12-year-old Parkite summits Pico De Orizaba, the highest volcanic peak in North America
Decatur Boland is at it again. The 12-year-old Parkite continued his Summit 4 A Cause nonprofit quest with a trip to Mexico where he, his father Dan, their guide Noel Hanna and two local guides from Orizaba Mountain Guides climbed Pico De Orizaba, the highest volcanic peak in North America.
After climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania last August, Boland said he and his father were looking for another ascent, and Hanna recommended Pico de Orizaba in southern Mexico.
On Feb. 11, the Bolands arrived at the base of the giant stratovolcano. The next day, the expedition participants climbed to 16,000 feet for an acclimatization day. The party awoke at midnight, and set off for the summit at 2 a.m.
They climbed in darkness from the arid base of the mountain up to its upper glacial slopes, which they reached as the sun was rising.
If they didn’t reach the summit in 10 hours, the attempt would be scuttled, the guides told them. It would take too long to get down, and would be too dangerous for the worn-out group.
At seven hours in, while climbing the steep glacier, Boland started experiencing shortness of breath.
“At one point, one of the guides asked, ‘Do you think he will be able to make it to the top,’ because I was having some trouble breathing,” Boland said. “I felt like I wasn’t able to breathe to full capacity at that altitude. You don’t have that full breath, but I felt like I couldn’t get much air into my lungs.”
He said his father, Dan, had an inhaler, which Decatur used, and was able to finish the hike to the summit, reaching the top at 18,491 feet, by 10 a.m.
“There’s not snow or ice at the tippity top,” Boland said. Instead there was a massive crater from the volcano’s last eruption in the 19th century.
Hanna said, via email, that the team had good conditions at the top, with cloud cover clearing for a good view out over southern Mexico. The guide also praised Boland for his effort, saying climbing Pico de Orizaba is as difficult a climb as Aconcagua — the highest mountain in the southern and western hemispheres, at 22,841 feet — and more challenging than Russia’s Mt. Elbrus, Europe’s highest peak at 18,510 feet, and Kilimanjaro.
“The view from the top was spectacular,” Boland said. “And I think it was an interesting experience, I had never hiked with crampons on a glacier before. It felt like definitely like one of the biggest accomplishments in my life. It was really difficult.”
Boland said he wasn’t sure what hike he, his father, and Noel will take on next, but it will likely be another of the world’s highest volcanic peaks.
With Kilimanjaro and Pico De Orizaba done, Boland has five more on that list: Ojos del Salado on the boarder of Argentina and Chile, 22,615 feet; Mount Elbrus; Mount Damavand in Iran, 18,406 feet; Mount Giluwe in Papua New Guinea, 14,331 feet; and Mount Sidley in Antarctica, 14,058 feet.
“I thought it was a really awesome adventure,” Boland said. “I definitely have to thank both of my parents. I think it’s definitely a life-changing experience.”
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