Boy are you guys in for a story!
On Saturday a few of us went to Nevado de Toluca, which is an old volcano located outside of Toluca, Mexico. On top of the summit there are two lakes that used to be craters and also several other hiking trails around the area ranging from 2 – 3.5 hours in length. The elevation of the craters reach 15,350 feet (the highest I’ve ever climbed) and we were told that the top of the summit would be very cold due to the elevation. According to many locals within D.F. and other articles, we were told these trails were the most accessible and that the craters (aka the starting point for the other trails) were just a 20-minute walk from the entrance of the park. We met at a metro early Saturday morning, feeling prepared with plenty of food and the heaviest clothes we had (for me it was a thin rain jacket with a measly scarf, but I’m from South Dakota so I thought I was tough). From there we took two 1-hour buses to the entrance of Nevado de Toluca park, which cost us no more than 75 pesos a person (around $6.00 US dollars). We scoffed at the taxi driver that offered us 800 pesos to drive us to the entrance of the park, wait for 2 hours, and then drive us back. We thought this offer was way too expensive and were confident that the public transportation would be the cheapest and best option.
Once we got off the bus and saw the Nevado de Toluca sign, we thought “Great! Just a 20-minute walk on this road and we will be at the craters”. An hour later we arrived at another entrance of Nevado de Toluca, thinking we must have mistaken the first entrance with this one. We asked a man at the entrance where the trail was that would lead us to the craters, thinking THIS time that it was just a 20-minute hike as we had been told. We were told to follow the trail that was led by sets of wire electric cables until we reached the top, and then follow the road until we get to the craters.
After hiking about another hour later and not seeing any crater in sight, we were getting awfully confused. We kept hiking towards what looked like an open valley, thinking that might be where the craters were. Nope. Turns out the open valley was just the tree-line mark where the trees stop growing, meaning that we had just reached 11,000 feet. The craters were at 15,350 feet.
At this point we wanted to keep going because we had already been hiking for about 3 hours. We walked the entire length of the cables until they stopped and we came upon a road. From there we were able to find reception and Google mapped where the heck we were. From the road we were still a 5K to the REAL entrance of the crater, followed by another 40-minute hike to the actual craters. At this point it was 3pm. We were tired, confused, and just wanted to see these darn craters! All in all, we decided to keep going because we had already gotten this far and we kept thinking that the hike down would be so easy compared to the way up.
About an hour later, we FINALLY arrived at the top of the crater, and what a beautiful view it was! Everyone knows that I’m an avid picture-taker, so I was adamant about getting the perfect “insta” photo to showcase how beautiful the view was, and we’d climbed all day to see this thing for crying out loud. They weren’t lying about the temperature. As thin as the air was and as little cover as there was around the crater, it was very cold and we wished we had mittens and thick coats that the other tourists had been wearing. We had also noticed how difficult it was to breath throughout the hike as the air became thinner, and we had to stop frequently to let our breath catch up, but the view was so worth it!
About 10 minutes after we had all sat down and were eating, it started raining. We had come prepared with umbrellas and such because it was rainy season. The rain passed and we thought we were in the clear for awhile. Not true. About 10 minutes after the rain had passed, it started HAILING. When we were located without cover on top of a CRATER.
We tried sprinting down the summit in the painful hail, not being able to see in front of us. At this point we were all soaking wet and cold, not knowing whether we could make it down the trail we had ascended do to the mud that had inevitably accumulated. A group of locals had noticed how miserable we looked in rain jackets and sweatshirts, and offered to drive us down the mountain back to the bus station in Toluca. They were truly a God-send. They safely drove us to the bus station in Toluca, and we were able to arrive back in D.F. around 8pm. What a day!! I would love to return to actually hike the trails around the craters, but next time we will probably take the taxi driver’s offer of driving us to the ACTUAL entrance of the crater instead of hiking the 5+ hours it took to get there instead 🙂 All in all it was one of the most challenging days I’ve had in awhile, but I couldn’t have asked for a more positive and determined group of friends to hike with. This day could have been much worse if we had poor attitudes, but we all persevered together and we now have a great story and a few great “instas” to prove it.