Once a year he sets out for a new adventure. He has already climbed the highest mountains in asia, south america and africa. Now he's off to mexico – on a very hot tour. 75-year-old peter schoderlein climbs the four highest volcanoes in the country.
The adventure began at the institut fur hohentraining in wurzburg, germany. There he took the opportunity to acclimatize himself for rough altitudes above 5000 meters close to home. A good idea, because the tour was going to be strenuous. In addition to visiting mexico's cities and cultural sites, we were planning to climb the country's four most famous volcanoes: ajusco (3945m), nevado de toluca (4690m), ixtaccihuatl (5286m), also known as the sleeping woman, and the highest peak in mexico, pico de orizaba (5700m).
The trip began with an unpleasant surprise: the weather was not kind to the visitors. After climbing the steep steps of the 63-meter-high pyramid of the sun, the otherwise unique panoramic view of the "street of the dead" became, the pyramid of the moon and the temple of quetzalcoatl, god of the dead, clouded by mist and rain. "Normally, only a few rainy days are to be expected at this time of year", reports schoderlein. "And so the chances of experiencing the rest of the trip in sunshine were quite good."
A good mountain to get warm
The next day, he was scheduled to climb ajusco, the home volcano of mexico city. Its two peaks pico del aguila (3910m) and cruz del marquez (3945m) rise a good 1700 meters above the houses of the city. The long-extinct volcano is a hiking mountain with steep trails, making it a good place for acclimatization.
At the starting point at cabana la palapa, a good 3100 meters high, the summit hikers met their guides humberto and carlos. They were to accompany them on all peaks. Provided with lunch packs and wrapped in rain gear, everyone set off, initially climbing through coniferous forest, then quickly steepening through gullies, over several small clearings into open country. We continued along the lava rocks with some easy climbing to the pre-summit pico del aguila, then after a short descent through a hollow we climbed to the main summit pico la cruz del marquez. "In the meantime it had stopped raining", schoderlein remembers. "But the otherwise magnificent view of mexico city, a city of millions, was obscured by fog clouds."
The naked man
Deeply impressed by the cultures of the pre-colonial era, it was now time to say goodbye to mexico city. The bus took the tour group to the albergue nevado de toluca, which the indians call xinantecatl ("the naked man"), in just under three hours. The guides had already wiped the floor, lit fires in the crude open fireplace and started preparing dinner. "All the refuges in mexico are purely self-catering refuges", tells schoderlein.
At daybreak the bus drove to the starting point of the tour, a meteorological station at 3900m. Over a small saddle and then climbing slightly, the group reached the two crater lakes – the coarse sun lake and the small moon lake. A magnificent ridge climb led over several small pre-summits up the east ridge to the summit of nevado de toluca (4690m).
"Looking over the crater lakes we could see the smoking popocatepetl and the ixtaccihuatl, the next target", tells the dettelbacher. The descent went to the west, briefly climbing down, then "descending" over scree slopes to the crater lakes. Here, one of the participants began to feel the dark high air with a severe headache, nausea and vomiting. "In snail's pace it succeeded to get the high-sick unglucksraben down to the bus and further talwarts to create."
Everybody wants to go to popocatepetl – but you are not allowed to go up there. Since 1994, a sign on the paso cortez (3650m) explains why: "volcanic activity" it says as a reason. Schoderlein does not find the popocatepetl so attractive. "Actually the ixtaccihuatl on the other side of the pass looks much more interesting." It does not have the cone shape of the active volcano, but is a very elongated, huge massif with walls, embrasures and pillars.
The long ascent of the "ixta started at 4 o'clock in the morning. The highest point of a woman lying on her back is the chest – that's where the climbers wanted to go. As the lady shows her fube to the pass, they had a long way to go. "Who finally stands on the fub and looks to the knee, sees no breast for a long time", remembers the climber.
Clouds over the po
So first we went on steep gravel roads to the pass portillo de los pies (4200m), then through the saddle between "knees and "fuben, following the prominent sudostrucken further to the bivouac boxes at 4600 meters. Over some pre-summits the group finally reached the highest point, called "el pecho", after eight hours, over snow, ice and rock ridges downhill and uphill, crossing a rough glacier field (5286m). "A peculiar glacier world with unusual landscapes made us forget the hardships of the ascent", says schoderlein. "Again and again, the clouds of smoke above the buttocks were a welcome photo motif."
On the same way they went back to the starting point. After twelve hours, sixteen exhausted climbers were back on the bus. The quarters for the last and roughest climb were bustling with activity. Already other climbers had seized the wood camps in the narrow space. Every "department" sizzled on gas stoves for dinner. The night's rest was short anyway. At about 2 o'clock we started the long and exhausting climb of the pico orizaba (5700m), the highest volcano in mexico.
Mountain of stars
In prehispanic times it had the indian name citlaltepetl, which means "mountain of the stars" means. In the darkness it was hard to find a good track over the stony flank. After two hours, the snow and ice zone at an altitude of about 5,000 meters was reached. For the further ascent ice equipment was necessary.
To the dawning day at the "sarcofago", a striking rock formation at about 5350 meters, schoderlein will remember for a long time. "The day did not dawn, it erupted in the form of an eruption of light and color." Five to six hours of climbing still lay ahead, sometimes in ice and snow as steep as 40 degrees on the flank of the summit. "The crevasses were so narrow that it was possible to walk without ropes", reports the 75-year-old. "Everyone went for himself, found his rhythm. Nothing distracted from the effort of the climb, no flachstuck, no climbing spot, no landing structure, no grat." The slope increased, the ice became harder. One last turn, then the mountain was over. "The heibt, druben, a few hundred meters further, he went on. Between them gaped the crater hole, estimated to be 200 meters deep."
After relegation, the group returned to tlachichuca, where they were once again cooked for by the humbertos family. Then it was off to puebla the same day. The next morning they had a good night's sleep. The program included a guided tour of the fourth largest city in mexico and a unesco world heritage site. In one of the beer bars under the arcades of the zòcalo, the journey slowly came to an end. The next day it was time to say goodbye to mexico, its gigantic cities of millions, its mysterious cult sites and its legendary volcanoes. But peter schoderlein already has the next goal in mind – a real contrast program. This summer he wants to go to gronland. There are mountains there, too. But hardly a naked man.
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