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Mexico crowns new ‘Queen of the Mountains’ as community reckons with recent mountaineering deaths

ON THE MALINCHE VOLCANO, Mexico — On the flanks of a central Mexico volcano, the country’s female mountaineers have chosen a new “Queen of the Mountains,” complete with crown, ice axe and red cape.

The tradition that dates to the 1950s came this year at a somber time for Mexico’s mountaineers, as the tight-knit community was still reckoning with the recent deaths of two people on another mountain, the Pico de Orizaba, the country’s highest.

This year’s queen, Mariana García López, a 42-year-old administrator and teacher at the National Technology Institute of Mexico’s Zongolica campus, hails from Orizaba, Veracruz, the gulf coast state that shares the peak with the state of Puebla. She started hiking the mountains of Veracruz 20 years ago and has made several ascents up Orizaba’s different faces.

García López and women from more than 60 mountaineering clubs made their way up the Malinche volcano in central Mexico on Sunday. Normally, her coronation would have occurred at the 14,636-foot (4,461-meter) summit, but after the deaths on Orizaba, mountain rangers tightened requirements for those attempting to summit.

Organizers moved the ceremony lower on the mountain to send a message of safety. They piled their clubs’ flags in front of García López and shouted “Long live Mexican mountaineering!” They pummeled their new queen with snowballs.

The new queen will have a packed schedule. In her role, she will travel to meet the many clubs present and join them on their mountaineering expeditions. As the female face of mountaineering, she will show other women there are no limits to who can reach the country’s highest peaks.

García López said she wants to stress the responsibility of those who go into the mountains and support the restoration of many of the high-elevation shelters that have deteriorated over the years.

“There is a lot of work to be done on the issue of mountaineering,” García López said.


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