way round and egress uphill towards the ‘main entry/exit pass and then (left) downhill to your start point. Once you reach the lake it takes around 1.5 hours to get to the end. All in from start to finish you can do the hike in 6-7hrs quite easily.

2. Complete Rim Traverse: You literally follow the standard route until you do the summit and arrive back down to where you see the detour heading off sharply downhill (sandy/shale skid) to the lake of the Sol. Instead of taking this route head straight on where you can see Pico Aguila in the distance. See NT5. Now if you are unsure of your abilities on rock or navigation then head off down to the lake. Otherwise the next bit is a going to be a bit of an adventure that you may not want.

You carry straight on here until you get onto the rocky pinnacle ridge in front of you (see NT5) and the views are quite awesome. You are generally following a set of small stone ‘Cairns’ and a VERY indistinct path. You can just pick it out with no snow on the ground so if there is snow I advise you to turn back or not to do it unless you are with a guide. You then literally pick your way over, round, go to the right, to the left, go down, go round until at last you make your way up to summit of Pico Aguila. You literally have to find the Cairns and your journey takes you all over that long rocky ridge but it’s a great journey.

The summit point here is nice with great views but then off we go again sharply downhill again now until you come down behind pico Noresta. The going down here is very steep and you have to carefully route find your way again. Eventually you come out on a more general footpath on a broad ridgeline. This is the path to the left of the photo NT1 marked complete rim traverse. You then walk down to our famous ‘main entry/exit pass’ and back to the car park. All in, you can do this route in 7-8hrs, 9-10 if you have route-finding problems.

In my mind if you want to do the routes your self then the Complete Rim Route is for the very experienced hiker/climber only. The Standard Route is within the reach of those who are regular hill goers. Do be careful however, the drops are big, the rocks are loose and route finding is moderate (standard route) to difficult (Rim Traverse). If in doubt then simply get a guide. A good company in Mexico City that operates here regularly is Mexico Travesias.

My final word would be this --- ‘Go and enjoy this mountain’, it is a fantastic place and we always meet great people there. While you’re at it enjoy this great country that is Mexico….

Mountain: Nevado Toluca: 4,680m (15,354´).
Nevado Toluca or Xinantécatl´ (The naked man) is located 109 kilometres West of Mexico City (city centre). Approximately 70 kilometres West of Mexico City and then a further 50 kilometres South from the city of Toluca.

Nevado Toluca is a large extinct strata-volano situated in central Mexico. Very little is written about this gem of a mountain, which is surprising as it is easily within a two and a half hour drive of Mexico City and its rocky ridges and fine scrambles has a lot to offer any mountain explorer. In addition as well as being Mexico´s fourth highest mountain it is also a great acclimatisation peak for those who intend to go on to climb Mexico´s higher peaks.

Mountain Profile
Nevado Toluca takes the form of a large impressive rocky amphitheatre, which is open to the East. It has two principle peaks, the highest being Pico del Fraile (Friar´s Peak) at 4,4680m (15,354´), which is on the southern rim and Pico del Aquila (Eagle´s Peak) at 4,640m (15,223´), which is on the northern rim. In between is a scintillating rocky two-kilometre ridge that resembles Crib Goch in nature. There are two lakes in the basin of this amphitheatre, which is at about 4,100m. The larger by far is the Lago del Sol (Sun Lake about half a kilometre square) and the smaller is Lago de la Luna (Moon Lake about two hundred meters square).

History and Wildlife
Nevada de Toluca was declared a national park in 1936 and is an area of great beauty. The Nevado massive is in surrounded by fir and pine forests and officially the park stands at 51,000 hectares (126,000 acres). Wildlife includes the Zacatuche rabbit, white tailed deer, bobcats and woodpeckers. What is less known is that the parks attracts divers who explore Nevado’s high altitude lakes along with parapenters who exploit its easy access to high altitude take offs. The area is also frequented by Olympic class athletes who can be seen almost on a daily basis running up Nevado´s steep slopes to the summit rim at around 4,300 meters!

Getting There
Simple directions
Head West out of Mexico on H15 and by pass the city of Toluca on the South side on H134. Turn off on H10 and follow it to the village of Raices. Turn left onto the Nevado Toluca road immediately on leaving Raices.

Detailed directions.
Head out of Mexico City on highway 15 towards the city of Toluca. After about 45 minutes driving you turn left at a fork merging with Paseo Tollocan heading South West towards Paseo Colon following the signs for H134. After about 3.5 kilometres the road will then start to head due west and at this point on the other side of the road you will see the tree lined/walled enclosure of an army camp. After another kilometre you turn left the statue of Christopher Columbus. Staying on H134 you drive down Paseo Collon for 2 kilometres until you get to a roundabout (with a fountain in it) and take the first exit right staying on H134. You should be here depending on traffic in about an hour. You then follow H134 for about another 15 kilometres until you turn left onto H10 heading towards Sultepec. Follow this road towards for another eight kilometres until you get to the village of Raices. Literally immediately after exiting Raices you turn left onto a dirt road that leads you up into the Nevado Toluca massive. You should get to the turn off within one and a half and two hours. It will all be dependant on the traffic you will meet on the way. From the turn off it is another half an hour to the state run hostel at Las Plumas, the gateway to Nevado Toluca.

From the turn off immediately after Raices you enter onto a dirt road that can be negotiated by any two-wheeled drive vehicle. This road meanders its way 13.8 kilometres up to Las Plumas. From the turn off it is about 3.4 kilometres to the entrance station to the park and the Posada Familiar (Family Lodge) campground and hostel (see accommodation & fees). From here it is another 1.8 kilometres to the Alpine lodge (run by the same family as the Posada Familiar). From this lodge the road then meanders its way upwards for another 5.4 kilometres to the first microwave station (just a landmark) and from there another 3.2 kilometres sees you arriving at Las Plumas.

Accommodation & Fees (2010)
Entrance to park at Pasada Familiar: Price - 60 pesos.
Posada Familiar Lodge: The lodge sleeps ten persons in one-person rooms, five rooms per floor. There are showers, toilets and cooking facilities. Price -100 pesos per person per night.
Posada Familiar Campsite: The tent site is large and has good facilities. There are rooms for at least a hundred tents and according to the proprietor it is never full. There are showers, toilets, park benches and the setting is quite beautiful. Price -100 pesos per person per night (simple!).
The lodge or campsite can be used by small or large groups and it is an ideal location for a base camp in the area. Both lodge and campsite visitors can avail themselves to the small on site shop and restaurant.
Alpine Lodge (booked through Posada Familiar): This is a rather large alpine style dormitory that can sleep fifty people. It has toilets, showers, kitchen and 24-hour security on site.
Contact: Javier Salazar on 722 533 5839 or 722 190 9481 for lodge, campsite or alpine lodge stays.
Las Plumas: This is the ideal location if you want to have an early start to any foray onto Nevado. There are two state run small self-contained hostels at Las Plumas. One sleeps eight and one sleeps four. There is also a small shop and there is a state employed guardian* on site 24/7.
Cabin 1 - Sleeps four persons in two lockable rooms, has toilets, showers and a sink/cooking area.
Cabin 2 - Sleeps four in one lockable room and has a toilet, shower and a sink/cooking area.
Price – 100 pesos per person per night.
Contact: Unfortunately Las Plumas has no web site, telephone number or any other way that you can contact them to book the cabins. The rooms are let on a first come first serve basis.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2316 ft / 705 m
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Hot, Breezy, Clear
Sunny but windy at the higher elevations.
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2316 ft / 705 m
    Distance:4.7 mi / 7.5 km
    Route:Normal from Las Plumas hut.
    Start Trailhead:Standard  13038 ft / 3973 m
    Time:6 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    End Trailhead:Standard  
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by David Howells
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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