Authorities describe rescues on Mexico’s highest peak
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Authorities described a grueling week of rescues on the iced-over slopes of the 18,619-foot Pico de Orizaba mountain, where a U.S. climber died and at least nine others had to be helped down in three separate incidents.
Puebla state Civil Defense chief Ruben Dario said Monday that icy conditions caused multiple falls, first for two Americans climbing together early last week. A group of five Americans and their Mexican guide suffered falls late last week and weren’t rescued until Sunday, while two Mexican climbers were also assisted off the mountain over the weekend.
On Sunday, a Mexican Navy Mi-17 helicopter was brought in to assist with the rescue, carrying two climbers off the mountain on stretchers. The others were brought down by land.
Jose Luis Palma, the regional civil protection coordinator for Orizaba, said five Americans were being treated for injuries suffered on the mountain, which mainly included at least three with broken ankles and bruises.
Dario said the American climber who was killed probably died as the result of “the fall he suffered and the time he was exposed in below-zero temperatures.” The man’s name and hometown had not yet been confirmed.
Palma said there were reports that the dead man and his climbing partner, who got into trouble last Monday, were from Arizona and might have tried to ski or snowboard down the peak. But he added that those reports had not been confirmed.
Dario said a Mexican member of the team bringing down the American’s body fell into a crevasse and suffered head injuries and had to be rescued himself.
Palma said authorities were considering temporarily closing some of the routes to the peak until weather improves. Mexico has been in the midst of a cold snap, and there is a small glacier on the mountain.
“People are slipping on the ice, it is very frozen and the slope is very steep. We’re talking about an ice slope of more than 45 degrees,” Palma said. “They are looking to see whether they close this part, the north face, until it thaws or the conditions improve.”