Monday, October 12, 2009

Orizaba Mexico Volcano Solo Climbing Trip - 1 Planning

Again, I'll be heading to Mexico to attempt Orizaba. I think I have the kinks out of my system this time, with better boots and clothing systems than last time. I have a much better idea of food and water and cooking than last time. Last time I think was a bit premature for a solo, but I did manage the traveling part pretty good with my meager Spanish.

Of course, fly to Mexico City, go to the Estrella Roja terminal and get the bus to Puebla, then go down to the central CAPU terminal and get tickets to Tlachichuca.

There is a reasonable (by Western Standards) hotel across from CAPU if you want to spend the night in Puebla. According to the Estrella Roja staff you don't want to take the overhead walkway at dark, or leave the immediate vacinity of the hotel (though I did walk down the block a short ways to the convenience store at night but the pizza delivery guys were right there watching the whole time). If you want, this is a good time to take the cab to Walmart and stock up. I've heard (but can't confirm) that you can buy gaz containers there. If you want to go cheaper go to the Zocalo, but be careful not to miss your morning bus and plan time for morning traffic.

If you want to stay in Tlachichuca instead, there are a couple of inexpensive places to stay and the two "outfitters" there. Notice I separated those two concepts. If you are going to use one of the outfitters for your ride, they leave at one set time each day (assume around 11:00 AM for general planning purposes). If you get to Tlachichuca before this, you can go. If you arrive after this, you have to spend the night. I've read various dirtbag accounts of camping in the foothills etc. but don't do it. You should be able to scrounge up the $15 to spend the night in town.

If you get a ride with the outfitters, you shouldn't even bother with a backpack (unless you plan on a high camp). Just take as much crap as you can in a duffle or two. Go luxury this way with thick foam mattresses. It's all going on the roof of the truck.

Or, you can take a taxi to Hidalgo at about 11,000' - the furthest a passenger car can go. You'll have to hike in a ways up about 3,000' but it's great acclimatization. You'll have to take your own stuff all the way though, so you'll have to carry a large weight-efficient backpack and be careful of what you take. This option is a LOT cheaper than the outfitters. The road is obvious and not hard at all on foot, even with a very heavy pack.

In either case, you'll probably want to pick up some water - plan on 5 liters per day. There is water available with a short hike, but you'll have to treat and/or filter it and that gear is probably heavier than the empty plastic bottles. Last time I drank tap water using a UV-C pen and it worked out good. YMMV. Some people just grab a 20 liter per person (dang cheap) and you can bum some off them.

Once at the hut you can either stay at the hut assuming there is room (it probably could hold more than 50 climbers with gear), or camp. If you camp, be aware that you want to be a fair ways away from the hut. The general waste disposal method near the hut is "squat and dump". Yep. Just find a couple square feet without anyone else's waste and let her rip. Wad up your paper (assuming as a first world nation citizen you use it) and let the wind carry it away. I'm not kidding too much. Seriously. So if you camp you'll want to be far from the hut, since I doubt anyone would waste much time in trying to dump away from it very far. Though I did see a huge ginormous human waste product in the middle of the trail at 15,200' the last time I was there, but I imagine it was an emergency, and not that they hiked up 1,300' for seclusion. Not in the middle of the trail. In spite of the size it was made by a girl. That's sexist isn't it?

It's possible that in the last 18 months that's changed. I'll let you know. Wouldn't that be one of those really cool "improve the third world nations" projects? Install a really good solar toilet at the hut? Anyone seriously interested? Oh, btw - there is a really old stone toilet good for about 100 dumps that looks like it was full about 10 years ago and not emptied.

So plan on your 11:00 AM takeoff or take a taxi and walk. Spend the night in Mexico City, Puebla, or Tlachichuca. Shop in Mexico City or Puebla. Yes, you can buy some things in Tlachichuca, at the few farmacias or the mercado (all small and no English).

Tip: it's cheaper to get a phone card at the farmacia and use the pay phone than it is to use your cell.

Note: with careful planning it's possible to take a redeye flight, the bus to Puebla, the bus to Tlachichuca and the outfitter ride at 11:00 AM - but it's really really tight. You won't have time for shopping and if traffic is really bad, you'll miss your ride. Only try this if you want to take the taxi so you have a few hours leeway and can get to the stores for food and gas.