Mexico 8: Nevado de Toluca

“Raices to Calimaya”

We found a basic room to rent in Raices that served us well as a sort of basecamp from which to execute a climb (sin bicis) of Pico de Fraile, the highest peak on the crater rim of Nevado de Toluca, and the fourth highest peak in Mexico at 3690 meters (15,387 feet).

We began our climb of Pico de Fraile by hitchhiking out of town to the park entrance, then taking a “bus” (an old truck stuffed with more people than there were seats) to the trailhead.

[…starting the climb up to the crater rim]

After gaining the the crater rim, the trail drops down inside the crater, crosses the crater, and goes up the other side. From there an easy 3rd class trail, with a few short bits of hard 3rd/easy 4th class, leads to the summit of Pico de Fraile, going around or over several smaller bumps/peaks along the way.

[looking back at where we entered the crater]

[Popocatépetl in the distance…]


Heading up the ridge to the summit…

[view from the summit]


Though there is a supposedly quicker descent route, down a very steep scree chute, we descended the peak the same way we went up. I’m not a fan of steep scree; I prefer to dance around on rock, especially when I’m without trekking poles.

We made it back to the trailhead parking lot, in four and a half hours round trip, and caught a bus back down the mountain. The next day we rode our bikes up the road to the trailhead parking lot at just shy of 14,000 feet, then down the other side to the small town of Calimaya.

A sweet dog joined us from the park entrance all the way to the trailhead parking lot area, ~10 kilometers. I took to calling her Sicily. She was definitely loved by someone at some point in her life. She parted ways with us at the parking lot.

I still find myself thinking about her every now and again.


It was a long, fun, descent down into the lowlands south of Toluca.

After resting up in Calimaya we left our bikes with a lovely “warmshowers” family in Toluca, then took a bus to Mexico City where we played tourist for a week, before departing to New York for a week to visit family.


The Zocálo square in the heart of Mexico City…


The Metropolitan Cathedral in the Zocalo…

Inside the cathedral…

Aztec dance performances outside the cathedral…


Looking across the site of Templo Mayor (the great pyramid of Tenochtitlán, circa ~1350 AD) with the Catedral Metropolitana de la Ciudad de Mexico (1573-1813) in the distance. Templo Mayor was the main temple of the Aztecs in their capital city: Tenochtitlán, which now sits in ruins in the center of Mexico City. The contrast of seeing these two cultural relics right next to each other, the Metropolitan Cathedral (Spanish colonial) and Templo Mayor (Aztec), is striking.

Inside the Museum at Temple Mayor…


An area in Mexico City called Roma (Rome)…

While in Mexico City we got together for a beer with two Italian cyclists. They started their ride from their home in Rome four years ago. They had ridden the Baja Divide route the same time we had, but we never seemed to be in the same place at the same time in Baja. You can find them on Instagram at:

We decided to all visit Teotihuacan together…


After Mexico City, we flew to New York to visit family. I was expecting New York (Brooklyn & Manhattan) to be the crazy, busy, loud place I remember it as, but after a week in Mexico City, New York felt so mellow.

Unclaimed bikes, rusting away on the streets of Brooklyn

Morning walk by the canal in Brooklyn…

Prospect Park, Neon and his boys…

The entrance to the Brooklyn Public Library…

Somewhere in Brooklyn…


Around Manhattan …sepia toned–seemed to fit the mood best.

The Voellmers: Neon, his boys, and his brother in Washington Square Park…


With hardly more than 24 hours before our departure back to Mexico City, Kevin (Neon’s youngest) decided he wanted to join us for a while on our ride south. It was fun spending our last day in New York scouring Brooklyn and Manhattan for all the gear he’d need to join us on our ride.


Kevin, with his Surly ECR

All packed up, and for the record, a Surly ECR is hard to pack (it doesn’t fit in one box).

Now, back to Mexico…


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