Pico de Orizaba is an excellent peak for those who are novice to climbing. It is a non-technical climb that requires crampons and an ice axe. The view from the top is worth the effort it takes to get there.
The mountain has 13 peaks, of which only three are actually pinnacles. The others are just bumps on a hill or small mountains in their own right. The three pinnacles are named after saints: San Francisco, Santo Tomás, and Santa María. They all rise more than 3,000 feet above sea level and offer fantastic views of the surrounding area. The other 10 peaks do not have official names but are known by locals.
There are several routes to the top of Pico de Orizaba. No one chooses the route they take because each one is different. Some like to follow the ridge line while others go across steep fields of rock. Most people take about six hours to reach the top. However, some take much longer if they stop to look at everything around them.
As you climb up the mountain, you will pass through many switchbacks. These are sections of trail where the path splits into two perpendicular ones of equal height. You will need to use your judgment when deciding which direction to go in.
The two main climbing routes to Pico de Orizaba's summit are the Ruta del Sur and the Jampa Glacier approaches. The Jampa Glacier path is somewhat longer, but technically less difficult, and is recommended by most guides. The Ruta del Sur is shorter, but much steeper and more technically tough. Both paths are fairly well-maintained by climbers, although the Jampa Glacier route is used mainly by tourists during the summer months.
Climbing Pico de Orizaba is not for those who like heights or difficulty levels. The view from the top is worth it though!
The mountain is part of a protected area called the Sierra de Huautla Region. It is known as one of the best places in Mexico to see migrating birds. There are also several other hiking trails around the mountain that can be done separately or as a full-day tour. Some of them are better suited for children, others for adults. There is always something to do on Pico de Orizaba!
You can reach the town of Huautla de Jiménez by bus from Mexico City or Toluca, but be aware that the journey takes about five hours. There are also weekly buses from Querétaro which take about seven hours. Buses stop at both ends of the line, so getting off anywhere along the way is possible.
Most Pico de Orizaba ascents will take around 15 hours from the mountain cabin to the top and back. You will normally get up at 1 a.m. and start climbing in order to reach the peak by 10 a.m. and return to the beginning mountain lodge by 4 p.m. The same route should be feasible to follow on any other day, although it is recommended to go during the week when possible.
The first ascent of Pico de Orizaba was made in 1892 by an Italian mountaineer named Antonio Sanfuentes. He was followed about a year later by another Italian, Giuseppe Martini, who became the first person to climb the mountain twice. In 1900, another Italian, Giorgio Jannuzzi, became the first person to climb Pico de Orizaba three times. Since then, many more people have climbed the mountain today.
As you can see, this is a popular destination with hundreds of climbers visiting each year. It is important to be aware of the high altitude levels of this mountain before deciding to climb it. Even though the average elevation is only 2,440 meters above sea level, several peaks on Pico de Orizaba reach heights of over 5,000 meters making them dangerous objects to encounter in bad weather conditions.