Nevado de Toluca - 4th highest peak in Mexico

Trip Start Apr 07, 2010
Trip End Jan 19, 2012

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Flag of Mexico  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Wednesday, February 2, 2011

As we were packing for the third phase of our Transcontinental Triathlon, we consciously put a few bonus (read: extra weight) items in our panniers that would allow us to break the cycling routine once-in-a-while. Among those bonus items, we brought two bags of medical supplies that we intend to deliver to the poorest countries in Central and South America, SCUBA cards, but also technical backpacks and cold weather clothing so we could climb a few worthy summits along the way. Ideally, we would like to climb the highest summit in every country we will be crossing (if we haven't done it already). As many of you already know, mountaineering is our favorite past-time so we will purposely aim for those big mountains as we ride our bicycles through the Americas.

So we got really excited when the opportunity to climb Xinantecatl (also known as Nevado de Toluca) presented itself. At 4691 meters/ 15,390 feet, Nevado the Toluca is the 4th highest peak in Mexico. We already climbed the highest (Citlateptl = Pico de Orizaba), and 3rd highest (Iztaccihuatl = Izta) peaks in Mexico in the past. Ideally we would have loved to climb the 2nd highest (Popocatepetl = Popo) but it is currently very active and noxious gases are constantly emanating from its crater and is closed to climbing until further notice.

So here is the trip report for the complete rim traverse of Nevado de Toluca:

1) First some facts: Excellent climbing conditions (02 Feb 2011): it has been a dry winter so the mountain was completely snow-free, which meant we didn't have to rent any equipment. We were fine using our trail running shoes for the ascent.
2) Getting to the mountain from Toluca (by bus): To get to the mountain from the city of Toluca, we first made our way to the terminal de autobus in the center of town. There was a Walmart Supercenter nearby where we bought food for the two days we were planning to spend on the mountain. Inside the bus terminal, we easily located the one bus company that goes to Sultepec (at booth # 7) and told them that we will be stopping at Raices (the closest town to the mountain). We paid 12.50 pesos each (= USD $1) for the one way fare....can't beat that! Just before that, a taxi driver told us he could give us a ride to the same place for 350 pesos, which then dropped to 250, then 200, then....we told him "thanks but no thanks!"
We boarded the bus at 1:20pm after waiting for about 10 minutes. In another 30 minutes we arrived in Raices. You can't miss the small mountain community of Raices as there are about 6 big speedbumps that make all vehicles slow down to a halt. One kilometer past Raices is the dirt turnoff for Nevado de Toluca, where the bus dropped us off.
3) Getting to the crater from the dirt turnoff (by foot): There isn't much car traffic going up to the crater midweek so we started walking up. After 45 minutes we passed the fee station where the attendant told us there is a shortcut to reach the crater by foot. There is no fee to walk up, but there is one for motorcycles, cars, and buses. The foot shortcut goes pretty much straight up a dirt trail along the power line while the road switches back. Once we crossed the road for the second time we headed left, still following the powerline, assuming "correctly" that they will lead us to the refuge. We keep following the road/powerline to a set of communication antennas, then to a group of small buildlings, where you can get lodging, drinks and snacks. There were only 3 cars on the parking lot which is the highest point you are allowed to drive to. 
From there, it is another 1km to the crater rim which lies above 4000m. It took us about 3.5 hours of easy walking to reach the crater from the dirt turnoff at the highway. Nice way to acclimate slowly. Having spent the past 3 weeks above 2000m, the walk up didn't feel too bad but we definitely feel the altitude.
We set up camp inside the crater between the two lakes (Lago de la Luna & lago del Sol) on a nice sandy spot. We both have a very slight headache, which doesn't surprise us, then eat some good food, including greasy leftover chicken. Not so good idea! Later in the night, Shirley goes for her usual throwing up session (x2), and the rest of the night goes well, despite a few strong gusts of wind that shake our tent violently.
4) Complete rim traverse (counterclockwise): Up at 6:45am, we feel much better about the altitude so we pack up our sleeping gear, including the tent and hide it in the rocks...allowing us to travel light and fast. Our objective for the day is to circumnavigate the crater, hitting all the different high points. We decide to go counterclockwise as it looks like the crux of the traverse will be at the begining, allowing us to bail early if need be. So just before 8am, we start the climb. Views are spectacular, despite strong winds and cold temperature. But the clear sky and warm sun make it very enjoyable. The traverse is mostly 3rd class with a few sections of 4th class here and there.
We are a little surprised that no one else is on the mountain but we enjoy having the place to ourselves. We get back to our tent at 1:30pm, so the traverse took us 5 1/2 hours and we didn't really feel the effect of high altitude. On our way down we collected enough trash to fill up 3 plastic bags and took them down to the next garbage can.
5) Back to Toluca from the crater: we walk all the way down to the paved road in 2.5 hours, then walked an extra km to Raices and waited for a bus to show up. Sure enough, after 30 minutes arrives a bus that takes us back to Toluca for 15 pesos each.
So for a grand total of USD $2.50, each of us were able to get to the mountain and back to town...We love public transportation in Mexico!
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Jason on

Sounds like a nice hike. Unfortunately the garbage issue will be with you for the rest of your trip. Good job on being a good example!

Johnston on

Wow, great pictures. What a nice hike. Good break from the bike eh?!

Cassandra on

Nice you guys! I just spent time catching up on the entries I haven't seen yet...anytime you need someone to wash their stinky socks upstream from you.... :) I love that you're taking time to see the towns and I LOVE all the people you're getting to meet and the neat stories that accompany them. It's great to see the other side of Mexico that we're not used to hearing about...Keep on trucking!

Adam Patten on

Thanks for sharing and cleaning up. I need to start remembering to bring a small trash bag on all my hikes no matter now big or small, unfortunately there is always trash.

Mac on

Thanks for the writeup I just got back to Toluca after an amazing hike around the crater. Your bus information was perfect.

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