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El Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltepetl) is the third highest mountain in North America. The Citlaltepetl, or Pico de Orizaba, is the highest stratovolcano in Mexico with an elevation of around 5700m. Some sources say 5610m, 5750m and so on. It is located at the eastern end of the Mexican Volcanic Belt. It forms a steep cone which is covered by lava flows and ash last erupting in 1566 and 1687. Cities and towns around the volcano have an approximate population of 500,000 people. The combined chararcteristics of being a large volcanic edifice with steep slopes, historic activity, and dense nearby population are favourable to induce several kinds of volcanic hazardous processes, especially gravity driven events such as lahar or even debris avalanches.

Stratovolcanoes are easily distinguished from their less lethal shield volcanoes which have dangerous but often slow-moving lava flows and the occasional lava bombs. Stratovolacnoes produce incredibly fast pyroclastic flows where a combination of scorching hot gases, ash and debris can cover or demolish a town in minutes; travelling at speeds in excess of 100 km/h.

When the Spanish invaded the Americas in the 16th century, they crossed the high pass which divides Orizaba with its more active neigbouring volcano, Popocateptl. Popo was climbed by the Spanish in 1521, an amazing feat and possibly evenearlier by the Aztecs.

This traditional story is well known throughout the Puebla regions and is quite famous throughout all of Mexico. As the legend goes, while Popo, the Smoking Warrior was at war the emperor’s beautiful daughter, Izta, died of heartache. When he returned and learned of her death he built two mountains. On one he laid her body and on the other he stood holding a funeral torch. Some days it still appears as if Izta is stretched on her back while the steam of Popo watches over her. Parts of the mountain are still referred to as parts of a woman’s body and route names are baased on these eg the ” Knees Route “. The true summit of Izta is on El Pecho ( the Breasts ). Popo has been smoking and rumbling since late 1994 and all climbing activityon it is now banned.

The Singapore team will attempt both Iztaccihuatl and Orizaba. While Orizaba is higher, Izta presents more interesting routefinding challenges on the Arista del Sol route. On Orizaba, the team will attempt the Jamapa Glacier route ( see below marked in red ). If access to Izta is restricted, the team will acclimatise on La Malinche ( 4460m ). The idea is to keep the expedition flexible!

The Jamapa Glacier on the northern flanks of Orizaba. The team will place a high camp at the snout of the glacier around 4900m and make a summit push from there to the Aguja de Hielo ( Ice Needle ) a prominent feature on the crater rim. Then they hope to traverse to the true summit of Orizaba at 5700m.

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