Tag: Orizaba

Orizaba Mountain Clothing for Upper Body

When Todd and I climbed Orizaba on May 5 2013 it was a pretty warm day with very good conditions. The mountain clothing we were able to wear that day probably won’t reflect average conditions.

Mountain Clothing for Orizaba highest mountain in Mexico
Todd and I on the Summit of Orizaba at 18,500′ highest mountain in Mexico

Previously I discussed the mountain clothing I wore on my lower body during our summit attempt. This time I will focus on my upper body. It was very warm, and we were only planning to do an acclimatization hike. We didn’t have a lot of warmer clothing that we would normally take. Usually you start a summit attempt at 1:00 AM when it’s much colder. This of course meant we had lighter packs.

upper body mountain clothing base layers
Layers put on at the beginning of our hike

Upper Body Mountain Clothing

I began with a Nike tech short sleeve shirt from a half marathon I ran in American Fork Utah. Over this I wore a Patagonia R1 Hoodie. The way it fits is almost like a medium weight base layer but the waffle pattern lets it breathe very well. I started out with a Buff around my neck in case it gets cold or windy. I wore a new Patagonia Cap 4 beanie. Very light waffle polyester for excellent moisture control. I can wear the hood from the R1 if I get cold. The gloves pictured are First Ascent fleece gloves. I wear them for almost everything I do.

Orizaba Glacier Mountain Clothing Second Layers
Second layer clothing on the glacier

We stopped at the bottom of the glacier at roughly 16,400′ to decide what to do. We ate some food and drank water. We looked up at the glacier with decent conditions. We decided to just try to summit. Since we would now be on snow I put on some more layers of mountain clothing. I added a Patagonia R2 fleece (like thin monkey fleece as it’s often called). I like this because it breathes very well and is pretty warm with a wind layer. For the wind layer I used a First Ascent hooded wind jacket. I don’t think they make it anymore, but it’s pretty similar to the Marmot Trail Wind Hoody. That’s all I added or changed.

upper body mountain clothing on Orizaba in Mexico
At the top of the labyrinth with Orizaba summit above.

At about 18,000′, not too far from the summit, I became a little cool. I knew the summit was not too far away. It would be harder to stop, open my pack, and add layers while standing on a 50 degree ice slope. I stuck it out till we hit the top at 5:10 PM. Then I quickly opened my pack and pulled out my Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket to keep my core warm. When looking for a thin down hoody I searched for quite a while to find this excellent item of mountain clothing. I especially love the sleeve fit. Long enough for my monkey arms and form fitting enough not to be too baggy in backpack straps.

Orizaba Summit Mountain Clothing
Final layer for Orizaba Summit

With all the photography and videography going on up top my hands became cold. I have a pair of Mountain Hardwear climbing gloves with removable fleece liners. I don’t like the liners all that much but my First Ascent liners fit well in them. I slid the shells over my fleece gloves to keep the wind off as the sun set and the temperatures dropped.

Descending at sunset in the cold with mountain clothing on Orizaba
Descending Orizaba with a setting sun.

The temperatures dropped. We got lost in the labyrinth in the dark. We made our way through a maze of cliffs with failing batteries. Finally we saw headlamps from climbers at the hut preparing for their summit. We found our way to a cairn we recognized and arrived at the hut passing the first wave of climbers ascending. We knew even if we had to sit huddled behind a rock till sunrise that we’d be okay. The right mountain clothing can make all the difference.

Orizaba – The Highest Mountain in Mexico: clothing below the belt

Orizaba, at approximately 18,500′ is the highest mountain in Mexico. I went to climb it with my friend Todd Gilles in March of 2013. It was quite warm, and after only one night at base camp, in our little tent, we went on an acclimatization hike starting at about 10:30 AM. Quite late. We ended up on the summit six and a half hours later, which includes about 45 minutes being lost in the Labyrinth – a steep area of mixed rocks and snow and ice.

Orizaba Summit the highest mountain in Mexico
On the Summit of the highest mountain in Mexico – Orizaba

I have been asked what I wore to climb the highest mountain in Mexico. I decided to post a few articles about it here for simplicity. As I stated in my disclaimer, I use Amazon links so you can see pictures and read reviews from other people, so you don’t have to just take my word for it. Remember the car commercial disclaimer: Your Mileage May Vary! This is just a list of what I wore, on the day I wore them, in the weather I wore them. If it were any colder I probably would have done a few things different.

Footwear to climb the highest mountain in Mexico - Orizaba
Footwear for Climbing on Orizaba

Footwear to climb the highest mountain in Mexico

I took double boots with me for warmth while climbing the Jamapa Glacier, about 1800′ of steep ice and snow. I ended up doing it in my Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX Trail Running Shoe. In these shoes I like to use the Sole Ed Viesturs Signature Edition Insole. I use some version of the Sole insole in most of my shoes, as it gives me the proper footbed for my oddly shaped feet. For socks I wore Bridgedale Trail Socks over Injnji Performance Lightweight Crew. For me these are great liner socks. I use them to help prevent blisters between my toes. I used to get them pretty bad before.

lower body wear for the highest mountain in Mexico
Lower body wear for climbing Orizaba March 2013

Lower Body clothing to climb the highest mountain in Mexico

I like the way that the Men’s Under Armour Boxerjock fit and feel. They also resist odors well – something to seriously consider on a long expedition. Though our climb of the highest mountain in Mexico was fairly short. Over these I wore a thin base layer bottom made by The North Face. This was a generic bottom I got on clearance at The Sports Authority and I can’t find anything like it online. It’s fairly similar to Capilene 1 from Patagonia, but actually fits people with leg muscles. Over these I wore a MontBell Nomad Pant. I love these softshell pants. They’re my go-to pant for ice climbing and glacier hiking, including the highest mountain in Mexico. We had great weather.

That wraps up this short “lower body clothing” article. I’ll be back soon with the upper body, then the hardware, articles. I had a great time climbing Orizaba, third highest mountain in North America, highest volcano in North America, and the highest mountain in Mexico. I hope you get a chance to go and enjoy the culture and people. I hope you get to see the sunrise, or as we did, sunset, on this beautiful peak.

the Labyrinth on Orizaba, the highest mountain in Mexico
Me below the Labyrinth. Truly amazing scenery. On summit day.

Orizaba or Bust

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…

Self Portrait on Orizaba 2008 - 15,600'
Orizaba 2008 – 15,600′ – First High Point – acclimatization hike

Friends tell me I made the right decision to bail. What do you think?