By Joshua Bossin, NOLS Instructor
Mexico. I’ve never really been, but I’d sure like to go. Those may be the lyrics to a James Taylor song, but it’s a sentiment I have felt for a while.
Fellow NOLS Alaska Instructor Marissa Bieger and I spent our last Thanksgiving in Central Mexico. Thanks in major part to the NOLS Instructor Development Fund, we were able to climb the third highest mountain in North America, and the highest mountain in Mexico, El Pico de Orizaba. This trip gave us the chance to bring our own personal and professional training in mountaineering to a high-altitude international setting. In the end, I would say that I learned as much from planning the logistics of climbing in a foreign country as I did from the climb itself. We were joined by our common thread Juliana Beecher, my partner and Marissa’s best friend. We traveled from the US to Puebla, Mexico and launched our journey from there.
After acclimatizing on 14,600-foot La Malinche, we headed to Tlachichuca to launch our climb of Orizaba (approx. 18,500 ft). After a day of prep and gathering supplies, we jumped into an old, beat-up 4x4 vehicle and headed up to a hut at 13,000 ft. This hut is the launching point for all climbers headed up the mountain. We shared the space with climbers from Germany and Mexico, and the only other Americans we saw in three weeks in Mexico.
In a classic alpine start, we left the hut at about 3:00am and ventured up into the darkness by headlamp. We moved consistently to arrive at the summit and were met by blue skies and incredible views. Orizaba is the new high point for all three of us.
In the weeks following the achievement of our mountaineering objective, we managed to fit in some amazing local food, fall in love with a stray dog, do “field work” (swimming in the ocean) for the organization Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, and climb the third tallest granite monolith in the world. Lots of things to be thankful for over Thanksgiving. Marissa and I are both looking forward to bringing our new experience to our students this coming summer back up in Alaska.
For a fun look at our trip, check out the blog Juliana kept: aquehoratengoquevolver.wordpress.com
Read about more instructor adventures and skills training on our Educators Notebook page.