El Pico de Orizaba is Mexico’s highest peak at 18,500-foot peak. It’s a magical mountain full or legend, lore, fear, ghost stories, and now – mummies.
Two mummified bodies were recently discovered near El Pico de Orizaba’s summit. The first was discovered by a climber who spotted a mummified head and arm sticking out of the glacier just below the summit. The second mummy was discovered 150 meters from the first mummy while “rescuers” were attempting to bring the first mummy down for forensic testing.
According to the Mexican media, the two climbers may be two Mexico City climbers who disappeared in an avalanche on El Pico de Orizaba 55 years ago. Relatives of missing climbers from Germany and Spain have contacted the Mexican authorities to see if these are the bodies of their missing loved ones.
The two mummified bodies are still wearing some clothing, which may help researchers identify the bodies.
When a human body is frozen and/or desiccated (extreme drying), the process sometimes preserves the body in a mummified state where skin, soft tissue, clothing, and bone are very well preserved. This appears to be the case with these mummified climbers.
I’ve climbed El Pico de Orizaba twice. We summited on my first trip and it was spellbinding. On my second trip, I had a client get life-threatening High Altitude Pulmonary Edema and we were evacuated at 2am by a Mexican guide who told me the most hair-raising ghost stories of my life as my client sat in the backseat dying. I never believed in ghosts until that trip. If you’re curious, a in-depth account of those ghost stories is right here:
It’s 2 a.m., it’s dark, the road’s rough. I turn around to see my client’s eyes are the size of dinner plates. He’s wheezing, coughing, and breathing shallow. He contracted high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) at 15,000 feet on El Pico de Orizaba, the tallest mountain in Mexico, and he doesn’t know if he’ll make it. I tell him he’s gonna be fine, that we’re heading down, that it’s gonna get better, but I’m as unsure as he is.
I uneasily look to my left to see our Mexican driver and fellow mountain guide, Oso, looking into the darkness. He then looks hard right with staring eyes. There’s nothing to see — just our headlights, blackness, and the occasional patch of dune grass. He looks hard left again. He’s searching for something.
I lean in close and whisper to him in Spanish so that my client won’t understand: “Oso, what are you looking for?” He takes a deep breath, looks down, and mutters, “La Anciana (the Old One).”
A chill shoots through me, pin pricks wave over my arms and neck, and I twitch. I look back at my client. He is spitting up blood. “You’re okay, Greg, you’re okay,” I tell him. “Keep breathing as deep as you can. In and out, as deep as you can. Keep it going. You’re gonna be okay.”
I look back to Oso, his eyes still searching the darkness. I ask him in Spanish, “Who is the Old One, Oso?”
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