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10 Challenging Adventure Trips for Climbers

Iztaccíhuatl, Mexico

This location has a Romeo and Juliet-type story behind it. As the Aztec legend goes, the two giant volcanoes of Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl represent two lovers that were tragically separated. Popocatepetl was a brave young warrior and Iztaccíhuatl was the daughter of the king. With Popocatepetl sent by the king to battle enemy tribes in order to earn his daughter's hand, a romantic rival tricked Iztaccíhuatl into thinking Popocatepetl had been killed. Of course, she then died of a broken heart, as did Iztaccíhuatl when he learned of her fate. Taking pity on their souls, the gods then immortalized them in the form of neighboring volcanoes, never to be separated again [source: MexOnline].

At its peak, Iztaccíhuatl reaches a height of 17,338 feet (5,286 meters) [source: Oregon State]. And there is a special treat at the top of this mountain. Climbers who reach the top of this mountain will have a spectacular view of nearby Popocatepetl, which is continuously erupting. By contrast, Iztaccíhuatl has not erupted in historic times [source: NASA].

In the Aztec language of Nahuatl, Iztaccíhuatl means, "white woman" [source: Backpacker]. When viewed from the east or west, the reason for its name becomes clear as the outline of a sleeping woman appears, with "La Cabeza (head)," El Pecho (breast) and other similarly named body parts forming the most common trails to the summit [source: Summit Post].

While the summit of Iztaccíhuatl is heavily glaciated, these glaciers have very few crevasses, enabling the beginning climber to develop skills and encounter only relatively few danger spots. Thus, it provides a wonderful first experience with high altitude alongside fantastic panoramic views [source: Alpine Ascents]. And since Iztaccíhuatl is a mere 40 miles (64 kilometers) from of Mexico City as well as the tourist hub of Teotihuacán, the Aztec Pyramid of the Sun, this trip is quite accessible to most travelers in North America [source: Oregon State].