• Dennis O'Heney

Pico de Orizaba o Citlaltépetl

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

My two buddies, Zach and Cody, are pretty awesome guys. In the Spring of 2017 they spent a month on Mt. Denali in Alaska, summitting the highest peak in North America. Well, they were also scheming to climb the third highest peak, Pico de Orizaba, in a single weekend. I was fortunate enough to be invited along about three weeks prior to the trip, over a snowshoeing trip in the Adirondack's. Totally psyched on the idea, I purchased my plane ticket two days later.

The Short Version:

Zach, Cody, and myself flew down to Mexico City on a Friday. We then drove a little more than 6 hours out to the Piedra Grande basecamp at Pico de Orizaba on Friday afternoon/evening, arriving at around 7 pm. We packed day packs, pulled out our sleeping bags, and set our alarms for 2 am Saturday morning; at which time we woke up, and mobilized. I was overcome with altitude sickness from the beginning, so Zach and Cody set off on their own from 14,000 feet towards the ~18,600 foot summit. Cody turned around at ~14,500 feet, also suffering from our lack of acclimatization, and Zach put together a superhuman push to summit the peak solo and return to basecamp in a total elapsed time of 6 hours and 30 minutes. We then drove 6 hours back to Mexico City on Saturday afternoon, where we got a hotel, ate tacos, and drank some cervezas. Sunday morning we slept in, drove around Mexico City for a bit, and then hit the airport for our return flights!

Some More Details (The Longer Version):

Take better care than we did to make sure that the vehicle you're given at the rental agency is ACTUALLY four-wheel-drive, and you're not just waving your hands around saying "yo necessito quattro círculos" to the people at the counter....

Even though I didn't get to summit Orizaba, I really do have to say that the 4wd access road that we somehow managed to push our front wheel drive crossover SUV up was one heck of an adventure. Jump out and push, take the gear out, put the gear on the hood, sit on the hood, cross your fingers and hope for the best; these are just a handful of the different things we did to try to get that car up the hill. Eventually, we persevered, but our hearts were pounding running around like that at 13,000 feet without being even remotely acclimatized.

Anyways, after Cody and I had bailed from the summit attempt, we wound up back in our sleeping bags trying to catch some rest and recover from our altitude sickness a bit. We really didn't believe our ears when we heard Zach's voice coming from outside the hut at about 9:30 am. We were in a mixed state of disbelief and anger that he was able to summit at such a fast pace (usually about a 12 hour round trip outing), but still happy for him and his accomplishment. Once he was back at basecamp we hung around the hut for a little while, talking with a few of the other hikers that were acclimating before their summit attempt on the following day.

End of the day, I think we all had an awesome trip; with Cody and I still feeling some motivation to get back to this mountain try again.

Both Zach and Cody will be heading back to Alaska this spring, as they take on Mount Foraker following their previous summit of Denali. Big props to them, and I hope to tag along on some of their training trips as they get prepared for another big, icy mountain. Check these guys out on instagram at @buddrick16 and @harnishleecody.

Otherwise, here's a gallery of some of the other photos to come out of the trip!

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