Climbing The Scenic Route On El Pico de Orizaba

Try this ultra-scenic route if you attempt North America's third highest peak.
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Try this ultra-scenic route if you attempt North America's third highest peak.

North America's third highest mountain is El Pico de Orizaba, located just 60 miles west from the Gulf of Mexico. El Filo de Chichimeco is approached from the city of Coscomatepec, the most scenic and interesting approach on the eastern slope of the mountain. It starts in the tropics, ends above timberline, passing through several Indian villages and climbing among awesome canyons with tremendous vertical relief.

It is wise to hire a four-wheel drive "taxi" in Coscomatepec for this approach (see below). The road leads through several villages to the small village of Potrero Nuevo, the limit for most two-wheel-drive vehicles. The road then passes through the lovely meadows of Ojo Salado, and continues through forest to where the road makes an abrupt descent to a stream bed. Leave the road here and hike up the ridge that is south of the stream for about a half-mile to the mouth of the Barranca Ojo Salado. Climb onto the ridge on the north side of the canyon that eventually becomes wide, hiking over disagreeably loose sand patches interspersed with tufts of grass. The ridge at first climbs to the northwest before turning west and southwest toward the Filo de Chichimeco, meeting it at 14,000 feet; a good place for a high camp. It is best to do this climb in early season (late September through early November) so that snow can be readily located to melt for water.

El Filo de Chichimeco is the subtle ridge between the Jamapa Glacier on the north side of Orizaba and the Eastern Glacier. At first, the Chichimeco ridge is covered with some big, loose blocks, followed by a narrow crest that leads upward toward the eastern edge of the Jamapa Glacier. Climb the left side of the glacier to the crater rim, meeting it between the Aguja de Hielo (Ice Needle) and the rocks leading to the main summit along the Jamapa Glacier route.

Permits: Mexico has not yet reached such an advance state of requiring permits to climb its mountains.

Special Considerations: Four-wheel drive transportation between Coscomatepec and Ojo de Salado is available from Manuel Gutierrez A., Coscomatepec, Veracruz, Mexico, (273) 70-215, (273) 70-020, and (271) 10-105.

Guidebook:Mexico's Volcanoes: A Climbing Guide, Second Edition, by R.J. Secor. The Mountaineers, Seattle, 2001, $16.95.

Contact: XP Mexico, www.xpmexico.com