Nevado de Toluca

  • Nevado de Toluca
  • 4690 m.
  • Primary factor 2220 m.
  • 4th. highest in Mexico.
  • Location North 19.10184, West 099.76762 (GPS on the smmit)
  • Difficulty: YDS class 2+
  • Climbed December 4, 2018


How to get there:
From Mexico City, first drive towards (on Hwy. 15) the city of Toluca. Take a bypass road (left) in order to go south of the city, connect to Hwy. 134 (east), then turn left onto Hwy. 10. Drive approximately 8 kilometer on Hwy. 10, then turn left at location N19.15346 W99.80444. There is a sign here for the national park. Higher up, there is an entrance gate that will collect a small entrance fee. After this, follow the main (gravel) road as it turns left and starts climbing the volcano proper. Continue to follow this (rough) road for quite a bit, the road ends its climbing and will pass an antenna facility. Continue until you arrive at several houses, the road is closed beyond this point by a gate. This is the trailhead, there is also a small hut here where one can sleep (if it is not full) paying a small fee. This location is at N19.11917, W099.74796, elevation about 4150 meter.
Route description:
From the trailhead, follow a big and very visible track to the crater rim at location N19.11250, W099.75229, elevation about 4285 meter. FRom here, you will see the peak as well as the route ascending to a col directly right of the peak.
Take the trail that forks right, descending to the crater lake and follow around the lake (counterclockwise) until you see the trail that heads uphill towards the col on the right hand side of the summit. Climb this 400 meter vertical slope. If the slope has snow, then crampons and an ice axe should be carried/used. Be aware of possible natural rockfall, ie. single rocks are released higher up by the sun melting them out. This problem may be less critical if the entire slope is covered by snow, ie. staying more left in the broad gully.
As you make the col, location N19.10396, W099.76898, elevation about 4600 meter, turn left and scramble the short ridge. First, reaching a false summit, then across large rocks to gain the final rock that defines the summit. The conditions may depend a bit on how much snow there is. The final stretch has some exposure, but the technical difficulty is roughly at (YDS) class 2+.
We arrived after dark, after a time consuming drive from Malinche. We were happy to find the hut empty, a good place to sleep for acclimatization as well as for our planned climb of Toluca.
Sverre and I started out at 0655. We quickly gained the crater rim and got a good view across to the steep slope going up from the crater lake to a small col to the right of the summit. It was mostly a snow slope! At this point, as it turned out, I made 2 mistakes. The first was not checking that Sverre carried his crampons. I had said (the evening before) that I would indeed take crampons along, assuming that Sverre would do the same. It would have been a small delay to return to the hut and retrieve them. The second (related) was to say that 1) that snow slope is not as steep as it looks (correct) and 2) the snow likely would have good footsteps and/or that we would make steps in the snow (totally wrong!).
The view from the crater rim is good. The crater lake is quite big and the peak displays a nice mirror picture in the clear lake.
First after descending to the lake and the ascending the lower slope noticing the hard frozen snow, did I ask about his crampons, realizing that they were indeed left behind in the car. We proceeded uphill and soon it became clear that it would be easier for Sverre to ascend largely on / among the rocks on the right hand side of the snow field. Proceeding in this way, then suddenly - ziiiip, a rock the size of an apple came bouncing downslope, I moved left and it passed in a high arc above me. This was bad news indeed. We proceeded a bit higher, I on the snow, Sverre among the boulders. It became clear to me that he would have to move across to another line of rocks closer to the snowfield. I traversed across to him and then another rock came downhill bouncing, then slamming into Sverre's boot. Not good. We could not proceed in this area of rockfall danger and Sverre immediately asked that I continue while he would descend back down to the lake.
Too bad, but it seemed like the only sensible solution right then. I moved back out on the snow - away from rockfall danger and cramponed up the slope that got somewhat steeper as I went. I thought that it would have been nice to have my ice axe as well, it was resting back in our car. Still, making steady progress on pretty good snow, I soon made the ridge with the col and could look down the opposite side. The route I had read about ascending from the outside, did not look very attractive with the current conditions. Looking ahead, towards the summit, it was pretty clear that this ascent was more of a snow/winter climb than what had been anticipated, remembering the snow-free ascent of Malinche two days ago. I proceeded carefully up the ridge. It got a bit steeper and also more narrow, but the snow was good and there were no big issues with the route. Bigger boulders forced me a bit left, but before long I scrambled onto the top rock looking forward to a rest with very good views. I was there at 0910, so the entire ascent had taken only 2:15.
No need to hurry down, this was a nice place. The crater lake directly below. I stayed for 15 minutes, then thinking about Sverre down by the crater lake, started to retrace my steps back down the ridge. The descent went smoothly and soon I found Sverre by the lakeside. He had explored a hut where the old road (now closed) used to end, but obviously, it would have been better to climb the peak.
We hiked back to the trailhead, seeing some tourists on the crater rim. This mountain is quite popular, however most people seem to do local hikes, most often only to the crater lake. We were back by the car at 1100, the full round trip had taken slightly more than 4 hours.
The plan was now to drive back to the town below Iztaccihuatl in order to begin an ascent tomorrow.