Some mountain adventures lend themselves to long, elaborate stories. Others…well, others are such an in-the-moment experience that I cannot wrangle the right words to truly explain what happened. My week in the mountains of Central Mexico is the latter. Just during the two days we frolicked along the trails leading up to Iztaccihuatl we survived three thundery snowstorms, wandered way off trail twice + literally danced down the mountainside courtesy of some “energy pills”. There aren’t words to describe that…so, instead I’ll share photos + two video mashups of our time on Iztaccihuatl. You can decide if we had any fun!
Day One // Attempt One
We stayed at the Buenavista Villa Turistica cabins, discovered by a recommendation from someone Jeremy met on the trails earlier in the week. They set us up with a private cabin, a shower with hot water and a raging fireplace. We got to come + go as we pleased and it was about a 20 minute drive [up a rocky, rutted dirt road] the to entrance gate to Iztaccihuatl [where you need to buy a permit for mountain access]. We moved right in…
Our first attempt up Iztaccihuatl was thwarted by an afternoon storm that rolled in. We attempted to wait it out but eventually got bored and decided we’d come back for an early AM/sunrise summit. Little did we know it would storm all night. We eventually got our second [and third] summit attempts, but not until much later than we expected.
Day Two // Attempt Two + Three
We made plans to head back up to the summit around midnight, only to be woken by thunder just before our alarm went off. We postponed…until 4am when it was still raining. We finally made it up to the entrance gate around 7am, only to find it locked with no attendant in sight. Well then. I was feeling guilty about not pushing for an early start but that locked gate did a good job of burying that guilt. When it was all said + done we ended up leaving the trailhead around 9am.
In the early afternoon the clouds rolled in, but not a terrifying sort of way. They were dancing with us, swooping up + over the ridges as we climbed up, up, up. We stopped at about 15,200 feet at the refugio to inhale some food + layer up for a summit push. The person we met at the refugio said it may rain, but no electricity. Or at least that is what we translated. Yea. No. It stormed, a lot. We started up the mountain but turned around + scooted down the mountain just after hitting 16,000 feet because the distant thunder became not-so-distant. [check out the video, it boomed, a lot]
We hung out in the refugio for nearly an hour [or more?] while we waited for the storm to pass. Neither up nor down seemed like much fun with all of the thunder, lightning and snow throwing down outside our little tin shelter. Eventually the skies cleared and we attempted another uphill climb…only to have another round of clouds move in.
We reasoned we could probably survive to summit…but scrambling off an unfamiliar mountain with a snow-covered trail in the dark. Well, that did not sound like a good plan. Somehow, in our minds, death by lightning strike was acceptable but a slow, miserable death when we got hopelessly lost was not okay. [do as I say, not as I do…I talk better risk management then I actual live, sorry Mom.]
At the end of the day[s]…we never got an Iztaccihuatl summit. A big part of me regrets that. Looking back we should have been more aggressive about getting early morning starts. We should have left the trailhead early enough to need a headlamp. We know this, we’ve both lived in the Colorado Rockies long enough to know what mountain storms do in the afternoon! But…we slept in or at breakfast or did anything but leave the trailhead before 9am. That’s on us. That’s a huge part of why we didn’t snag summits.
But, I refuse to regret the time we did have on the mountain. I hiked + ran above 14,000 feet without dying. Heck, my lungs actually did great [my nutrition on the other hand…oops]. We had a blast being stupid, getting lost, discussing the world + over sharing life experiences. Much like our mishap filled trek up Pico Norte in February…a mountain trek is never about the summit for me. I’m not summit hungry, #sorrynotsorry
Side Note // If you’re looking for details on distances, getting there and other snippets that make preparing for a trek like this a bit easier…shoot me a message or comment, I’m more than happy to share what I have!