MEXICO January, 1978

With a peak buddy, we planned to climb all three of the highest volcanoes in Mexico, Popocatepetl, Ixtacchihuatl, and Orizaba. These were all day climbs, doable with stays at huts. The highest was nearly 19,000 feet. Others from our peak group had done them, and nothing was that hard except for altitude.

I contracted a bad cough, due to perhaps a dust storm, in the days before our trip, but declined to cancel. That was a bad mistake. I believed that I would recover as I am normally a healthy person, but my ailment was to do me in, on this trip.

Flying out of the local jetport, we arrived at LAX in the late evening. We had a bargain midnight flight to Mexico City. I had this cough all during the flight, and started to feel pretty sick. I persevered, and we came to Mexico City in the early morning. This was my first time in another country. We had taken some night courses in Spanish, but it was a shock to see everything in another language!

The rental agreement for our VW was in Spanish, and I had no way to understand it. My buddy peered at it for a long time; he must be much smarter than me. I figured it was from a major rental company so must have been the usual disclaimers and rights, and urged to just sign it. He finally did so, and we got the car.

Motoring into town, we had a reservation at a hotel near the city center, and we had our gear lugged in by bellhops. Some of them can understand English. The most beautiful woman operated the elevator, so then we were set to enjoy our visit. We did some walking about town, and I captured some sights. The major city park was on our agenda, and then at night, my friend wanted to see the Ballet Folklorico. I saw some art, and walked back alone to the hotel and watched TV.

The next day, we motored out of town to our first destination, the Tlamacas hut on Popo. Taking freeway, we left the toll road to take side roads to our approach town, Amecameca. Asking directions, we were given a barrage of words, all of which I was unable to catch. Spanish is not the only language spoken here.

Finding the way to go, we shortly arrived at Cortes Pass, where the Conquistadors came through. Checking into the hut, at some 12,700 feet elevation, we acclimated somewhat, and took a short hike on the path leading to the volcano climb. There is a spur peak to climb, but I was not feeling so well, still with my bad cough.

Up at 4 a.m., or so, we started our climb. It was windy and cold, and I had my miserable cough. We managed to reach the climbers hut on the Las Cruces route, my lifetime hiking highpoint at 14,600 feet elevation. I snapped photos of the dawn, but had enough. The ice here was super hard, but my buddy decided to go on and solo the peak. I saw him go, and rested at the hut. He reported summiting, but I hiked back to the main lodge and waited for his return.

I could do no more. He teamed up with other climbers, gratefully, and climbed Ixty. Then, I had to get back to Mexico City, so we drove back into town. We stayed a night in Amecameca, sopping up the local culture.

The Mexico City airport is on the close (east) side of town, so we didn't have to bear again with the crazy traffic. I simply wished to get well, and back home to recover. My buddy went on to bag Orizaba and see the Pyramids, attaining all of our travel goals.

Waiting at the airport, I snapped a few more photos, then caught a flight back to the USA. I connected easily to a flight back to my hometown, and that was that for my foreign climbing adventures. I figured to go back, but never had any companions for that. My Spanish is too poor for any solo travel, and now there are dangers. I cannot afford travel groups, and I see others have successful climbs in other countries; the people are friendly enough and they are used to tourists. I spent some $500 total, but for a commercially conducted group, I would have paid easily three to four times that much, with still no guarantee for topping the peaks!

I have plenty of time now to travel, but little money. I hoped to go to Europe or Asia sometime in my life, but that all seems out, now. I have to be content with what many local peaks that I have done, and basically view other people's pictures of their own travels, and be happy with that. I never had that much wanderlust, and am used to the ways of the Pacific West. While many persons globe hop, they are rich and/or enabled with language skills, and while I understood some French from high school, I haven't ever conducted a real conversation in any other language. So goes it!