The volcanoes of Mexico


Mexico has a good number of volcanoes of which the highest peak is the Pico de Orizaba (5,760 m) often still called Citlaltépetl (“mountain of the dawn” in the nahuatl language) and considered the highest point in North America. The majority of Mexico’s craters are situated not far from Mexico City. They include: Holotepec, Pelado, Chichinautzin, Oclayuca and also Xaltepec.

The POPOCATEPETL (in nahuatl popôca, “smoking” and tepêtl, “mountain”; smoking mountain) is an active volcano in Mexico located in the state of Puebla 70 km to the southeast of Mexico City and only 45 km to the west of the town of Puebla. It is the second highest point in Mexico after the Pico de Orizaba. An important eruption of this volcano occurred in 1947. On December 21 1994 it spewed ash and gases that were spread over a 25 km radius by the wind. The towns nearby were evacuated and volcanologists began to prepare for a further eruption. In December 2000, tens of thousands of people were evacuated after scientists sounded the alarm. The volcano had several violent outbursts and then calmed to a relatively moderate level of activity. On December 1 2007 Popocatepetl erupted and threw out a column of ash over 2 km high.
The first ascent was made by the Tecuanipas in 1289. The first Spanish expedition to have made the climb was lead by Diego de Ordaz in 1519.

IZTACCIHUATL (also spelled Ixtaccíhuatl) is the third highest mountain in Mexico after the Pico de Orizaba (5,636 m) and the Popocatépetl (5,452 m). Its name comes from the nahuatl meaning “white woman” (itzac “white” and cíhuatl “woman”).
This mountain has four peaks the highest of which is 5,286 m above sea level that together represent the head, chest, knees and feet of a sleeping woman. The peaks of Iztaccíhuatl can be seen from Mexico City only 70 km away, weather conditions permitting.
The first recorded ascent was in 1889 although archaeological remains suggest that the Aztecs had previously made the climb. Iztaccíhuatl is linked to the Popocatépetl to the north by the Paso de Cortés.

The PICO DE ORIZABA or Citlaltépetl (from the nahuatl citlalli “star” and tepetl “mountain”) is a volcanic peak in Central Mexico. It is located close to the extreme east of the neovolcanic cordillera on the border between the states of Veracruz and Puebla. The volcano is currently dormant but not extinct; its last eruption occurred in 1687. More often than not covered by snow, it is the highest point in Mexico peaking at 5,610 meters.
The first ascent of the Pico was achieved in 1848 by F. Maynard and G. Reynolds.

Terra Cordillera offers you a three-day ascent of the Pico de Orizaba. Matlalcueitl, also called LA MALINCHE, is a Mexican volcano that forms part of the Cordillera Anahuac. It is situated in the state of Tlaxcala to the east of Mexico City and to the north of Puebla 44 kilometers from the state capital of Tlaxcala. Its summit reaches 4,462 meters and is used by mountaineers for acclimatization in preparation for other ascents. La Malinche is located in the La Malinche National Park.
La Malinche is an eroded dormant stratovolcano. The last eruption occurred 3,100 years ago.
Climbing La Malinche is very easy; no technical equipment is necessary, the path is well-marked and safe. The climb is the best option for acclimatization before attempting the Pico de Orizaba.

The NEVADO DE TOLUCA volcano is generally cited as the fourth highest summit in Mexico after the Pico de Orizaba, the Popocatépetl and the Iztaccíhuatl although, according to certain assessments, the Sierra Negra is slightly higher. This volcano is often called Xinantécatl, a name that most probably comes from the nahuatl language. It is one of the few volcanoes that still allows for a partial ascent by car. It is recommended to set off from Mexico City very early in the morning. Once at the summit, the floods of sun and moonlight form a beautiful panorama. Terra Cordillera offers you the ascent of the Nevado, a good option for acclimatization before attempting Iztaccíhuatl or the Pico de Orizaba.

To the north of the town of Colima in western Mexico the majestic FUEGO DE COLIMA rises up in the landscape. This volcano is the direct descendent of an even more ancient mountain, the Nevado de Colima, that has been significantly affected by erosion and by a series of debris avalanches that have devastated its southern slope. The Fuego de Colima grew in this vast scar. This younger volcano has remained very active as has been reported in many accounts since the Spanish conquest in the 16th century.
Its eruptive activity is generally manifested by the formation of a lava dome in the crater at the summit. Excessive pressure of gases often causes the dome to explode generating volcanian activity. Despite being mostly on a small scale, this activity could however escalate in strength and develop into intense Plinian activity as was the case in 1818 and 1913. The explosive volcanic activity also quite frequently gives way, for several weeks or months, to calmer effusive activity. This then causes longer and very thick streams of viscous lava. An incident of this kind occurred in the autumn of 2004. Although the current activity does not pose any real menace to the 200,000 or so people who live at the foot of the Fuego, a paroxysmal episode could have serious consequences.

The PARICUTIN volcano is located in the Mexican state of Michoacán near to the village of Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutirimícuaro and 20 km from the town of Uruapán. It peaks at an altitude of 2,773 m. Beginning as a fissure in a cornfield on February 23 1943, its eruption devastated the village of San Juan Parangaricutirimícuaro whose inhabitants were forced to leave. The volcano remained active until 1952.
We offer you ascents either on foot or on horse-back accompanied by our purepecha horseman guide. You will observe the volcanic activity that is still discernable in the present day in the form of a few geysers at the foot of the volcano.
Several other volcanoes are also visible notably those in Baja California that are due to its proximity to the San Andreas Fault: Cerro Prieto, the San Quintín volcanic field, Isla San Luis, the Coronado volcano, the San Borja volcanic chain (located to the south of the Central Desert National Park, Baja California), the Las Tres Virgenes volcanoes (1,996 m), Isla Tortuga and the Comondú-La Purísima complex are the main inhabitants of this magical region.
If you wish to attempt the ascent of certain Mexican volcanoes it is important to make enquiries about accessibility (many are within National Parks), safety (a guide is sometimes required), alert levels and risk of eruptions. Terra Cordillera can help you to have a brush with these monsters of nature.

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