Iztaccihuatl: la mujer dormida

Fotografía: Alejandro Linares García

I’m always talking about the volcano that is active and puffing smoke, Popocatepetl. But I rarely talk about the other volcano, inactive but there right beside el Popo. It’s called Iztaccíhuatl (which is a náhuatl word meaning “white woman”). It is the third highest mountain in Mexico after the Pico de Orizaba (5,747 metres) and el Popo (5,452 metres). Its name comes from its profile, especially when it’s covered in snow, as it looks like a sleeping woman covered in a white blanket. At its highest point it is 5,286 metres. It’s more frequently referred to as la mujer dormida (the sleeping women) rather than having to struggle with the pronunciation of its náhuatl name.

So the legend goes that el Popo looks after Iztaccíhautl, since they are side by side, and the two together have often been the subject of many an artist’s painting, over the centuries. Records show that the first to reach the summit was in 1889 but other evidence shows that Aztecs and older cultures also climbed the mountain.

Today you can get to the lower reaches by gaining access into the national park Iztaccíhuatl Popocatépetl and normally you have to get a special permit through the army. We have climbed up there on several occasions and it certainly feels very very high, with not a lot of oxygen about. However, it is worth it as it’s quite simply glorious up there and the views spectacular. 



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