Climb the North Face of Pico de Orizaba

Refugio Piedra Grande , Tlachichuca, Mexico

  • Activities:

    Photography, Hiking, Rock Climbing

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Spring, Autumn, Winter

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    4 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    4921 Feet


Climbing the North face of Orizaba’s peak is definitely one of the best experiences you can have on the volcano; climbing the glacier 800 meters up to the third highest peak in North America is something unforgettable.

To be able to arrive from Mexico City to the base camp of the North face, it is necessary to take the road to Veracruz and in the tollbooth Esperanza, go toward Ciudad Serdan. Once in that direction, you should continue to the town of Tlalchichuca. If you do not have a 4x4 vehicle, you can rent one in the village or pay one of the many 4x4 "taxis" that will take you to the camp. If you have a 4x4 vehicle you should go to the town San Miguel Zoapan, only about 15 minutes from Tlalchichuca. The “Piedra Grande” shelter is an hour and a half from San Miguel and the road crosses the coniferous forest until reaching 4,200 meters where the vehicles remain and the ascent to the volcano begins.

The North face route is well marked and is divided into: first nest, second nest, and labyrinth and to finalize the Jamapa glacier. The road is marked with raised stones and paint marks on the rocks, yet it is very easy to lose track, it is important not to lose the road as there are ravines and dangerous glens at the sides of the route. Once at the base of the glacier, the road is very simple but dangerous, with a slope of 45 degrees. The glacier, almost 800 meters high, is the hardest part of the climb, but once at the top, you can enjoy the view of the highest point of the country.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Mountaineering boots
  • Crampons
  • Poles
  • Ice axe
  • Harness
  • Helmet
  • Rope 
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Orizaba is a quintessential volcano climb topping out with its (seemingly neverending) 800 meter glacier up to the top. There ARE crevasses on the glacier, though depending on the snow level, they are often covered up and considered safe. For this reason none of our teammates roped up. We also opted to sleep in the town of Tlachichuca instead of the noisy, dirty mountain hut. 13 of us took the 2-hour 4x4 ride to the trailhead to start hiking at 5am, and the last of us stood on the summit before noon. When I return for a second summit I'll do the same itinerary to afford just a few extra hours of solid rest and a good meal before the long day.

11 months ago
11 months ago

I have climbed/attempted eight times so far. Each was a great experience. Every time I use Servimont, even before they were known as Servimont. They are owned and operated by the Reyes family out of their family's old soap factory. Awesome place. The Reyes' provided me with dinner before and after my climb, transportation to and from Piedra Grande hut and any logistical support to arrive. But above all else, I used them because of what I witnessed my first visit. I had just arrived when I learned that the owners, Gerardo and Francisco Reyes had organized a search party to find a German climber who had slid down the glacier nearly 1000 feet and was seriously injured. They found him and brought him back. By the way, Gerardo is a medical doctor. Can't ask for more than that. The easy access makes altitude sickness a likely occurrence and I've seen two cases of pulmonary edema, both were inexperienced climbers above 16,000. Know the signs and symptoms and what to do if this happens! Also, Piedra Grande hut is a bunk house. It can be loud and there are plenty of mice scurrying about. My last two climbs I opted for sleeping outside! There is a water source (natural spring) down a short trail across for the hut. Camps above that you will have to melt snow.

12 months ago
12 months ago

Javier Casillas Explorer

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