So we had gone to bed early the night before. We needed to as a 4am start was planned with a 3am wake up call. I did not manage to fall asleep for almost an hour. Sleep was a little disturbed and I took sips of water each time it was. At least I wasn’t getting the apnoea I was suffering from earlier – the pills I was popping were clearly doing what was needed in that respect!
After some watery porridge and a warm drink we were on our way. It was almost possible to walk by the light of the moon, its light casting weak shadows.
I’ll not give a blow by blow account of the ascent but it can be broken down into the following stages:
Stage 1 – about an hour up to a hut at 4,780m located between the feet and the legs (see the blog on Izta for an explanation of the anatomy). This was a little loose under foot but not too bad. I had a low level headache but it was under control – a bit like a low level hangover headache.
Stage 2 – up to Izta’s knee at 5,000m. Steep and basically a climb from hell. Loose cr*p. Think irregular marbles on sloping concrete. A strong and cold wind blew over the ridge. More clothes were put on. The realisation that we would need to reverse this on the return no doubt contributed to my headache developing into one that would not have been out of place following an all night bender. I popped a pill. If it had not been so unpleasant the sight of the sun rising and Orizaba towering to the east might have redeemed it. The fact that it did not tells you everything.
Stage 3 – Knee to the Stomach Glacier, a pleasant high level meander along a series of ridges – plenty of ups and downs but despite the head I was still doing ok. No significant height gain. It was nice looking at the clouds below and the land being lit by the rising sun.
Ricardo on the sinuous ridge
Stage 4 – across the Stomach Glacier and to Izta’s breast (the summit). Bending over to put crampons on didn’t do the throbbing in my head much good but we made good progress across the glacier to another ridge line about 500m across the way. Even when we left the snow we kept crampons on as they helped keep a grip in the soft volcanic ash. In a couple of places there was a strong smell of sulphur just to prove the lady’s potential potency. Back on the snow again I hit the proverbial wall. Derek was still going well. Ricardo stayed with me. Derek and Miriam waited at a foresummit. We ate and drank. Derek and Miriam left as I continued to force down some chocolate. Following on the summit was closer than I had thought. In ten minutes I was there, arriving three minutes after Derek.
The pleasure and relief of having made it obviously dulled the pain. The situation was brilliant. It was 9am and not a moment too soon. Clouds were beginning to build and threaten the summit. From the east it probably looked as though the mountain was covered. From where we were the mountain was steaming. Obligatory photos taken we needed to leave, just 20 minutes on the summit. We still had a long way to go. I popped another pill proffered to me by Derek.
Itza summit glacier
Leaving the summit
On the way down I started struggling again towards the end of Stage 3. It was annoying because fitness-wise I felt fine. We stopped for 20 minutes on the knee to eat more substantially, and perhaps to put off the evil of Stage 2 which we could see in all its menacing glory below.
Off we went again. I soon lagged behind. Derek, still going well, seemed to romp off down into the distance. The hut took ages to get closer. The headache that had eased on reaching the summit returned. A general feeling of urgh came over my head.
The ankle refugio is on the rise to the right of the main ridge
Reaching the hut came as a little relief. Derek and Ricardo had waited there for 15 minutes. It was all I could do to plod slowly back to the tents, having to stop part way as a wave of nausea came over me. Miriam and Derek were back at the tents 20 minutes ahead of me.
I was fairly useless in helping pack up. Some lemon tea helped revive the spirits. After 45 minutes at the tents it was time to go again. Getting back to the car and the promise of a hotel bed was incentive enough.
I now moved better. The decrease in altitude helped. We had one short stop to remove layers and to drink. We were back at the car by 3.05pm after an eleven hour day including stops.
We went back to Amecameca. By the time we got there I would not have known what a headache was. Altitude does funny things and Derek and I are going to get plenty of altitude on this trip!
Do I regret it? Well what do you think?
We have a rest day next in Puebla and then it is on to Orizaba. Watch this space…