At 7 AM January 26, 2008, our team successfully summited Pico de Orizaba east of Tlachichuca, Mexico, after leaving our high camp of 15,100' to the crest of the Orizaba caldera at 18,490'. After nearly a week of acclimatizing increasing altitudes from Mexico City to Tlachichuca to the Piedra Grande hut to our final high tent camp, the team took five hours in the early morning hours navigating "The Labyrinth "rock/cliff band to the Jamapa Glacier. There, the slope gradually increased from 10-30 degrees to a high of 50-60 degrees near the upper rock formation affectionately known as "The Sarcophagus!" Team members were roped together via a 100-meter climbing rope, equipped with plastics boots, crampons and ice axes.
Smelling whiffs of sulfur, we neared the summit at sunrise and were treated with incredible views of the Mexican plains to the east and west of the summit. To the west, the shadow of Pico de Orizaba formed a perfect pyramid shadow that perhaps the Aztecs used as a model for their pyramids hundreds of years ago. We stayed on the summit for about 20-30 minutes to take pictures, offer congratulations to fellow team members, and take in the accomplishment. With wind chills easily below zero, we began a tight rope descent upon the glacier. Three hours later, we were back at high camp to rest, drink water, break down camp for the return to Piedra Grand hut and Tlachichuca that evening. Cold cervezas greeted us at Senor Reyes climbing compound and after a hard nights rest, we traveled back to Mexico City. Some boarded flights back home that day while others remained for a day or two to tour this old city of 20+ million residents.
For detailed dispatches, please visit http://www.alanarnette.com/dispatches/live/index.php What an incredible experience with close friends and the "high point" of my climbing career! Climb On!