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Ascent of Volcán Iztaccíhuatl on 2012-01-13

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Duane Gilliland
Collin Kamholz
Greg Slayden
Date:Friday, January 13, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Volcán Iztaccíhuatl
    Location:Mexico
    Elevation:5220 m / 17126 ft

Ascent Trip Report

The day after our Pico de Orizaba ascent we drove across to Amecameca on the W side of the mountain and obtained our National Park permits at the park office (The cost/person was 27 Pesos x 2 days; the refuge was a further 27 each). The office is situated in the town centre, at the SE corner of the main square, immediately R of the obvious arch and church, at N19.12785 W98.76828. We then drove up to the Cortes Pass, reported in at the rather sparse visitor centre and got the gate opened, then drove up to the hut at La Joya. To reach it, we drive a dusty unpaved road, ok in 2WD but possibly difficult after rain, fork L at N19.12415 W98.65362, 3951m then head up to the masts; the last 200m or so is roughly stone-paved and needs care; the hut (N19.12053 W98.65370, 4000m approx) is part of the main (Televista) complex, outside the compound fence. This is a separate summit, the highest natural ground probably being just outside the fence at the NW corner of the main complex (N19.12080 W98.65410, 4025m GPS, P70m approx). Adam speaks to the staff on duty but no way are they letting us into the compound to check for higher ground!

The hut location gave fine views of Popocatapetl (which had been very active today) and also of Ixtaccihuatl by late afternoon when the clouds finally cleared. It's a complex, great looking peak and all of us resolve to make the ascent, except for Adam who has been up it before.

Collin and Ryan make an early start, leaving the trailhead at 04:40. Greg, Duane and I start hiking at 06:20. Nowadays the parking area is half a mile short of the old trailhead, called La Joyita, at N19.13379 W98.65188, 3962m. From here a trail leads to the former trailhead La Joya (N19.13670 W98.65007, 3991m) and from here a trail leads steeply upward to the right. At N19.14269 W98.64192 (4263m) it crosses to the R of the ridge and descends briefly.

We had superb views of Popo against a streaky dawn sky. The trail crosses a saddle at N19.14513 W98.63938 (4393m) and soon takes to the L of the ridge, crossing again to the R at N19.15003 W98.63599 (4513m; there are bivvy spots here and at several other places along the route). At N19.15410 W98.63635 (4616m) the trail on the topo map ends and the route climbs L (YDS 2+) to cross to the L of the ridge (N19.15468 W98.63754, 4703m). There is a brief steep ascent then the trail descends to a small refugio (N19.15665 W98.63713, 4680m).

This small shelter was a welcome break from the cold wind and we went inside for food and drink. Soon two Mexicans arrived from the summit. They had little equipment and just the 2 hut blankets yet had spent the night here - clearly hardy folk!

From the refugio a paint marked route makes a rising traverse, passes L of a gendarme then scrambles up an easy gully to a large cross. From here, easy but somewhat loose ground leads to a summit (N19.16213 W98.63690, 5007m) with remains (possibly of a former hut) on top. Here the "unending mountain" nature of this peak is revealed, with a succession of summits ahead, none of which is the true summit.

From the summit with the ruins, there is approx 15m descent to a saddle, then the trail makes a rising traverse R to the ridge. There is a minor descent then approx 30m ascent to another summit. This is 5116m P56m (GPS) and is the only summit of any significance encountered before the true summit. Here we fit crampons before descending a somewhat icy slope (20° maybe) to cross a snowfield, and at the far side we catch up with Ryan and Collin. A ridge leads L (a little narrow but not difficult). Ahead is another summit, which we try to pass on its L and get onto difficult ground, but it has a decent trail to the summit and only about 15m prominence so the best choice is straight over. Ryan decides to turn back at this point, as he is off the pace, tiring and wanting to make some headway on the descent so as to not slow the group down.

The descent from the little summit is on a snow arete, not very steep or narrow and with a boot trail, which we carefully negotiate without crampons. Then a short steep ascent on trail leads to Ixta's SE summit, N19.17623 W98.64078. This appears as high as two other points around the rim of the small shallow crater, although the accepted high point (NE summit) is 300m further N, at the E end of a short ridge, reached across the crater (crusty snow a little awkward to walk on). N19.18011 W98.64145, 5220m (GPS). NOTE: Dave Covill et al January 2014 using a 5X hand-level concluded as follows: highpoint is SE spot, SW is 10' lower, NE is 3' lower.

We reach what is evidently the accepted summit (North Summit) at 13:00 then find a sheltered spot for lunch. Clouds are threatening to engulf us, but never do (the wind drops and it turns into a warm sunny afternoon). We make a circuit of the little crater thus visiting the West Summit (N19.17745 W98.64384) which looks as high as the other two; we attempt no hand-levelling.

The four of us head down, catching Ryan at the lower snowfield. We refit crampons although probably not necessary with the softer afternoon snow. The descent was quite straightforward except the descent from the summit with the ruins. Here it is necessary to keep L of the fall line to locate the metal cross which marks the top of the scrambly descent gully. The loose ground further R drops over some cliffs. There is a steep scree descent much further R (W) which provides a much quicker way back to the hut but you'd need to know its exact start. We downclimbed from the cross, descended past the gendarme to the top of a scree slope which we descended to the hut.

After a rest at the hut we completed the descent. Duane and I went ahead, getting back to the trailhead at 18:15 (close to sunset) then "rescued" Adam who had been waiting at the refugio all day. When the others arrived, we drove down to the pass to the visitor centre where Greg handed in the refugio key in return for his drivers licence which they had kept as security!

We spent the night in Hotel San Carlos (immediately next to the national park office described earlier). This is cheap, clean and basic. Going out after 9 pm we struggled to find a restaurant open. Same thing next morning: even places advertising breakfast didn't open until ten am. Seems most folk eat from the street vendors and we somehow didn't fancy the level of hygiene...

Greg, Ryan and Collin headed into Mexico City for the rest of the day. Adam, Duane and I stayed at the San Carlos, looking round the colourful market, relaxing, making the easy ascent of Sacromonte Chalchiumomozco: a nice end to a sometimes rather hectic but very satisfying trip.


Izta photo album

A trip summary/overview can be found at the end of my Orizaba report

For a comprehensive illustrated description of the whole trip, see Adam Helman's expedition report
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1498 m / 4915 ft
    Elevation Loss:1498 m / 4915 ft
    Distance:14.4 km / 8.9 mi
    Grade/Class:YDS 3
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Crampons, Hut Camp
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:1378 m / 4521 ft
    Extra Loss:120 m / 394 ft
    Distance:7.2 km / 4.5 mi
    Route:Normal route from south
    Trailhead:La Joyita  3962 m / 12999 ft
    Time Up:6 Hours 45 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:1378 m / 4521 ft
    Extra Gain:120 m / 394 ft
    Distance:7.2 km / 4.5 mi
    Route:Normal route
    Trailhead:La Joyita  3962 m / 12999 ft
    Time Down:5 Hours 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO resposibility or liability from use of this data.

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