It strikes me that not too many foreign visitors ever think of exploring Mexico’s many mountains. Other than the handful who come here specifically to do so. I must confess, it didn’t really occur to me to try and climb one for the first few years. Probably due to the assumption that this is very much a specialist endeavor. I can pinpoint the moment I thought to look into it. We were driving to Oaxaca, and out of the window was Iztaccihuatl, looking large above the horizon. I stared at Izta a long while and wondered, ‘How hard can it be?’
The last couple of days I’ve seen a lot of videos on Facebook featuring Popocatapetl, the active volcano within spitting distance of Mexico City. It’s exploding. Big style. Again. Mexican mountains have been cropping up into conversation all over the place lately. I recently bumped into a blog where a Brit is on a mission to summit the main peaks surrounding Mexico City.
And I stumbled across this audio/photo slideshow by another Brit who I had the pleasure of meeting in Mexico when he came to do some climbing. He bought me a pair of decent climbing boots from the UK – you may remember the story if you’ve been lingering around here long enough. And have a peculiarly good memory…
I have fond memories of climbing Ajusco, the Nevado de Toluca (twice each) and Iztaccihuatl. They are all magnificent mountains in their own right, with their own dangers. It’s exposed on Izta, so if you’re caught in bad weather you can be in trouble. The last peak of the Nevado is decidedly dodgy. And Ajusco is known to have armed bandits waiting for you at the top, ready to lighten your load for your descent…! My favourite of the three though, quite easily, was Izta. It just feels like a real mountain. Like the ones in the movies. Here’s a video I found on YouTube, for those of you who are too old/unfit/far away/lazy to do it yourself…
Mexico has been in the news again this week, and once again it’s water related. Not, for once, because the stuff is running out. But because there was too much of it. Heavy rainfall, and crappy drainage systems (pun intended) unable to cope, left parts of Mexico City flooded and caused landslides and flooding elsewhere in the country that caused a number of fatalities. On the plus side, if you can look past the dead bodies for a moment, the rain has helped refill the nearly empty reservoirs that supply the city with water, or so I have read.
There’s another plus side though. This is, technically, dry season. Rainy season doesn’t come till May. And typically at this time of the year, pollution in the city is terrible. The cold temperatures trap dirty air in the Valley of Mexico, and the lack of rain means none of it gets washed away. The torrential downpours over the last week have though cleaned our skies. Really cleaned them. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear it’s been raining Clorox, the housewives favourite bleach.
The result? Popocatapetl and Iztaccihuatl, the two giant volcanoes sitting a few hours drive outside of the city have become visible. It’s like looking at an old postcard from the city, of decades ago, when they were regularly visible, cloud cover permitting. In my nearly five years here, I’d only ever once before seen them poke their giant frames through the pollution, that being at Christmas in 2008 when there is less traffic in the city, a little less smoke, and temporarily cleaner skies.
You can see in my video below how much snow there is on the mountains too – it has been a cold, cold winter. I’ve included a photo of Popo from November 2008 so that you can see how little snow there usually is on the peak. I also grabbed a few photos to put up on my Flickr page – click here to see them.Vodpod videos no longer available.
The Museo Nacional de Arte, more commonly (and easily) known as the Munal, is one of the grandest museums in the city, holding many of the best art treasures kept on permanent display. The building itself is a fabulous example of neoclassical architecture and worth a visit even if art isn’t really up your street. For mountain climbers, there are quite a number of paintings by the likes of Velasco of Izta and Popo. It’s free on Sundays, although they’ll take 5 pesos off you if you want to take photos. I keep meaning to go into the San Ildefonso and buy myself an annual membership card for about 200 pesos which’ll get me into several of the my favourite museums, including this one. No photos today. I created a video instead.
From king of the castle to sick as a parrot. I should be nearing the hut, halfway up Izta by now. I would be if I hadn’t eaten whatever it was that has made me ill. I felt a bit funny yesterday evening, but I’ve been on paracetamol for a tooth infection, so I didn’t think much of it. By bed time, I felt positively horrible. Headache, shivers and aches. I was convinced I’d been Swine Flu’d. I got about three hours sleep in all, but still got up this morning, had a shower and coffee to try and make myself feel better.
And I did feel a bit better. Not fluish anyway. But I didn’t feel terribly good either. I stood at the door for about 20 minutes trying to make up my mind whether to just go and give it a try and put up with the pain and tiredness. I decided against it. You don’t ‘give it a go and see what happens’ with a 15,000 foot mountain. I didn’t want to hold the others back either. And I thought it would probably be a fairly unpleasant couple of days, up on Izta feeling like this.
Turned out to be a good call. I thought it was Swine Flu last night. By the end of this morning it was clear it was something I ate. I’ll leave it to your imagination how I came to that conclusion. Suffice it to say I’ve been in no state to be out in the wilds, miles from any bathrooms. I’m gutted though. I don’t often get these sort of troubles. This is just the second or third time in four and a half years.
And I had bought a new sleeping bag, thermal shirt, headlamp and all sorts for nothing. And I made a huge bowl of curry to take with me and heat up on a tiny disposable stove I bought. But the photo below is sadly as far as any of it got. I’ll have to investigate the possibility of doing it again somehow, if not this year, then in the spring.
From last years climb up Iztaccihuatl. To be repeated this weekend.
Edit: Something else repeated on me the night before. Mountain will have to be repeated at a later date.
There are, admittedly, no molehills in this postcard. But there are mountains. Big ones. Volcanoes to be precise. The one on the left, Iztaccihuatl, is dormant. Extinct, even. She is also known as La Mujer Dormida. The Sleeping Lady. I climbed it last year. Almost to the top! I’m going to try again in a couple of months. The one on the right is far from dormant, and constantly spews ash. He is Iztas husband, Popocatapetl.
And yes, this postcard is yet another one bought for no other reason than to post on my blog, and then send via Mexico’s rather good postal system to anyone, anywhere in the world. If you want it, all you have to do is leave a comment in this blog post to claim it, and then send me the address to post it to. Use the Contact page of my blog for that.
If this card has already been claimed, there might still be another going begging on the Postcards page. At the time of writing, a pretty snazzy postcard of Coyoacan in the south of Mexico City is still up for grabs.