Scrambling up La Malinche Volcano in Mexico (4,461m)

This is a story, how an easy walk turned into a drama with frozen limbs and police involvement. Woot-woot! (well, I’m already dramatizing:)

La Malinche is an inactive volcano in the Mexican state of Tlaxcala. You can get there by car, or by public transportation from a few different locations. By some perfectly random chain of circumstances, I ended up staying in an awesome town of Tlaxcala. I was the only tourist in the only hostel there, almost surreal! It takes two combi (van) rides to get to the mountain from Tlaxcala town.

La Malinche is 4,461m high (14,635 ft.) Not too low, but not the highest I’ve been either. I heard from some people, that it was an easy-breazy walk and that if I am an experienced hiker, I’ll make it there and back in 3 hours. Oh my arrogance will hurt me one day!:) Skipping ahead: I missed the last bus leaving from the mountain base by A LOT!

I set out to go by myself. It’s just a walk in the woods anyway, right?:) I also started hiking up pretty late, closer to 11am. The hike could be roughly divided into three parts, according to the terrain: the woods, the sand, the boulders.

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For the first few hours you walk in lush woods and wonder, where the hell are the mountain views? One of the best things, that I loved about the hike, is how local of an experience it was! There were NO tourists. Just local families and groups of friends, everyone sticking together. They were shocked to learn that I was a tourist girl climbing solo, and everyone volunteered to help and protect me.

One family ‘adopted’ me and were checking on me en route all the time. The father had a huge machete with him, in case mountain lions came:)

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There’s also such a thing as ‘mountain police’. They are quite serious about their job, making sure the climb is safe, the weather permits, and everyone is alright. They checked on the lost white girl every time, and offered me to take a picture, and actually gave me an unforgettable ride on the way down! By the way, noone spoke English, so I had to manage having conversations using my 50 Spanish words:)

Finally the view to La Malinche opens up. ‘Oh, it’s not too bad and pretty close, – the voice inside my head said. – I’ll be there and right back’.

IMG_2337Couple of hours later I’m still scrambling up, sliding on small stones, feet drowning in sand. Three steps forward, one slide back. The sun is burning and the wind is…well, blowing. And very hard! And I have to stop and catch my breath every few steps, although the slope is not insanely steep.

Then I realize: just a day before I was at the Pacific coast, at the sea level! And now almost 4,000m above! My body was going crazy from the altitude change. Oh did I forget what a beatch the altitude could be!

I am already late for the last ride and exhausted from the thinner air, but determined. My ‘Russian tank’ mode turns on:) The last part is jumping and climbing rocks and boulders, covered in ice and snow in some places. There’re fewer and fewer people, who made it this far. The wind picks up and is no joke already. To make it to the very top, I had to climb a vertical wall. It’s so cold, that I don’t feel my hands anymore. So I climbed like a clumsy goose:) At least noone saw!

I had to balance myself to take this picture, and my jacket was like a parachute! The smile is genuine and forced at the same time:)

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A few hikers who did make it to the top, took a picture and peaced out. I lingered for a while. Well, mostly because my fingers were like icicles and legs wooden, and I guess the brain froze a little too, and stopped sending ‘get outta here’ messages. But also, the viewwwww! The whole valley opened up, with so many other amazing mountains around.

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One time on the way down I did freak out a little bit. On this thin path down, the wind – again – became so  strong that I fell. Got up. Fell again. And a few times like that. I got paranoid for a second, thinking I was never gonna get out of there, lol:) Interestingly, I was the last person to get on the very top that day! There were hikers after me, but the vigilant mountain police emerged from nowhere and announced, that due to the weather conditions it was no longer safe to be up here, and every one had to head down. Hehe:)

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When I made it to the base of the mountain, it was already getting darker. Last ride had long left. I made friends with a fun Mexican couple and hitched a ride with them to Puebla (then took a bus from there to Tlaxcala).

Here’s a short video, showing different parts of the hike and the changing moods and facial expressions:)

Lessons learnt? Never wing the altitude issue. In the mountains you can be like a novice any time. Climbing solo is okay and fun. Make friends with the police and hikers with machetes:)

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