Skiing Mexicos highest peak

Mexico Route 150, Detour.

We were focused on a ski adventure when waiting for good conditions in southern Patagonia and a maybe early season storm in Japans Tateyama region. Patagonia kept the bad weather coming and Japan remained dry. We finally ran out of time and were only left with one week before the season start in St. Anton and the opening of our guest house.
We had no idea what to do but then decided to go on a kind of a beach vacation.

Wednesday night: Booking last minute MUC to MEX

Day 1:
Thursday early morning 04.00 we left our home in St. Anton am Arlberg, driving to Munich Airport with the goal to catch a flight to Mexico.
Already the same night we arrived in the international airport of Mexico City. One of the largest cities in the world. The idea was to rent a 4x4 truck and head to the east via Route 150. Non of the car rentals in the airport got anything like that so we ended up with a Renault Dexter. The 2x4 with the highest ground clearance we could find in the airport.
It was not with the best feelings we left the airport. We did not know if the car would take us to were we planed to head at our way to the beach.
At 19U00 it was dark and we lined up our sleeping facilities in the trunk of the car at some gas station close to Puebla.

Day 2:
Friday noon we left Route 150 for a detour up a small mountain road to a beautiful old town located in the foot hills of Mexicos highest peak Citlaltépetl wich by the people of New Spain was named Pico de Orizaba. Soon we felt the energy of the people from Coscomatepec who for centuries have been working with agriculture on the slopes of this 5636 meter high Volcano. The highest volcano of North America and also the 3rd highes peak on the continent. We met up with local former elite runner Fernando Alvarez and his friend Antonio who explained us that our car would not be able to take us up the dirt road to the old glacier moraine on the north face of the volcano.
In this part of the report it is properly time to mention that the idea of the detour on the way to the beach at the golf of Mexico, was to climb and ski the Citlaltépetl
Volcano. We slept on the information in a Kill Bill movie inspired hotel room.

Day 3:
With the hand drawn map made by Fernando we drove out of town and were surprised about the well maintained small farm houses we saw on the road going from village to village.
The driving was not a big deal we thought but in the moment we left Jacal, the last village the dirt road became more like a wide trail with big rocks, mud and sand. Our previous experiences with sand and ash from volcanoes told us that a 4x4 truck would be badly needed.
What is coming now is not a Renault advertisement but a fact. The Renault Dexter served us to the max and went through the worst roads we ever driven including mountain roads in Sierra Nevada El Cucuy in Colombia and the Wakon Corridor in Afghanistan. We arrived at the large Piedra Grande shelter at around 4000 meter altitude where we parked the car. For sleeping we felt more comfortable in the car than in the shelter.

Day 4.
We left the car at 03:00 in the morning with the lightest pack possible. We thought that the extra weight of skis and boots would slow us down but we did well and arrived at the upper part of the moraine after just 1,5 hour. With our low shoes we climbed and scrambled up a system of steep granite partly covered in ice, before reaching the end of the glacier at first light. In the distance we saw a thin line of smoke blowing out of the crater of Popocatepetl (Second highest summit in Mexico). A spectacular view which in the same day would change to a huge cloud of dust forced by a minor eruption. We skinned the bottom of the glacier but felt we worked too hard for the altitude we gained and therefor changed to crampons already after 30 minutes. The altitude slowed us down. Not having time to acclimatize the days before we were forced to go slow and to drink a lot of water. We suffered from the cold and the wind. Because of the altitude and thick blood it felt extremely cold. Not the temperatures you would expect when going on a beach vacation in Mexico. We arrived in the summit after 6,5 hour of climbing and soon clouds were closing in around the crater giving us not much time to rest. The wind was strong so the snow never got soft and the steep summit face became much more difficult to ski as expected. As we got lower we could go faster and it became an enjoyable ski descent. From the end of the glacier we hiked down to the car and drove back to Coscomatepec where beer and great food was waiting.

Day 5:
The detour was over and we kept driving east through Mexicos fantastic Veracruz region and it coffee, banana and papaya plantations. The Renault took us straight on to a sandy beach where we had lunch and the minor signs of frost bite in the toes were treated in the salt water of the Mexican Golf. As it got dark we still found our self sitting in two plastic chairs on the beach, enjoying the sound of breaking waves.

Day 6:
Driving the 500 km back to the airport in Mexico City and returning a spotless Renault to the car rental company before flying home.

Day 7:
Landing in Munich airport and driving back to St. Anton just in time for our first winter guests. One guy asked if we had time to enjoy a trip this way and the answer was yes. There can always be times in life where you have no space for big adventures. Where you have no time to sit out at base camp and wait for the conditions to be in your favor. We felt the motivation and could not let the idea vanish. We finally approached the journey step by step and managed to move straight from 1300 meter to 5636 without acclimatization using our experience to ski North Americas highest volcano. A summit which never would have been our first choice if we would have hat more time. As a 7 days trip, with no up front planing, it became a great challenge.