Ascent of Volcán Iztaccíhuatl on 2008-03-26

Climber: Ben Lostracco

Others in Party:Guide James
supported by Rose
Israel and Jose Luis
Date:Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Volcán Iztaccíhuatl
    Elevation:17103 ft / 5212 m

Ascent Trip Report


After leaving Manzanillo (sea level) a number of days ago my wife Rose and I arrived at Amecameca today (8100') from Patzcuaro. We checked into Les Marques Hotel, North of Centro, for 2 nights only because it's not available after that (its a real nice place and excellent value for the price). Amecameca will be our base for the Itzaccihualt climb.

In the morning we went to the National Park Office in the Centro, where we got the name of a guide that was available ..... he would meet with us this PM in front of this office. I knew the name of this guide from other sources.
We were waiting in the hot sun in front of National Park Office, watching the people in the busy Centro as a truck pulled up. It was Israel with his wife and son, son of the Itza Outfitter "Jose Luis Ariza". After the usual introductions and niceties, I conveyed my requirements ..... we agreed to a 3 day climb with guide, James,(Altzomoni, Grupos Refugio, Summit), c/w all the gear & transportation except for the food, for a price of 165$ plus a park fee of 6$. Also he'd provide the necessary transportation for my acclimatization climbs (drop off/pick up), for 40$ per day plus a park fee of 2$ per day. I would do my first acclimatization hike on the mountain on the 20th.
Later in the PM Rose and I took a taxi(30$) to Paseo de Cortes(12,073' ) to check out the place, lots of people enjoying the Paseo. We got back to our hotel, Les Marques, washed up and went out for dinner and sightseeing in the Centro.

I hiked from the Centro (8100') to the near by Santuario (8,400') while Rose played tourist in the Centro. We later found and checked into a new hotel 7km South of Centro, Hotel Refugio de la Montana. We used the good bus system to town that evening, walked around & had dinner.

Acclimatization hike to ALTZOMONI (13,000') ..... Israel picked me up at 8h00 hours and drove me to Paseo de Cortes (12,073'), I paid the 2$ park fee and hiked up the dirt road to Altzomoni. I met and talked to two marathoners training at high altidude, took photos. Paseo de Cortes is a busy place for the outdoor types (picnikers, cyclists, runners, hikers).
I had no altidude problems and felt good, an enjoyable outing. I walked around the Paseo waiting for my pick up at 14h00 hours as scheduled and got back to Rose at Hotel Refugio de la Montana, after getting cleaned up we went in to the Centro for the rest of the day.

Acclimatization hike to 1st Portillo Above La Joya (13,400') ...... Once again Israel picked me up at 8h00 hours and drove to the Paseo. I paid my 2$ park fee, hiked up the dirt road to the La Joya TH parking (passing by Altzomoni) then a trail to the 1st Portillo. The trail was busy with a lot of day hikers and families. I didn't have any symptoms of altitude but I couldn't move all that fast, slow pace.
I had a long break for lunch at the Portillo taking in the awesome view before starting my leisurely descent back to the Paseo and the 14h30 hour pick up by Israel, felt good. Back to the Hotel Refugio de la Montana and Rose, she bussed into town for a few hours today.
We had dinner at the hotel and later went out for a stroll in the country side.

Acclimatization climb to rocks above 3rd portillo (14,800') ....... Today I got picked up at the same time of 8h00 hours at the Hotel and driven up to the La Joya TH parking (12,926 '). I climbed trail to the rocks above 3rd Portillo (14,800'), a lot of heavy breathing, numerous granny breaks and a slow pace, no sign of altitude. The trail easy to follow, at places there is a lot sand and loose rocks, dangerous on the descent, slid on my rear once.
Israel was there to pick me up at the La Joya parking at 15h00 hours, drove me back to the Hotel Refugio de la Montana and Rose. Tomorrow will be a rest day, we will change Hotels once again, we will move to Hacienda Panoaya Hotel near town centro, where it will be better for Rose while I'm away for the 3 day climb (to start on Mar 24).

Day #1 of the ITZA Climb, to the Altzomoni Hostel (13,000') ...... After yesterday's day off and move into the new Hotel I was ready to go. Hacienda Panoaya is more upscale place with a good restaurant, a lot of outdoors activity and close to the Centro.
I got picked up at the Hacienda Panoaya, by Jose Luis, at 14h30 hours and driven to Altzomoni Hostel, I paid the 6$ park fees at Paseo. I'll overnight alone, he'll be back in the morning with the guide, James.
After I dropped off my gear I hiked up to La Joya TH. The Hostel has 3 rooms, 8 bunks with mattresses per room, I was alone in the room, there were 4 other people in the room next door. It was a cold night, my sleeping bag was too light, I had cold feet. I ate a cold dinner, I was pumped up for tomorrow.

Day #2 of the ITZA Climb, to the Grupo de Los Cien Refugio (15,042') ........ Up to pee number of times during the night, a beautiful clear 3/4 moon, I just stood there enjoying the awesome setting, the lights of Puebla way off to the East and of Amecameca down in the valley to the west and the majestic Popo's cone standing to the South, lit up by the bright moon ..... a heavenly surrendering feeling that brought warmth to my whole being.
It was a cool AM and partly overcast as I waited for Jose Luis to arrive with the guide, James. He arrived at 9h00 hours as scheduled, and dropped us off at the La Joya parking TH.
I was wearing my leather boots, nylon pants and 2 layers on top as we left the TH (12,926') at 9h30 hours, my backpack weighed about 30#. We arrived at the Grupo de Los Cien Refugio (15,042') at 13h15 hours, the trail is moderate with some sandy slippery sections, easy pace with a lot granny stops, huffing and puffing, no altitude problems. James set a easy pace always ensuring that I wasn't over taxed.
The Refugio, located below a ridge is shaped like a huge country mailbox, has 3 levels, room for 20-30 people.
Three climbers from colorado summitted this AM and were packing up for their descent as we arrived. Later two girls arrived at 17h30 hours, they'll follow us to the summit.
Walked around and generally tried to drink and rest as much as possible, it was very cold with limited visibility, had snow flakes in the evening, hopefully the weather will improve for the morning. I longed for last nights moon. I added long johns, sweater, jacket, touque and gloves. I brought a cold dinner, James gave me hot soup. There was the usual small talk.
I chose to sleep on the bottom bunk (19h00 hours), James on the 2nd level because he said "there could be mice". I was quick to learn that James was right ..... there was a lot of mice on the bottom so I moved up to the second, I used a pee bottle, had a slight pressure on my temples as I tried to fall asleep. We will leave for the summit around 4h00 hours.

Day #3, summitted IZTACCIHUALT (17,126') ...... I didn't sleep well last as is always the case for me before the big day, my mind always preoccupied with the challenge ahead, I tossed and turned and woke up numerous times, my faithful pee bottle saves me a lot of trips especially at this age.
At 3h00 hours we got up to get ready, I had a cold breakfast, James gave me hot tea. I got dressed with full gortex outerwear, touque and gloves, I couldn't use my poles due to my carpel tunnel problem.
The girls were getting ready as we left at 4h00 hours, I was feeling ok. It was cold and windy, the overcast had moved away and we had nearly a full moon, clear with some clouds and good visibility. I wore a headlamp, James did not.
James followed "La Arista del Sol" route (the Knees). After leaving, the unrelenting steep sandy Trail becomes a steep all rock Trail, all the way to the top of the knees where we had to negotiate class 3 rock to get around some cliffs, Trail finding was difficult at places. James knew his way.
Lot of heavy breathing and granny stops, after 1 1/2 hours I started with a bit of a headache, feeling weak and together with the tough going I felt like "no mas" ....... not an option, we stopped for a short rest and with James positive encouragement we reached the top of the knees, where the Trail got much easier. It was cold and windy with fast moving clouds and some sun.
With day break upon us, Popo's cone to our backs and Orizaba way in the distance to the East above the clouds, being lit up by the rising sun, the setting was simply exhilirating and heavenly, a real motivation booster.
A number of intermediate peaks along the way and ridge walks with steep and sandy sections. The flat Ayoloco Glacier was not difficult and we didn't use crampons. The ridge after the Glacier had physical evidence and a strong smell of sulphur.
The anticlimactic arrival at the large dome-shaped SUMMIT (17126') came at 8h20 hours, a superb panorama but unfortunately poor visibiliy, I felt really good. We enjoyed the momemt, took photos, after 30 minutes we started our descent, passing the girls 1/2 an hour below top.
The downclimb with its difficulties at the rocky Knees is very impressive in the day light, we slid down the steep sandy Trail below the Knees, got back to the Refugio without any stops, unlike the ascent.
We packed-up our gear at the Refugio and continued with our uneventful descent on yesterday's climbing route, arriving at the La Joya TH parking to a beautiful/tearful surprise !!!!! Rose was there waiting with Jose Luis. It was he who suggested she come along, how nice was that!!! The trails on this route are not technically difficult, if not for the altitude.
At 15h00 hours we arrived back to the Hotel in Amecameca where I squared up with Jose Luis, James earning a good tip. Very nice/professional people, always on time.
Rose said that her time went by quickly, walked into town every day and generally had a good but lonely time.

We were both very satisfied and happy with this trip, it couldn't have gone off any better. I loved Itza. Tomorrow we will start our return drive home via Atlanta, anxious to see our son and family.

Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Popocatépetl's cone at sunrise from Iztaccíhuatl (2008-03-26). Photo by Ben Lostracco.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2661 ft / 810 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4777 ft / 1455 m
    Round-Trip Distance:10.3 mi / 16.6 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Cold, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2361 ft / 719 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2061 ft / 628 m; Extra: 300 ft / 91m
    Loss on way in:300 ft / 91 m
    Distance:2.5 mi / 4 km
    Route:La Arista del Sol from Grupo de los Cien Refugio
    Start Trailhead:Grupo de los cien refugio  15042 ft / 4584 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4477 ft / 1364 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 4177 ft / 1273 m; Extra: 300 ft / 91m
    Gain on way out:300 ft / 91 m
    Distance:7.8 mi / 12.6 km
    Route:la arista del sol trail to rodillas
    End Trailhead:La Joya parking  12926 ft / 3939 m
Ascent Part of Trip: Izta

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Volcán Iztaccíhuatl-Refugio Altzomoni 2008-03-24927 ft / 283 m
2Volcán Iztaccíhuatl-Refugio Los Cien 2008-03-252416 ft / 736 m
3Iztaccíhuatl-Las Rodillas2008-03-26 a 
5Volcán Iztaccíhuatl2008-03-26 b2661 ft / 811 m
6Iztaccíhuatl-Las Rodillas2008-03-26 c 
Total Trip Gain: 6004 ft / 1830 m    Total Trip Loss: 5077 ft / 1547 m

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