La Mujer Dormida. The legend of the princess Iztaccíhuatl and her star-crossed lover, the warrior, Popocatepetl, is immortalized behind the Mexico City skyline. Growing up as a kid I would peek out of the balcony of my grandparent’s condo and admire the volcanoes soaring above the urban madness and smog. I remember throwing snowballs and bouncing along the ashes on the edges of Popocatepetl as my dad told stories of his and his dad’s grand adventures on these mountains — even our own family love story about a young, handsome, German mountaineer whom my dad guided up Izta one day, then invited to dinner at home the next evening where he met, fell in love with & eventually married my dad’s sister! I always felt drawn to Izta’s beautiful stories and the opportunity to stand on her summit as the 3rd generation of the Koester family along side my own husband was a dream come true.

“I’ve never dropped someone off after the national park’s gates open at 7am and had them make it to the summit and back.” said our driver as he took us from Cuernavaca to Amecameca. Challenge accepted.

The sunset over the two iconic peaks sung to me as we found a cozy little spot for dinner in Amecameca with our friend from NYC, Gabe, who joined us for the beginning of the adventure.


Amanecer sobre el Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl)
Amanecer sobre el Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl). The sunrise over Pico de Orizaba, Mexico’s highest peak, from the Izta-Popo National Park ranger station at Paso de Cortez was enchanting. The weather was perfect.


The rangers at Paso de Cortez were asleep so, as any Mexican would do, I checked to see if the closed gate was actually locked… it wasn’t! So I raised it and we drove on through to the trailhead at La Joya (approx 12500′).

A little frosty at the trailhead at La Joya. It was colder here than it was on the summit at 17,100′!


A few minutes in, passing the old La Joyita trailhead and beginning the climb.


We gained a bit of extra rocky vert by cresting up and over the cliffs instead of around them. Doh!


Back on track.


The surface of the moon with Pico de Orizaba & La Malinche poking out above the clouds in the distance.
Arriving at Refugio de los Cien with the steep and super loose shoot straight ahead up towards the Knees. It was a tedious two-steps-up-one-step-down ascent but a quick descent!


The warrior, Popo, looking stoic as always.
The first of two glacier crossings with the true summit still out of view.


The Ayoloco Glacier in 1970 & in 2017.


Crampons weren’t necessary for the glacier crossing. We brought our Hillsound trail spikes so we put them on but those also weren’t really necessary. It wasn’t cold or steep enough to be tricky.
Running at 16,500’…
…only because it was flat :-)
La Arista del Sol
Some more running along the flat section of La Arista del Sol (the ridge of the sun)
Looking back over the La Arista del Sol & the Ayoloco Glacier (the belly glacier) with Popo in the back.


Another impressive view back towards Popo


Looking down at La Cabeza (the head) from the summit at El Pecho (the breast)


I posted a little video of the summit on my Instagram page (can’t figure out how to embed it here).

My uncle and dad in 1970. My husband and me in 2017.


The altitude was kind to us and allowed us to move steadily. We kept the pace relaxed and enjoyed every moment on the Sleeping Woman. We hit the summit in 4 hours and then took about 2 hours to descend back to La Joya and were back in Mexico City with plenty of time to grab some tacos for dinner with my cousin — much to the surprise and amazement of our driver :-)

A note on the altitude and overnightting on the mountain:

For those who are acclimatized to reasonably high altitude & steep uphills like we are in Colorado, the outing (10-miles out-and-back with 5,000′ gain, see Ryan’s Strava stats) is totally doable in a day without an alpine start and with light packs (we carried 2L of water each, a puffy jacket, waterproof pants & jacket, mittens, handwarmers, chocolate bars, Maria cookies, sunscreen, trail spikes). For those we aren’t acclimatized it’s probably good to give yourself more time to summit by arriving the evening before and camping at the trailhead. Leave your overnight gear in your car and set off well before dawn with a light daypack. We crossed paths with many people who hadn’t made it to the summit because of altitude sickness — they had spent the night at the Refugio de los Cien (at over 15,000′) which is what most websites and tour guides will recommend. In my opinion, sleeping that high is a terrible idea, particularly if you’re not acclimatized — your body can’t rest at that altitude and, at best, you’re likely to end up with a harsh pounding headache. It’s simply too long to spend at such heights and the weight of your camping or overnight pack & food will make the climb up to the Refugio and back down (once you’re tired) a real slog.  So, anyways, sleep low and tackle the full 10 miles in 1 push, that’s my two ¢.



We hired the driver listed on the Izta SummitPost page, Antonio. He was awesome – reliable, knowledgeable and friendly. We’re already scheming up our trip to tag Pico de Orizaba next!


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