Friday, October 24, 2008

A Learning Experience

The trip up to the Nevado de Toluca was meant as a learning experience, an opportunity to experience a little 'light' mountain climbing before we attempt Iztaccihuatl next month. Was it a worthwhile exercise you might ask? Definitely was!

Did I learn just how much hard work it is to climb a mountain? Well, yes and no. I knew it was going to be a hard slog, but actually doing it brings home to you just how hard! The higher we got, the more sandy the ground was, and keeping your footing really becomes an issue!

The altitude itself was a concern - would any of us get altitude sickness, or otherwise feel unwell? Fortunately no one felt any the worse for being 4690 metres above sea level, and I myself was quite relieved to feel so good. Being the smoker that I am, I had worried that any more oxygen deprivation might cause my limbs to give up! I suspect that living in Mexico City helps on two counts. Firstly, I already live at an altitude of 2600 metres. Secondly, the air here is so polluted that being depreived of the oxygen stuff is something my body has gotten used to!

I really do need some proper hiking shoes though. I didn't slip on the way up in my trainers, but I did have a couple of small, but quickly recovered slips on the way down! It's also been pointed out to me that wearing cooton jeans is a cardinal sin when mountain climbing, so I guess I need to look for some light weight and waterproof trousers too!

Another lesson learned regards recovery. It was pretty tiring going up the Nevado de Toluca, but Izta is going to be a much bigger task. So we are probably going to put back the climb by one week. The 17th of November, a Monday, is a bank holiday here, and I think most of us will need the extra day to regain our strength and use of our muscles!

It's easy to think that Izta is just 500 or 600 metres taller than the Nevado de Toluca - 4690 metres compared to 5200 metres or so. But we were able to drive more than half way up the Nevado de Toluca! That won't be the case with Izta. And that 600 odd extra metres...that's one and a half Sears Towers!

But the most valuable lesson? Izta is a big mountain, and a big task. But doing Toluca's finest mountain in preparation has given us all confidence - we can do it! Even if we just target the knees, we'll be up to the challenge. The 'we' part is very important by the way. One of my students (not someone in on this venture) went up the Nevado de Toluca on a school trip many years ago. One of his classmates, got seperated, lost and slipped on the edge of a steep drop and died. There's been a fair few fatalities on that mountain.

Anyway, I leave this post with a little video I took from the summit of the Nevado de Toluca. It's very short, and there's not much to see. A little rock, which drops off sharply, disappearing quickly into a blanket of fog!


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