Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl

I had one condition for going to Mexico and that was that Angela had to climb a mountain with me. We didn’t climb a mountain, instead we climbed the third highest volcano in Mexico, Izataccíhuatl at 5230 metres. We didn’t make it to the summit but reaching 4500 metres before turning back. With stunning views across the Valley of Mexico you can’t be disappointed.

We did this as a day hike, on the way we meant many people who had come the day before, hiked to the refugio and stayed there over night. They told us that you needed proper climbing equipment to summit. I don’t know if that is true but if you want to go all the way to the top I recommend taking the correct equipment. Otherwise if you want to do a day hike and go as far as you can then it’s possible as a normal hike. You can certainly get as far as the refugio without any ice climbing.

I couldn’t find much information online in English so decided to go to the town of Amecameca, which is my favourite town in terms of pronunciation. I had found a few hotels on maps.me, another favourite trick of mine, especially when you are unable to find anything on Hostel World or Booking, and we took a risk by just showing up. The Hotel San Carlos had plenty of rooms so we took one and then set you to explore the market. It’s pretty basic but does have steaming hot water which is all you really need.

Amecameca is a pretty small town. There is a market in the main square and a fair few stores, restaurants and food stalls in the streets that surround it. You can easily find chicken but don’t go too late or it will all be closed. We had some various form of tacos and soup in the main market. Angela was looking for something specific which I forget now and I just went along with her order. This did mean they brought out unlimited tortillas and were a little surprised that I didn’t eat many.

There isn’t much else to do so we spent the afternoon figuring out the plan for the hike and watching Netflix. Be warned as it gets really cold at night and as with everywhere else in Latin America there is no central heating. So wrap up!

We were told there was a collectivo at 7am on the corner of Calle Del Rusario and Avenue Hidalgo. It leaves every hour depending on if it’s full. We woke early and found supplies in a few shops. At 6:45am no one was on the corner and I started to worry. Angela took us though the market so she could find some breakfast. You could tell that we didn’t need to be in a hurry as even the street dogs were still asleep.

After grabbing some food we headed back to the corner around 7:10 and a small group of people had arrived. The bus showed up a few minutes later and by 7:30 we were on our way. It took nearly an hour to get to the visitors centre and we were dropped off in the car park of the visitors centre which was closed and there was no one around. There were a few people taking photos of the volcanos so we joined them doing this and asked a couple for directions. We could see the way and Maps.me had a trail to follow. Some of the blogs said that you can try and get a lift to the campsite with a car heading up the track but it was impossible to do this as the gate was locked and no one was going that way. So we started our hike at this point, around 3500 metres and walked towards Izataccíhuatl. Popocatépetl, pictured below. is the more famous of the two and the active one so don’t head there as it’s erupted twice so far in 2019.

After around an hour we started to see Izataccíhuatl which seemed really far off at this stage but we were getting closer. One thing I love about this hike is how much and how quickly the scenery changes as you increase in altitude.

It stayed clear all day so we were able to get some beautiful shots across the valley.

Eventually you start to leave the trees behind and the open grasslands appear.

It was a beautiful clear day which was great. Despite having been used to high altitude in 2018 I’d been at seas level for 6 weeks and I found this hike quite punishing, especially as we went over 4000 metres. It was probably a little silly to go that high without acclimatising properly first, and I’d pay for that later in the day, but nothing was going to get in the way of me and this mountain. Each step was painful and a battle which only increases the further we went

The whole valley is just beautiful and gives a unique view of Mexico City. One thing you can see below is the pollution which must hang over every major city in the world. But aside from that this hike gives you the unique perspective of being able to look down over the entire landscape. Most mountains of this height the rest of the earth surrounding is at a similar altitude but here you can see all the way down to 2500.

And some amazing shots of the volcano behind the radar station.

We stopped close to here to have lunch number one. The one thing I love about hiking is the amount of calories you burn so it’s a constant battle to top them all up again.

Just over this hill and around the corner was the camp. We later found out that many people make their way here in the afternoon and climb the following morning. There is also a refugio up the volcano but we didn’t make it that far. From this point it gets much steeper, higher and harder to breath so our progress dramatically slowed.

But the views are beautiful and here you can see the path we climbed up.

At this point is the first resting place and there are amazing views across the valley. From here it gets much steeper.

I made a lizard friend.

This is a second natural stopping place. It was a real fight to get this high and was around 4600 metres. I was really feeling the altitude but I wanted to push on. Here the vegetation had seeded to rock and we could see snow.

At this point there were lots of hikers coming back down. We chatted to them as they came last and they had all been to the top. I had never expected to reach that height and had only come to see how far I would get. Forever curious I wanted to see the point where they were all coming from so I left Angela with my bag and trotted off and I was glad I had. The views were stunning.

Before we headed back down we took some obligatory photos to prove we had been there.

On the way back I quickly realised that I had pushed myself too far. What begins with a headache quickly turns into a throbbing pain and a feeling of sickness. The only thing to do is to go down and each step back was more painful than on the way up. Fun when you have to hike at least 10km. Although I still stopped to take photos.

The moon was up and Angela called the driver when we reached the visitors centre. I was in agony and it was getting cold so we sat inside. I don’t know about the busses back but we were told they went every hour or so. Maybe check in the centre which was now open. It was about 4pm and I was really happy to get into the car.

By the time we arrived at Amecameca I was feeling much better. We grabbed our bags and headed back to Mexico City where we had a much deserved pizza. You can read about it all in the Mexico City post. After this I headed back to the UK.

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