Nearly four years ago I did a test of my solo big mountain skills by attempting Orizaba. At the time I thought I was in much better shape than I actually was, and after a rushed, poorly executed acclimatization plan, I ended up unable to breath at 17,300′ (my high point at the time), and added up the minutes left to me as I rushed back to the pickup at the Piedra Grande Hut, and the bus rides back to the Mexico City airport, and bailed.
If you want to go back and read my tales about the trip, here you go: Orizaba March 2008 Trip Report (sadly, in reverse chronological order) [published as Orizaba, My Almost Free Mexico Adventure on Amazon]
At the time, I ended up a little dissatisfied with the logistics company I had used, for various reasons, not that they didn’t do what they basically promised, mind you. They were slow to answer emails, the food was decent enough, and the accommodations were “adequate enough”.
This time I opted for the other option (there are only two options for general logistics support for Orizaba). They answered the first handful of emails fairly quickly, and ended with “let us know your dates and times so we can make the reservation”. I had originally planned on going November 13-19, but Angie had a USFS test on the 13th, so I just dropped it – since with the holidays and travel, most of November and December are booked up with no really open 8-day blocks.
That changed a bit, leaving an opening for November 15-22, providing I depart and arrive in two different cities to catch up on the travel scheduled for Thanksgiving. I got the flights and sent the email with my dates and times to make the reservation. No response. For several days. I resent the email, and got a response of “who are you and what do you want? we only provide services for our climbers. do you have a reservation?”
I copied/pasted the series of conversations we’d emailed, and said “I’m sending you the dates and times as requested so I can make the reservation – there is only one day to go before I get on the plane.” No response. At. All…
I weighed the options. I was pretty much packed, and had a plan. Tent outside the basecamp area. 30 liters of water (plenty!) and stove fuel from the logistics company. Drop off at basecamp with duffels.
Assuming no logistics support, there is a way to do it. It would require an extra day on either end, cutting into my acclimatization and extra summit days. I’d have to take a taxi to Walmart (stove fuel) in either Puebla or Mexico City (depending on flight arrival time), and stay at a hotel near the Capu (bus station) in Puebla. I’d have to take a taxi to Hidalgo (about 4 miles from Piedra Grande Hut, 11,300′) and hike up carrying all my stuff (precludes the 30 liters of water and the duffels).
This is fine, and some major US Guide services do something similar for their acclimatization, but it would require two extra days, carrying 80 lb in a large backpack (it’s not really that far or tough – it’s a low-level 4×4 road by US standards), and my flight times would need to be adjusted slightly. Also, that would not be a fair test of the system I intend to use on Aconcagua, which is what this shakedown cruise was supposed to be.
I waited all day, still no answer, so I cancelled the flight and got a voucher. Now, 4 days later, still no answer. I think I’ll follow the self-supported option if I attempt this again, and plan accordingly. Alas…
Friends tell me I made the right decision to bail. What do you think?