Two Dead, One Missing on Mexico’s Orizaba

Bad weather stranded a group of 12 climbers last Saturday on Orizaba (5,636m), Mexico’s highest peak. Six managed to descend on their own, and three were rescued. A fourth, identified only as Jessica N., died at some 5,200m.

Searchers swept the mountain for several days, looking for the group’s guide, Luis Flores. They found his lifeless body last night. Another climber remains missing.

The group, members of a club called Barracracks, had left from Atzitzintla on the southern side of the mountain. They got into some kind of trouble around 5,100m. Reports suggest that they lost their way in bad weather and became separated. It remains unclear if Jessica N. suffered any kind of accident.

rescuers carrying a stretcher, an unidentified volcano in front of them.

Rescuers on Orizaba. Photo: Red Cross of Puebla State


Bad timing

Rescuers from the Mexican Red Cross told N+ news that the volcano was not in a good condition for climbers. A forecast cold front hit the mountain, and hard snow and ice encased the slopes from 5,000m. Authorities also noted that the team had not registered at the park entrance, so the group’s climbing plans were unknown. Survivors later said they intended to cross to the northern side of the mountain and finish at the town of Tlachichuca, Infobae reported.

In fact, six climbers managed to make their way down on Sunday. Five retraced their steps to Atzinzintla, while one managed to reach Tlachichuca after traversing to the far side of the mountain. Rescuers found three other survivors and Jessica N.’s body that day.

close shot of the guide with long hair and beard.

Luis Flores, the group’s guide. Photo: Milenio Mexico


Helicopters and ground rescuers searched both the south and north sides of the volcano for three days since guide Luis Flores was reported missing. Patrols didn’t know whether Flores might have retraced his steps or gone down the other side of the mountain. A spokesperson for the Civil Protection Corps in Puebla state said that they were even considering checking the mountain’s northeast face.

The speculation ended last night when they found Flores’ lifeless body at 4,600m. It was already nightfall, and rescuers were unable to move his remains right away. They expected to carry it down the mountain today, local authorities said.

Civil Protection officials also confirmed that one member of the group, Jose Luis Diaz, is still missing.

As for the survivors, some were later admitted to the hospital with bruises, hypothermia, and frostbite. Andrea Hernandez, 41, was transferred to Guadalajara Hospital yesterday with frostbitten fingers.

Mexico’s roof

Orizaba (Citlalteptl in the local Nahuatl language), is an active volcano between the Veracruz and Puebla regions. It is the third-highest peak in North America after Denali and Mount Logan and is the seventh-most prominent peak on Earth.

Its climb is a straightforward uphill hike in good conditions, but that can quickly change in case of bad weather. Four people died on the mountain just last August. The upper sections above 5,000m feature steep slopes up to 35º on snow and ice. It’s most typically tackled between November and March, but there are climbs year-round.

the snow-covered volcano rising on the plains.

Orizaba. Photo: Wikipedia

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.