Tlachichuca to Piedra Grande


Day 5, Mexican Thanksgiving:
Drive to Piedra Grande, acclimate

After a restful day yesterday, we were raring to get up to the mountain. But first Servimont served up a great breakfast (Mexican food!), and then we did some sorting and packing- a daily chore. And before we headed up the mountain, we ran around the zocalo and did some last minute shopping for real food.

This was my first experience with an open market, seeing sides of meat hanging out in the air. We bought sandwiches for two and some fruit for about $2.


It's a two hour (!) ride in a crummy up a bumpy, dusty dirt track to get to Piedra Grande, the 60-person climbing hut. Fortunately, we only had about 20-25 people at the hut. Even so, it was calamity inside with all that gear, the excited conversations, and the constant motion of eating, packing, hydrating, etc.

As you can see, it is steeply uphill as soon as you leave the front step of the hut.


Mariel and I walked around a bit, then chose to read and nap for the early afternoon. Others kept themselves occupied as well; here the Colorado girls do some team building and practice their knots.

You can see the beginning of the route behind them; you walk on top of a steep cement aqueduct before starting up the scree field.

Looking south from the Knees

At about 4pm, Mariel and I decided to hike up and get a better look at the labyrinth, a twisted and tortured section of the mountain that can be difficult to navigate in the dark. The labyrinth starts atop the previously mentioned scree field, about 800' above camp. We also needed to proof the new plastic boots I had found on Craig's List for Mariel- other than in our living room she had not had a chance to wear them.

Because we did not want to tire ourselves, and did not want to aggravate Mariel's feet, we took our time. I watched the altimeter as we moved up to 15,300' from what the GPS said was 13,650' at the hut (commonly said to be 14k- more on that later). The 1600' took us about 90 minutes; we were moving very well indeed.

That white shadow at the upper right is very near the actual summit. The path through the upper labyrinth lies just at the center of the picture, just left of the biggest gully. The top of the labyrinth is about 16,200'.

Looking south from the Knees

The afternoon light was waning, and the fog was creeping up the hillside. This is close to the start of the labyrinth.

That's the hut down below.

Mariel's new boots were working well, plus they're very stylish, no?

Looking south from the Knees

Although the folks at the hut were becoming worried about our late arrival (and the sinking sun), we got a unique opportunity to see the shadow of the mountain at sunset.

It's a nice complement to the sunrise shadow we got to see the next day.

When we got back to the hut, the cartridge stove refused to maintain a flame. The Colorado girls were kind enough to let us use their rented stove. My stove worked fine at 13k on Itza, but even though the canister was obviously full of gas, the flame kept dwindling and then dying. I hate to not be self-sufficient, but I thank them because the stove saved our bacon, and the next morning, too.

Looking south from the Knees

Mr. Natural Home | 2008 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski