NFR Popo Blows!


Active Member
Mexico's Popocatepetl is currently in an explosive phase blasting red hot rock a half mile into the sky. This is of particular interest to me since it was the first non-Sierra peak I ever climbed back in 1966. If you have ever been to Mexico City you know that it's 17,886' peak dominates the skyline and is pretty impressive when first viewed.

There wasn't a major eruption there for several hundred years until 2000 when a big event occured. That explains the ladders. Looking down into the crater from the summit you could see the remains of old wooden ladders that had been there for hundreds of years. The story was that when the Spaniards came to the area they forced natives to climb down into the crater to collect sulphur for the manufacture of gunpowder. I can't imagine hauling those ladders up a near 45 degree slope then crawling down into the bowels of that thing and climbing back out with a load of sulphur. Those Spaniards were cruel bastards and the loss of life must have been significant.

There were 6 in our party that started up at dawn but the prevailing breeze wafted heavy sulphur fumes down the flanks from the summit. One by one members of the party dropped out, some getting really sick and turning a strange yellow color. At the end of the day I reached the summit and another guy from Germany was a few minutes behind but retching and getting really dizzy. Fortunately we had gravity on our side for the return trip and some massive glissades down the steep slope soon had us back at the hut that lies in the saddle between Popo and Iztaccihuatl.

A 3 day drive from Fresno put us at the hut on the evening of the 3rd day and then a very poor night's sleep with no time to acclimate to the elevation put us at a real disadvantage. For those that had Montezuma's Revenge or the Galloping Gollywogs there was an outhouse that had one side completely open so you could stare at Izta while you were either dying or entertaining some hope of recovery. If my memory is correct Iztaccihuatl means sleeping lady as the volcano looks like a woman on her back. I think the left breast may have been the summit, please correct me if I'm wrong. It's been 46 years.....

I have fond memories of climbing Popo in 1973. We had climbed Chimborazo a few days before, so were better acclimated, but it is still a difficult haul. The others in my party all dropped out or fell back and I reached the summit rim exactly as the sun crested the eastern horizon. I have two vivid images from that climb. One was the view of the valley of Mexico at night as we climbed from the hut in the dark; the other was of the perfectly triangular shadow extending out from my feet to the western horizon in that early morning sunrise. That valley has so much air pollution now, I'd guess the lights aren't very visible today.


wadin' boot

Donny, you're out of your element...
Ive and Richard- what other 17,000+ peaks have you guys climbed?

Supposedly the air pollution in Mexico City isn't as bad as it used to be. Maybe that's about to change with Popo ash..

Go Fish

Language, its a virus
Having flown into Mexico City a few times
and looking at Popo my hat is off to
Richard and Ive for scaling this mountain.

In younger days I still wouldn't have done it.

Any old pics to post?



Active Member
Boot--just McKinley in Alaska, the rest of my peak bagging was done in the Sierra Nevada. What a beautiful place for a young man and his hiking boots.


wadin' boot

Donny, you're out of your element...
a couple in Mexico and a couple in Ecuador.
On a slow day the other week I used the Acme Satellite mapper (to get there look up a peak, say Jungfrau, open the wikipedia page, click on the coordinates on the top right of the page and it will give a link to Acme Mapper 2.0) you can then blow the image up as you see fit. Anyways I used this tool to scale the major peaks of each continent, from the armchair. Obviously it's a poor substitute (then again no acetazolamide or acclimatization necessary) , but fascinating nonetheless. Jungfrau, for instance, mid summer, you can see many climbers as well as several small planes flying over the peak, these coordinates give an example: N 46.55351 E 8.00593