The Pico de Orizaba

The Pico de Orizaba
overlooking the Orizaba valley.

The Pico de Orizaba, at 18701 feet [5700 m] (more or less), is the highest American mountain between Alaska and the Andes. Maps often call it Citlaltépetl, the Spanish spelling for Sitlaltepetl, a rather poetic name that would mean "Mountain of the Star" in Nawatl, but the Nawatl speakers themselves call it Istaktepetl, or "White Mountain". It is a dormant volcano, but it is not extinct; it last erupted in 1687 and could become active again at any time. The Orizaba valley is about 1200 m (4000 feet) above sea level, so if the valley floor were the ocean, and Pike's Peak or Mt. Whitney were in place of the Pico de Orizaba, they would still be a bit shorter than it is. 

In the picture above you are looking northeast. The mountain directly in front of the Pico  is the Cerro Teposteca.


View from the west, near Ciudad Serdán.

Here you are looking across part of the high plateau that forms the central part of Mexico, probably near 8,500 feet altitude. The "little" mountain to the right is listed on maps as Cerro (or Sierra) La Negra and is sometimes given the Nawatl name Tliltépetl "Black Mountain", though Nawatl-speakers in the Orizaba area are more likely to call it Istaktepetl Ikni, the "sibling" of the Pico. It is 14,610 ft high (4453 m, or maybe it's 4400), making it a near twin with the Malinche (14,636 ft/4461 m) and the Nevado de Colima (14,600 ft/4450 m). (You can see it barely peeking over the hills to the left of the first picture on this page.) It fairly often gets snow on it. You can see the tree line clearly, here and in some later pictures; it is (I calculate) between 12 and 13,000 feet.

Two views through binoculars
Taken from the same place as the previous picture, by the low-tech expedient of
holding the camera up to a hand-held binocular. It worked, didn't it!

This calls for Thanksgiving!
Taken from pretty nearly the same place as the previous pictures, but in November several years later.

The Britannica lists 1848 as the year the Pico was first climbed. I have read that this first ascent was by an American soldier stationed in Orizaba during the Mexican-American War.


View from the heart of the Nawatl-speaking country
You are looking north and a little east here, from the road from Tecamalucan to Atzompa.


Looking northwest, from north of Xometla

Looking north from near Tonalixco

View from below Atlewaya

As you can tell, it's hard to stop taking pictures of it!

And there are more!

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