Oooh…it only took three days, four attempts and a whole freaking case of blue Powerade but I finally snagged a mountain summit in Mexico! It wasn’t the one I had planned. Heck, it wasn’t even on our agenda until we started eyeballing the mountains that were kinda sorta “on the way” back to Mexico City. I did a little weather forecasting [ahem, Googling] while Jeremy napped for a hot minute after his Pico de Orizaba summit. A few Google’s later it was decided, La Malinche it was! Or Volcan Malintzin or Matlalueye…which ever name you prefer.
For once GPS did not fail us and we were attempting to understand the guards at the park entrance by about 1:30pm. Little did we know how well we’d get to know the uniformed montana policia while we were there! After another quick siesta on a cushy bed of pine needles, some chaotic repacking of our running packs + a very healthy lathering of sunscreen we were headed up the road. A few hundred feet of pavement later we let the road veer left while we continued straight onto a wide dirt path. Up, up, up we went.
The trail was smooth and meandering, had me all excited about the downhill…so the upness was welcomed at a pace that just fast enough to let conversation float about us. Eventually the trail changed from meandering to straight up the mountainside. We had made it up a rather steep stretch when we heard a weird siren + yelling Spanish behind us. Uh oh. We were about to start round two with the montana policia!
With some help from arm gestures and Google Translate we figured out that they were concerned about us heading up the mountain so late in the day [around 3pm at this time]. We did a little more flailing, emptied our packs to prove we were prepared for rain + dark then told them we would be back in 3 hours at the most. They told us they would meet up there to make sure we were okay. Alrighty then…back up the steep stretch we went.
The hike itself was…nearly perfect. After a full day of altitude induced misery I was feeling fantastic. Seriously. My heart was working correctly, my legs felt great, my lungs were fully functional….I felt really good! We traipsed, we chatted, we tripped and I really had fun on the mountain. Except for that one part just below the ridge line that was a sea of sliding scree. That part beat me up a bit.
And then boom…we were at the summit! Okay, it wasn’t that quick, we had to earn it in a race against the distant clouds. Those clouds were also the reason our summit soiree was quick — a few selfies, a few “zomg the edge” poses, a longing gaze at the distance clouds + a face full of snacks and we were gone again. Back down that sea of scree. Seriously, the descent was half the reason I wasn’t loving the ascent on that stretch. Downhills are not my forte!
Oh, and what happens after you dance your way a half mile through scree? You stop to empty the gravel pit out of your shoes! And then use that as the perfect excuse to eat a few more snacks before you start the 4 mile run down the much less rocky trail. Oh, that glorious runnable downhill. I do not rock the socks off downhills, but I sure can enjoy them when they are truly “runnable”.
We arrived back at the car just before 7pm…but we never came across the montana policia. Hm. Maybe they forgot about us? We hung around a bit while inhaling a few tacos then gave in and headed out to find a campsite. Somewhere along the mountain trails we decided to forgo the comforts of hot showers for another night in a sleeping bag, this time in a tent instead of a refugio. We crashed into onto our sleeping pads just as the sun set below the horizon.
About an hour later I woke up to flashing blue/red lights…round three with montana policia! They were checking to see if we were okay! With a little more help from Google Translate we asked permission to stay there for the night and got their a-okay along with a promise to drive the road periodically to make sure all was well. That promise, along with the stray guard dog that showed up, was exactly what my crazy imagination needed…I finally sunk into a crazy deep sleep!
We woke up with the sun a solid 9 hours later and our scruffy guard dog was just outside the tent keeping us safe…or sleeping. Either way, he looked hungry and we had left over spaghetti. Sorry, but not at all sorry. I shared all of it with him. That doesn’t count as feeding the wildlife, by the way! He actually chased our car down the road when we left…saddest part of my month, times two. Poor guy. Kidnapping him was seriously discussed. Seriously.
And that’s that. We covered 8.5 miles with 4,078 feet of climbing and I finally snagged myself a summit above 14,000. La Malinche tops out at 14,534 feet — higher than any mountain in Colorado by almost 100 feet! And higher than any mountain in the “lower 48” of the United States. It wasn’t the 18,000 feet I had packed all my extra mountaineering gear for but I’m going to go ahead and be happy with it. Because it sounds cool and because it was a lot of fun!