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Ascent to Pico de Orizaba-Crater rim on 2001-12-05

Climber: Dennis Stewart

Date:Wednesday, December 5, 2001
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Pico de Orizaba - Crater rim
    Location:Mexico
    Elevation:5547 m / 18200 ft
    Remaining Elevation:89 m / 291 ft (1% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

Our team of 5 members consisted of Jim, Darrin, Fred, my wife, Geri, and myself. We spent two days at the base camp hut in order to gain some more acclimatization, but I developed a fever of 100 degrees and I spent the first day in bed. The second day I was able to do a conditioning hike to 15,500 feet with my wife, but Jim, Darrin and Fred climbed to 16,000 feet. I went to bed extremely early (6:30pm) hoping to recover enough to have a successful summit bid the next day. My wife and I got up and started climbing at 1:10am about 30 minutes before the rest of the team since we hiked slower. Fred and Jim caught us at 15,500 feet, but Darrin never left the hut. He woke up sick himself and was even vomiting. His problem was not altitude related. He appeared to have gotten the same "bug" I had, so the team felt comfortable leaving him to recover while the rest of us climbed. We hiked together in the dark, after Fred and Jim caught up with us, aided by 3/4 moonlight. We didn't even need headlamps, but route finding was a challenge at 16,000 feet and we eventually had to break down and put on our crampons, even though we still had a bit of exposed rock to cross. We reached the glacier at sunrise, but it remained cold, about 20 degrees, and the wind did not help matters. Early across the glacier my wife and Jim decided to return to camp after reaching 16,700 feet, an altitude record for both of them. This left only Fred and I to continue the climb. We never roped up, because the glacier was very safe with good snow and no ice, but it did get steep. It took us a long time (several hours) to gain the next 1500 feet, but we reached the crater rim before noon after climbing for 10 1/2 hours. It was very windy and the view of the true summit was a discouraging 300 feet above us with the limited time remaining. It looked like we would require another hour to reach the summit. Fred and I gave up our summit bid and hiked down. It was a good thing because we were both wiped out, even without summiting and it took 5 hours to return to the hut. We were late for our ride by 30 minutes, but the driver was nice about waiting. If you can stay healthy and are lucky enough to have good weather, Pico de Orizaba is a similar climb to doing Mount Adams in Washington about 1 1/2 or 2 times. I will be back to try it again; hopefully healthy next time!
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