Entries from Mexico
As I wrapped up this trip, I couldn’t help but remember the last time I visited Ixta. I was guiding a man in his 70’s up. He was making the trip on his own. The extraordinary thing: he was on a lot of medication, he had a stint placed in his heart and a piece of his lung removed. His effort was impressive. We made four different expeditions, increasing the number of O2 bottles used during the ascent.
When I’m on climbs like the one I just finished, I’m also reminded of my mission to be an ambassador for the sport (and to keep people smiling even when they are hurting). I want people who join me, especially when it’s their first time climbing, to be challenged, but not to be destroyed because it’s too tough. The trip I just finished was with a great group—novices, but an enthusiastic crowd for sure. Everyone checked their egos at the airport when we landed and fully embraced the journey. We also developed a shared responsibility that bonds us on the climb and I think long after it’s over.
In the end, these climbs can change people’s perspective on life and things back home especially when the conditions are extreme. What happens on the mountain, combined with that disconnect from the daily grind, is essentially a recharging through depletion, fed by the beauty and simplicity of nature along the way, as well as the experiencing of different cultures. The once-in-a-lifetime climb is more than just the trip itself. It’s the memories, and the gratitude we develop for being healthy enough to experience something so amazing, yet take on something totally out of our comfort zone. It’s also stepping back when we are home taking nothing for granted.
I remind everyone I work with to remember it’s not about the summit, it’s the entire experience that matters—that’s what will fill their tanks months after they’ve unpacked and settled back into life. This group—they fully embraced that notion. They didn’t grab for just a slice on the mountain—they went for the entire pie. I love introducing newcomers with that kind of get-it-done attitude to this sport. These guys accepted the challenges that came with it and had a laugh doing so.
I’m fortunate to have great clients and work for a great company like RMI. Both remind me, and I hope by reading this reminds you (and my latest team!), to get out there and do something big every day. Mount Rainier is the perfect intro for climbing novices. It allows curious people to stop wondering and get out there and try something—and to share something really cool with family and friends. And remember that guy in his 70’s? He didn’t tackle Mount Everest, but his conquest was equally butt-kicking. Ixta was his Everest. Any mountain, or challenge for that matter, can be an Everest-sized achievement.
Great job team!
RMI Guide Mark Tucker
This is one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever read about the philosophy of alpinism. Thank you Mark!
Posted by: Wolf Riehle on 8/20/2015 at 4:51 am
Mark did an unbelievable job getting us as far up Orizaba as we got, and then letting us make the call on whether we wanted to push for the summit late in the day. We opted not to for safety (and a few other reasons,) but Mark made sure to put the whole thing in context for us, and did so brilliantly. It’s never about the result, but about the climb.
You are EL HOMBRE, Mark.
Posted by: Spencer Hall on 8/19/2015 at 5:19 pm
Hey Mark Tucker checking in. What a 24-hour period we’ve had. Wow. Amazing night up there on Orizaba. Crazy weather, amazing light storm going on and little bit of hail. The team got up early and we put in our work, and we just had a fabulous climb. It was wonderful event that we all participated in and it’s been go time ever since. Back down here all cleaned up and doing well at the Reyes Compound. We’re just having so much fun; we don’t want this trip to end. We’re going to come away from this thing with some happy hearts and lots of experience. So we’re just looking forward to getting back out there when we can. Thanks.
RMI Guide Mark Tucker checks in from Mexico.
A nice rest day here in Puebla. Beautiful morning to wander around and get the pulse of this historic part of Mexico. We are still at about 7,000 ft, what an nice way to acclimatize. Great food all over here in old town. Add in a bit of sightseeing in some old cathedrals, some more shopping and let’s not forget the siesta. We will be in great shape for our summit bid on Orizaba tomorrow night.
We are down in the beautiful city of Puebla today. The team and I had a great time on Ixta. What a sight to wake up to the neighbor mountain, Popo, venting a lot of steam from it’s top on a crystal clear morning. No wonder it has been closed to climbing for years now. We spent part of the morning packing up so we would not have to return to the hut after skills training. Fun day getting to practice the nuts and bolts for the climb ahead on Orizaba- crampons, ice axe, and rope training were the featured program for the day. So fun to see the enthusiasm when you pull out and put on this type of hardware. The team did well adapting to some new toys and techniques. I feel that they all performed to a high enough standard that I would be willing to rope up with any one of them. It is a special bond up here in the mountains that can happen very quickly.
Never seen a mountain goat like that! During our hike today, off in the distance, on a ridge, it was not that animal. It got one of the camera crew to push uphill hard for a bit to get the awesome shot. We had settled for some other great footage in all kinds of tough weather conditions. We continue to go through loads of batteries and will probably get that Emmy in the end. The team continues to do well and with the help of some great local guys, are capturing these beautiful mountains to share with you all on the big screen. That’s a wrap for today; lots more tomorrow.
We had a very nice morning at La Malinche. We were well fed and watered for the couple hour commute to Ixtaccihuatl, also known as “The Sleeping Woman” volcano. A stop on the way at the Italian coffeehouse.. in Mexico, then onto the rural town of Amecameca located at the base of the mountain. We picked up some fresh food and now just above 12,000 feet at the Altzomoni Hut. Lots of going over gear and more training till the wind and rain came in strong. A big dinner with my California-style guacamole that received a thumbs up from the local staff. Team still needs to catch up on some missed sleep so off to bed for us.
On The Map
Early departure from one of the world’s largest cities. Traffic not so bad as we made the three-hour drive to our first big mountain, La Malinche at 14,636 feet. A nice lunch was had near this peak that is surrounded by fields of corn and beautiful stands of pine trees. We made a quick turn of unloading our equipment in the digs for the night, which is a comfortable cabin with fireplace and even a hot shower. It was all uphill from there. Great to get out and hit the trail. The idea was to the top but getting used to the altitude and some new equipment was the priority. We made good time up the lower forested area and found the team on the summit ridge at the same time as a strong weather impulse hit the upper mountain. Hail, rain in the clouds, no visibility and wind a howling gave us great training with the kit that was pulled from our packs to keep us protected from the nasty weather. A number of our team hit new altitude records and a smooth descent has us fed and clean in the digs for the night. All is good wish u were here.
On The Map
Hola from Mexico City!
The team and I did some last minute shopping today in town to support our adventure ahead. It’s a perfect summer day at 7,200 ft, which is a good altitude to start at. It’s not too busy here in the Zona Roza area. People are enjoying life all around.
We are going after three big hills on this trip and will be filming along the way. This will be a fun!
More news tomorrow,
RMI Guide Mark Tucker
Good luck Adam we love you!!!
Posted by: Alexis on 8/11/2015 at 3:54 pm
May 14, 2015
The RMI family and the mountaineering community are quite something to witness and to be a part of, if only for a trip here and there. The Mexico volcano trip this last March was exactly what I had hoped it would be, and as usual it turned out to be infinitely more. My two previous Rainier summits with RMI had made a believer out of me. Telling my family that I would be in the absolute best hands while in Mexico wasn’t some shading of the truth. With the mythical creatures known as guides — Jake, Christina and Alfredo — watching out for us, we set out on a most excellent adventure to climb Ixtaccihuatl and El Pico de Orizaba.
The money, the time and the physical preparation to get the privilege of attempting to summit these glorious peaks seemed to be my primary focus prior to leaving but that was not my greatest takeaway from this adventure. The very best part of this trip, for so many of us, was the friendships that were formed as we came together as a team. From a train engineer to pilots and financial analysts to company presidents, everyone came together to embrace the experience. There aren’t many venues these days where people of such different backgrounds and ages are put together to achieve a difficult goal like mountaineering. The immediate concern for one another was astounding. All of us trading what small bits of information we had that might help a teammate, sharing best practices or a piece of gear, and acts of kindness that you never see coming were happening from our first meeting in Mexico City. On Orizaba, our only summit possibility, when one of the team was going to turn back with just the guide another member offered to keep him company. What an act of selfless kindness.
The fantastic cultural experience was also something I hadn’t really thought about until my arrival. Throughout our travels in Mexico we were met with tremendous hospitality. Dr. Reyes’ staff at the historic climbing hostel Servimont in Tlachichuca provided us with incredible food, entertainment and service. It was a unique experience to be welcomed into that legendary place. The city of Puebla is a real gem. The architecture, the restaurants, the people; I could have spent a week entertaining myself there. To experience this place with my fellow climbers was truly a lot of fun.
Oh yes, the mountain part. Sketchy weather was stalking us the whole trip with an early arrival of Spring. The guides got us prepped and in position but no one doubted the decision to retreat off Ixta after a night at 15,400 feet. It was a night to be nice and cozy. Orizaba had wicked winds and a good snowfall prior to our arrival. Our train engineer offered his four wheeling skills and whipped that beast of a vehicle up the mountain road shaving hours off our hike to the Piedra Grande Hut. What a hoot! Of course it was a classic challenging RMI mission; methodical, focused, safe. We didn’t have the best visibility until our descent but summiting was another incredible event to share with my new climbing family! The experience was a thing of beauty; the mountain, but more so the excitement and spiritual moment for each of us being up there. A huge thanks to RMI, my fellow climbers, our guides, and all the folks who supported us. I will continue to practice my rest stepping in Kentucky and very much look forward to my next adventure.
March 15, 2015
Well it sure has been an action packed few days for our team here in Mexico. After a wonderful rest day (I’ll let everyone share their own tales when they return) where the crew scattered about the city causing mayhem and generally having a ball, we launched for Tlachichuca. We’d all been nervously watching the weather after our trouncing on Ixta and the forecast was unclear, on all fronts. We had seen everything from the apocalypse to passable, but there really is never any substitute for the nowcast. Upon arrival at the base of the mountain, in our old friend Dr. Reyes’ climbers compound, we learned that no one had summited in days and that getting to the hut would require a few hours of walking. Snow had overtaken the road and trucks couldn’t reach the hut. No one had ever seen such a low snow level, let alone heard of a vehicle making through drifts feet thick in spots. We were in for it if we were going to even make it to the hut.
We decided to go see how far we could get anyway and started climbing up the steep, muddy road towards the hut. The higher we drove, the more snow there was on the road. Eventually the trucks couldn’t climb much higher and it looked like the walk was going to be epically long. But then, an ace up our sleeve saved the day and a teammate who probably doubles as a stunt driver for the winter chase scenes in James Bond movies stepped to the plate. Voila, we took hours off our approach, making it much further. In the end we walked for under an hour before laying claim to a deserted hut.
As we walked to the hut, Orizaba loomed over our heads. It sure looked nasty up high, dark clouds whipping over the summit and most of the glacier fully obscured. No one was really mentioning what we all were thinking, but some sure would have to change if we were going to get very high on this one. After a quick review of some climbing techniques, we feasted and turned in for the night. We woke very early and could see a few stars!! Dios mio! As we readied ourselves, the wind came out and it began to lightly snow the higher we climbed. Since we were the only climbers in days, the team broke trail through the night and as the storm built turning back was on everyone’s mind. Each break we reached we reassessed the merits of continuing and we kept reaching the same conclusion, “one more stretch.” When we reached the top of the Labyrinth (a rocky maze broken by snowy, usually ice, gullies), the wind and snow were peaking. Everyone was dealing so well with the weather that we decided we would climb for a half an hour on the glacier and turn back if it didn’t improve. As we kicked steps up the glacier, the skies lightened slightly in the morning sun and the wind lessened a knot or two.
“One more stretch?”
“Por que no?” we concluded and repeated the question for the next few hours, constantly aware of our conditions and strengths. Continually assessing progress and our teammates, eventually it looked like it was going to be a fight, but that we just might stand on the cumbre! No summit is worth an injury, so the minute things looked like they COULD be sub ideal, we were ready to head back knowing we gave it our best. Orizaba respected the effort and graciously offered our team of intrepid explorers a glimpse of the top and happily we accepted the invitation. What a treat! Standing on top was a real achievement, and as the only crew on the whole mountain we had the whole hill to ourselves. Amazing day in the mountains.
The weather cleared a bit for the descent and our team did a great job handling the hardest part of the climb, the descent. A truck was even able to make it to the hut and happily saved us an hour of tired walking through the mud at the end of a long day. When we got back to Tlachichuca, hot showers and a marimba band made dinner even that much better.
Quite an adventure down here in Mexico, can’t wait to see everyone back home!
EPIC!!! Great job!
Posted by: Dan Judy on 3/23/2015 at 5:19 am
I had an absolute ball on this trip. The whole crew was so welcoming and it was nice to be able to come out of my shell quite a bit. The Power Wagon as you know was a highlight for sure. I sure hope we are all able to stay in touch!
Posted by: Eric Uncapher on 3/17/2015 at 1:06 pm