Blown Off the Mountain.

A little bit about… not our taking Orizaba by storm, but the storm taking us away from Orizaba!…

We were just blown away – almost literally, and so didn’t make it to the top of Pico de Orizaba – the highest mountain in Mexico. Conditions were just too outrageously extreme, and stayed that way for the whole time we were there.


Wind speed (in my unprofessional assessment) was something like 20 to 30 meters per second (at least 20 meters per second since anything let go of flew away; and not as much as 40 meters per second since we were able to stay stood upright). However, at times it did seem like a scary 40 meters per second – a few times I was nearly knocked over by incredibly strong gusts of wind. On the Internet they said it was about 40-45 kilometers per hour (12 meters per second) – but that can’t have been right. You needed to be there to believe it. It was no 12m/s…

Regarding temperature we had no confirmed figures, but judging by the crackle of ice under the ice picks and mountaineering boots I’d say it was something around -20 degrees Celsius. Alas, there are hardly any photos or videos of the more extreme moments half way up this mountainside.

Jeeeez was it cold! Fingers would just freeze upon any attempt to do something with them glove-less. Better to keep them hidden away somewhere inside a warm coat… Here’s a video giving you an idea of what it would have been like at the summit.

What was so frustrating was that we had only a little way left to go to the summit – just 400 meters (in height). If we’d just had another hour or so of sun we’d have made it. Bah! But what could we do? Nichevo. Nothing. The gods – or fate, depending on your outlook – deemed it so…

So anyway, who were the “we” I’m referring to on this trek? Besides the guides there were three of us: two amateur “tourists” – Yours Truly and Denis Maslennikov; and one semi-pro – Aleks Gostev, who’s got five 5000-meter mountain-climbs under his belt, and one 6000-er. Impressive.

Commenting on our failed mission, Aleks, I think trying to cheer us up (God bless him), said: “In such weather guides don’t even let their tourists out of their tents. And anyway, it’s better to have to turn back 100 times than to not return just once.” Now that sounds like some good common sense.

Despite not reaching our goal, the adventure was nonetheless unforgettable. From the beach in Cancun up 5300 meters in four days. And virtually without mountain sickness (just a bit of a headache). Everyone thought that with such a short time for acclimatization we had no chance. A week was needed really – but we simply didn’t have a week.

A quick shout-out to the guides, btw – the spaghetti Bolognese with parmesan cheese at 4800 meters was nothing less than sublime! And I’d recommend anyone who might want to do this trip themselves to check out our guides’ site and FB page.

And let’s not forget that Pico de Orizaba is not just any old mountain; it’s a volcanic one. For some reason I prefer volcanoes to just mountains. There’s something sinister and magical about those cones with the hole in the top. They pretty much blow the mind – like they blow their tops! In my volcano “and-got-the-T-shirt” list there’s Avacha, Tolbachik, and even Mount Fuji (besides little ones like Mutnovka and Goreliy (Kamchatka, Far-Eastern Russia)). I’ve had my sights set on a 5000-er for a while now – but haven’t quite got round to it just yet. But never mind – we’ll get there shortly…

Photos of Pico de Orizaba taking us by storm can be found here.

Adios, amigos!

2 Responses to “Blown Off the Mountain.”

  1. Mário Madrigrano Jaber Reply February 28, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Dear Eugene …

    I hope one day soon see him visiting the Brazilian Amazon here in my country, Brazil and I’m sure the riches of biomass will leave here and we glimpsed a mountain called “Pico da Neblina” with about 3000 meters altitude.
    Not much compared to the peaks of the Andes where you’ve been visiting, but this is our peak of a unique beauty and various other lush landscapes await you, my dear friend. I stand here wondering, “photos” will you do when you’re here.

    After all your photographic talent equates to his genius in mathematics.

    Thank you for yet another story and beautiful pictures.

    Greetings …

    Mário Madrigrano Jaber.

  2. Very cool! Any interest in climbing Mount Elbrus?

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