Enrique is in Mexico leading up to the Mt Iztaccíhuatl Expedition. In preparation for the climb in December, Enrique is training with his group, practising mountaineering skills and acclimatising to the altitude. He is in regular touch with the team and is sending updates, which we will share below.
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Dear Friends of World Villages for Children
It’s just over a month since I came back to the UK from Mexico, just in time to spend the last days of Christmas with my family here. What a blessing. The end of the first month of the year brings a good prompt to look around and take stock.
I went to visit the head office of World Villages for Children in London. Primarily to say hello, and to thank them for the opportunity to link my expedition to Iztaccíhuatl with their daily efforts to support the mission of the Sisters of Mary and their 20,000 children across the world. I found out that my expedition to Iztaccíhuatl raised over £4,000 for World Villages for Children. This is a great satisfaction I want to share with you.
But they did not get those £4,000 from me, they got that money from you! And I am pleased to see every penny of that went direct to World Villages for Children and will take care of 4 children under their care: food, clothes, teachers, uniforms everything. Which means my expedition to Iztaccíhuatl secured the innocence and education of four children for 2024, who without the mission of the Sisters, would be scratching a life of untold misery, suffocated by extreme poverty.
And that gift comes from you my friends, family, colleagues, comrades, even people I have not met. You all responded with your generosity to this charity appeal.
If my expedition to Mt Iztaccíhuatl inspired you to sponsor and explore the work of World Villages for Children, then please let me thank you. And my gratitude comes from the bottom of my heart, because as well as I know I funded all the costs of the expedition, if that is why I call it my expedition, I also know very well that without your generosity and sympathy for the mission of the Sisters of Mary, my expedition to Iztaccíhuatl would have been, yes good fun and exciting, but ultimately, an act of gratification or vanity. But because of your generosity…, look at the smile of those four children! Thank you again.
The 2023 expedition to Iztaccíhuatl may be over but the charitable mission of the Sisters of Mary continues day by day. If you want to join me in continuing sponsoring their work every now and then with whatever contribution one can conjure, I invite you to explore the links of World Villages for Children, or subscribe to their newsletters.
That is all for now. Love you and leave you until our paths meet again, until then, may God bless every step of your walk.
I am pleased to report my 2023 expedition to Mt Iztaccíhuatl reached the 5,250m summit on Friday 22 December 0735hrs. It flew the flags of my two nations and the flag of World Villages for Children looking at La Villa de las Niñas at Chalco, as promised. My own ascent to the Refuge at 4,750m proved to be a test of ultimate will for my body and soul, not bad for a man who was down at the verge of pneumonia on a respirator only a week before. Not bad at all. Quite the contrary, I say it was a great day for a man who delights in seeing young people and old friends achieving their lifelong dreams. I call this expedition a success.
It was our one day to do something extraordinary, and we did it. Best Christmas present I could possibly have. Look at the attached pictures for a glimpse of the adventure. Life is good. Life is good indeed!
And thanks to the generous response to the charity appeal of this expedition, we can dedicate this day to the Sisters of Mary and World Villages for Children. We did something extraordinary this one day with our expedition to Iztaccihuatl. The Sisters do something extraordinary every day of their lives. They raise 3,000 girls in Chalco, 2,500 boys in Guadalajara, and so many thousands elsewhere in the world. They do so by creating communities of love, hope, education, skills, and hard work…, every day! Long be like that.
God bless you all this Christmas, and in every step of your path. .
Dear Nicola, friends at World Villages for Children
After a week of a strict resting regime and medication, I am pleased to report the doctor who spotted the case of bronchitis last week saw me yesterday and found the air passing through my lungs with no obstruction, no wheezing or no signs of any bronchitis. There is no trace of infection. Just the left over irritation in my throat, which needs specific medication to avoid complications, but all in all: I am discharged.
So, we have the all clear from the doctor, we have the permits from the rangers, we have the perfect weather forecast, we have the gear, we have the food, we have the training, we have your prayers… so, it’s just me and the thin air all the way to the summit of Iztaccíhuatl.
We drive from home Thursday 6am to meet don Franc at 11am at Paso de Cortes to start the hike.
Catch up with you on my return. Let’s walk!
Dear Nicola and all friends
This is a dispatch I never planned to write, but this is what I’ve got to share, and share I must.
Last night both doctors treating me advised me against taking on the challenge of claiming Iztaccíhuatl today, on grounds of the return of the bronchitis and a real risk of pneumonia if I am to push into my lungs such thin air, so cold, for so long. Not wise. This is serious.
Got a new prescription with antibiotics, some to be inhaled through my old friend the positive air-pressured respirator, and strict orders to rest. If all that works, I might have a sporting chance late next week. Might.
Last night Don Franc cancelled the hike for this morning. He started talks straight away with the rangers in the National Park to apply for a permit for late next week. We’ll get news about that in the next few days. Top of the season, best weather forecast in weeks…, we will need all the good luck we can summon to get a share of that. I’ll trust don Franc will fight the good fight for a date before Christmas.
So, there is nothing to do but to wait, doing exactly what the doctors ordered me to do, and I’ve been failing constantly to do: just rest and do nothing, as uncomfortable and anxious as it makes me feel: just rest, take the medicine, eat well, drink a lot of water, sleep well. By the picture attached you can tell this is not good fun!
Still, we know that good things come to those who wait. That is a comforting thought. We wait in the hope that next week we start the climb in good health and good spirit. So, come next week we need to be ready to go at a day’s notice, every day.
We wait and pray. It’s easier when I know there are also 3,000 angels in Chalco praying for the success of this expedition, see my next dispatch.
Greetings from Mexico,
Well, this is why it is called an expedition, and not a race, it is not a juvenile adventure. It’s an expedition. Not because Mt Iztaccíhuatl needs to be charted for the first time to benefit mankind, but because I feel my Mexican heart wants to be explored by this mountain. Because you cannot love what you do not know. And a big mountain takes a lot to know. And waiting, acclimatising to the high altitude takes time, not just for the metabolic aerobic performance. But to breath its air until you become part of it, that takes time. The mountain will always have a lot of time for me. Question is if I have enough time for Iztaccíhuatl? At the end, there is always more time than life.
On the subject of: one cannot love what or who one does not know. I met with Sister Marta and the Sisters of Mary in Chalco Girlstown on Tuesday to join their celebrations of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I can’t describe the craze of the 3,000 young girls at the school when they heard I just want to reach the summit of this mountain they get to see every morning as the sun rises, only to wave their flag at them.
Later the day, at least one of them reached out to tell me: when I grow up, I want to be like you and climb mountains. I smiled and replied along the lines of the speech I left with them during the event: “well, if that is what you believe now, so it shall be. You just need to believe your reality to create your reality.” This gesture alone makes me believe this expedition has been a success already.
And the best is still to come… in time.
But for the time being, I want to thank you all for your interest and support for this expedition. So, I thought of an audio-token of gratitude for all your donations so far. Sister Marta did not hesitate in plucking the right two bilingual girls to work with me as soon as I approached her with the idea. It is first in Spanish, then in Nahuatl, the ancient language of the Aztec and the English translation is below.
Video translation: "On behalf of the 3,000 girls here in Villa de las Niñas in Chalco, and on behalf of the more than 60 pre-Hispanic languages we speak here, today I speak to you in Nahuatl to say thank you. Thanks, everything here is possible only because of your generosity. May the Virgin of Guadalupe walk with you. God bless”
The celebrations for the day of Our Lady of Guadalupe were lavish and sophisticated to say the least. That takes a heck of a lot of work, hard work. The girls do it all, with the guidance of the Sisters. Evidently, they work hard in all areas of development, with discipline and love for their tasks, and that is a credit to themselves and the stewardship of the Sisters. But what strikes me the most, is that I saw 3,000 young girls having fun with simple, childish things. I saw in la Villa de las Niñas in Chalco, a bastion for the refuge of their childish innocence whilst they grow up in confidence and intellect into adulthood. Long be like that. The dozen or so of pictures attached here are only but a glimpse of what I saw on Tuesday.
I can confidently say that I know enough of the work of the Sisters of Mary and World Villages for Children. Therefore, I am entitled to say I love the work of the Sisters of Mary and World Villages for Children.
We’ll be back to the mountain in due time. But for now, for all your support and well wishes for this expedition: thanks, gracias, tlaxokamati.
Your friend, Enrique.
Medicine is now turning the tide of my chesty cough. I believe I will be fighting fit for Thursday. Although now the question is if the weather will allow us to climb at all on Thursday!
It’s only Monday but it is raining in Mexico City, and the weather forecast for the rest of the week is thick clouds with more rain in the Valley.
Don Franc and his team are checking with the rangers on the weather forecast for the high mountain. We may need to fine tune the actual day for the ascent to Iztaccíhuatl to suit the most optimal conditions.
If all we can do is to wait. We wait. Even at the expense of re-arranging our trip to Guadalajara. We’ll know more about it in the next couple of days.
Staying the night awake with a chesty cough gives you plenty of time to think. So, after much deliberation, I decided to stay at home on Saturday and miss the visit to the Ermita of San Miguel (St Michael’s Abbey) at Los Dinamos, south of Mexico City. Don Franc and Dr Isaac approved of the decision.
But I am glad to report my companions left me at home to join don Franc’s troupe for the 700m gruelling climb over the 12km hike. I only joined them for a well-deserved drink at their return in the evening to hear all about it. It was good fun, good to meet new people, and good preparation for Iztaccíhuatl next week for mis intrépidos Ricardo and Edgar, good on them! See the pictures attached. Looking at these photos, I can only marvel at the thought that there used to be a time when most of the current urban area of Mexico City was this thick pine forest.
I can only be grateful for the authorities who have created this National Park and protect this last bastion of our forest from the urban sprawl. Long be like that!!
Discernment…, isn’t it one of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola dedicated to discernment? I think it is. If it is, it is with good reason.
I went for a swim on Tuesday. After our second trek to scratch the 4,000m, I felt phenomenal. Got to even blow bubble doughnuts after doing one length underwater before breaching to breath in.
Then, that evening, I started with a chesty cough. That didn’t stop overnight, I had to use analgesic sweets to sooth my throat, plus my inhalers to stop coughing and conjure some sleep and prevent the coughing from popping my hernia. Then constantly disrupting my sleep to catch the different time zones at work, amongst a non-stop daily activity between work, housekeeping, friends and family…, surely that doesn’t help.
It’s not the first time that I get bronchitis when I am about to climb something big in Mexico, and having asthma as a chronic condition, I booked myself again with our family homeopath doctor. He uses a range of alternative therapies, and his signature move: the ozone therapy into the blood stream, along with the golden premise of the homeopathic medicine: give your body the chance to heal! So, I need to sleep, doctor’s orders (I saw that coming!).
He reckons the therapy will leave me razor sharp for next Thursday’s climb to Iztaccíhuatl. Whereas for tomorrow’s trek to Los Dinamos and la Ermita de San Miguel…, he left that to my good judgement how I feel tomorrow morning.
What to choose? Stay at home to rest and get rid of this cough, but miss the conditioning trek and put at risk the whole expedition on Thursday, or take the conditioning trek tomorrow, bringing a risk of a full-on pneumonia and put an end to the whole expedition on Thursday…, damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Still, I better leave my rucksack packed before going to bed. Just in case I decide to go.
I trust St Ignatius will guide my decision tomorrow…, as I trust the doctor therapies today.
Trust. Trust is what fuels big dreams. And big dreams follow a good sleep. Good night!
“Ajusco Mountain. Hike in the dark. Critical training for our two days ascent to Iztaccíhuatl in less than two weeks.
Even in the dark, I could recognise the hut where we left the cars. We’ve been there before. Then the trail felt familiar. This must be the same trail don Franc lead us through fog if not drizzle, into that horizontal slit of the summit of Ajusco back in 2021 a few days after my mum’s passing.
Same trail, but another first. Hike by night. No howling winds and rain this time, just a gentle breeze that opened windows through the high clouds to see the night sky. In the thick of the woods, one is blind to anything but the spot your own torch can offer to light where you are putting your foot for the next few steps. So, the only reference to navigate our walk when the light of our companions ahead of me is obscured by the trees is, the stars! There’s Venus in front of me, the Moon at the zenith, Orion at the back, there! Better get moving.”
“Step by step I was the last in don Franc’s troupe of 14 to reach the 3,940m AOD summit of Ajusco (12,920ft) right before dawn. Like most of all peaks in Mexico, there is a huge cross at the summit of Ajusco, la Cruz del Marqués. People make what they want of this sign of Christianity in Mexico. I did wonder if we would get back to Mexico City on time to attend Sunday Mass.
We didn’t. But we did get to hear the voice of God saying: “Let there be light”, and there was light. A new day. A gift from God to all of us. There, do as you wish with it, I could hear Him saying.
Photographs cannot do justice to what your eyes can see in the dark and at dawn and at sunrise across the Valley of Mexico, this land legend has it Netzahualcóyotl, the ancient king of Texcoco known to be a philosopher and poet called: the most transparent region of the Earth. But photographs I have. Enjoy!” – Enrique
“We were lucky to join one of Don Franc’s weekend outings. Even luckier as it was scheduled to be an endurance trek to the Frozen Waterfall in the North Face of Iztaccíhuatl.
We reached 3,850m height. Altitude is a problem, yes, as expected. But it is a problem I am managing well for taking on a trek like this one in less than a week from arrival. Just got to keep the faith I will be just fine when the hike to the summit comes.
The test of endurance continued into a marathon stationary traffic around Chalco. Fortunately we took that on a full stomach. It was a long day indeed. Stiff legs next morning, but well worth it. Gave us a feeling we are dealing with the real thing and we are indeed getting ready for it. See the photos attached and Don Franc’s leaflet. Hope they do justice to the experience of the weekend.
I am swimming tomorrow to continue my work on my anaerobic acclimatisation.” – Enrique
“We met with my crew on arrival to eat tacos (as one does), and got confirmation from Don Franc (our guide) to meet on Saturday 25 for our first outing.
We went to Los Arenales (the sand dunes) of Mt Ajusco south of Mexico City. A 30 degrees incline slope of pure sand and volcanic ash at 2,800m height. Don Franc gave us a masterclass on the basic use of the piolet including the fine art to fall, roll and stop the fall without piercing our chest with the piolet.
The end of the day brought the warm reassurance to know we are in good hands with Don Franc and his sons and an invite to his scheduled outing to the North Face of Iztaccihuatl the following day. Watch this space.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the attached photos. It was good fun!” – Enrique
In September and October, Enrique spent time training in the UK, improving his endurance and preparing for the expedition. He cycled to aid his fitness and get ready for climbing.
“It wasn’t a hike, but when it comes to an event like Iztaccíhuatl, everything helps, particularly if it leads to extreme exertion of one’s legs and aerobic capacity. So, 6 and a half hour on the saddle ending with a brutal climb followed by an hour of gentle ride next day, surely count for our two day trek up in the mountains.” – Enrique
“My first bivouac adventure. Under a lucky blue moon and a testing non-stop rain. First time I learn I am carrying 20+kg, and have substandard water feed.. I owe much of what I learned there to my friend Dave. So much to learn, so much to do, so little time!” – Enrique
Access to good, nutritious food is one of the biggest challenges poverty presents. When our children come to school, addressing malnutrition in their early lives is a priority in order to help them thrive and live healthy, long lives.
In September 2023, the UN reviewed its progress towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Over October, we reflected on how we work towards these goals within our programmes providing our children with the opportunities to escape from poverty and thrive.
Tanzania programme visit 2023
In September, Nicola and Carey from the World Villages team travelled to Tanzania for the inauguration of the new boys’ school in Dodoma. It will serve to educate some of the most impoverished boys in Tanzania.