Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mexico Lindo

Iztaccíhuatl (5230 m, 17,159 feet) and Pico de Orizaba (5636 m, 18,491 feet), Mexico, November 2009 with adventure companion Geir Ulstein, Nov. 4-14, 2009

With a few vacation days left in the bank and some travel lust left in my legs, Geir and I decided to meet in Mexico City for 10 days of trekking and sightseeing.  As usual, Geir was using the opportunity to scout new trip possibilities for his adventure travel company (EcoExpeditions).  I think I am safe in saying that this trip itinerary will show up as one of his trip offerings very soon.

I was a little skeptical of Mexico City, having heard a lot of negative propaganda about the conditions in Mexico's capitol.  The trip was a positive surprise from start to finish.  The city was not all that polluted, traffic wasn't that bad, we never felt threatened, the weather was fabulous, and the food was great.  And Izta (Iztaccíhuatl) and Pico de Orizaba,the 8th and 3rd highest summits in north America, were more intersting (and challenging) than we had envisioned.

Panorama of Popo (Popocatepetl, 5410 m or 17,749 ft) in the sunris.

Before embarking on the trekking part of the itinerary, we visited the pyramids at Teotihuacan.  This picture shows the Temple of the Sun.
From Teotihuacan, we went straight to the Popo-Itza National Park to prepare for the ascent of Izta.  We stayed at the climbers refugio close to La Hoya.  this picture shows sunrise from La Hoya towards Pico de Orizaba.

Popocatepetl in the sunrise.
Izta in the early morning.  Iztaccíhuatl translates as White Woman or Sleeping Woman.  Each part of the mountain are named after the woman's body parts; the feet (left in this picture), the knees (center of pic), belly, breast (summit) and head.

Heading up towards Izta high camp on a day hike
Lunch at Izta "high camp" (about 4700 m)

Popo from Izta at daybreak.  We started from La Hoya at 3 am and summited around 8 am.
Popo from high on the first "Knee" on Izta

Izta's shadow in the sunrise from high on the first "Knee"
Summit ridge on Izta

Popo from Izta's summit.  Popo provided some incredible back-drops to an already beautiful climb.
Guide Javier and Geir on the summit of Izta.

Trond on Izta's summit.
Izta's "glacier" between the summit (Izta's Breast) and Izta's Belly.

Heading back across Izta's belly.

Panorama of Popo from Izta summit

Pico de Orizaba from the lowlands
The fairly new Piedra Grande refugio on Orizaba.  The refigio is at roughly 4200 m.  From here the summit is a long 1400 m (4600 feet) away.

On the first day at Orizaba we went for a day hike from the refugio up to the main high camp.  This pic shows the moraine along trail below Orizaba.
Lunch break in high camp (ca 4700 m) during acclimatization hike

Foggy return from "high camp".  We observed this weather pattern every day in the mountains here.  Beautiful weather before noon, foggy and cloudy after noon.
Early morning start for Orizaba summit day.  We started at about 2 am and summited around 7:30 am.  Compared to Izta, the climb up Orizaba was quite cold (-10 C, 14 F), and both Geir and I thought we would freeze our toes.  Fortunately, no permanent damage was incurred.

Sunrise high on Orizaba's snowfield.  The climb is straight forward.  Towards the top, the slope may approach 40 degrees, but the snow provided good crampooning.
Orizaba's shadow stretching out towards Mexico City

Javier and Geor on the crater rim
Orizaba's crater. The crater is the deepest I have seen, must be 200-300 feet deep.  Very impressive.

Orizaba summit.
Orizaba summit from the crater rim.

Popo, Izta & La Malinche (4430 m, 14,534 ft, 24th highest in North America) from Orizaba
Heading back down the upper Orizaba snowfield.

Orizaba's "glacier".
Heading down.

A last view of Orizaba.

Panorama from Orizaba summit.  Sierra Negra (4580 m, 15,026 ft, 19th highest in North America) can be seen below to the left.

Panorama of Orizaba summit.  Popo, Izta and La Malinche below to the right.

Mexico City national theater.
Zocalo, main cathedral in Mexico City.

City-scape in Zona Rosa, Mexico City

Photo exhibition along La Reforma, one ov the main avenues in Mexico City.

Mexico's Independence statue.
"Wall Street" - Mexico City's stock exchange.

The Wrestler.  The anthropological museum in Mexico City is a fantastic collection
of artifacts.  For anybody interested in Mexican history, this is a MUST. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

True Summit & Berg Peak in "the Berries"

Alyaska True Summit and Berg Peak, October 18th, 2009
Start/finish: Kern Creek on Seward Highway
Highpoints: True Summit 4423 ft and Berg Peak 3917 ft

A long fall with continued high pressure has provided some great hiking and climbing conditions  in the Western Chugach mountains in September and October.  After an early squall of termination dust in September I climbed Bramble Knoll on September 26th.  This 3264 ft "hill" along the Seward highweay is too steep for hiking but to flat for climbing.  With an average grade around 45 degrees and ample bush-whacking, Bramble Knoll lives up to its name and is a challenge in itself.  But the views from the summit are exquisite.  The first panorama below shows the Bramble views from West to East.  I decided to come back to these hills as soon as the conditions were favorable.  The chance would come sooner than expected.  The termination dust melted and provided superb conditions in mid-October.  On October 18th I found time to try True Summit (of Alyeska) and Berg Peak.  Starting from the Seward highway after 12 pm I knew that I would have to hustle to make the whole circuit before dark.  I didn't quite manage.  I finished at 7:30 pm after bush-whacking in the dark for the last hour or so.  Every time I visit these mountains I am reminded how tough the bush-whacking can be, but also how superb the ridges and peaks are ... well worth the struggle and hard work!

Panorama from Bramble Knoll (3264 ft). Left to right are Turnagain Arm, Penguin Ridge, Kern Ridge, True Summit, Berg Peak, Highbush, Lowbush and Blueberry Hill.

Map cutout of "the Berries" ... mountain group East of Girdwood with names such as Lingon, Blueberry, and Highbush.  Short red loop indicates my trip on Bramble Knoll on Sept. 26th.  Longer red loop is trip to True Summit and Berg Peak on Oct. 19th.
Kern Ridge towards True Summit.

Bauman Bump with Girdwood in the background
Winner Creek drainage and Northern part of the Berries (Kinnikinnick and Lingon mnts).

Berg Peak seen from True Summit.  The route up the facing ridge was at times quite exposed and tricky, especially with frozen conditions whenever I got forced out on the North side.
Kern Ridge and Turnagain Arm as seen from high on True Summit

Highbush with Lingon in the background (to the left)
Blueberry Hill

Self portrait

Panorama from Kern ridge looking North towards (Alyeska) True Summit. 

Panorama from Berg Peak looking Northeast.  Left to right in the panorama are Lingon Mnt, Highbush, Lowbush, and Bluberry Hill.  Certainly a lot of great hiking and climbing still to be had in this mountain group.