Popocatepetl. The earliest English version of the first ascent on Popocatepetl, by Diego de Ordaz in 1520, is found in a chapter entitled “The hill called Popocatepec” in The Pleasant History of the Conquest of the Weast India (London, 1578), a free translation of the second part of López de Gómara’s Historia General de las Indias (1552). This account is little known to mountaineers, and while it throws no new light on the event, its almost Old Testament quaintness justifies our presenting it here:
“There is a hill eyght leagues from Chollola, called Popocatepec, which is to say, a hill of smoke, for manye tymes it casteth out smoke and fier. Cortez sente thither tenne Spanyardes, with manye Indians, to carry their vituall, and to guide them in the way. The ascending was very troublesome, and full of craggie rockes. They approached so nigh the toppe, that they heard such a terrible noyse which proceeded from thence, that they durst not goe unto it, for the ground dyd tremble and shake, and great quantitie of Ashes whyche disturbed the way: but yet two of them who seemed to me most hardie, and desirous to see straunge things, went up to the toppe, because they would not returne with a valueless aunswere, and that they myghte not be accompted cowardes, leaving their fellowes behinde them, proceeded forwards. The Indians sayd, what meane these men: for as yet never mortall man tooke such a journey in hande.
“These two valiant fellowes passed through ye desert of Ashes, and at length came under a greate smoke verye thicke, and standing there a while, the darknesse vanished partly away, and then appeared the vulcan and concavetie, which was about halfe a league in compasse, out of the whiche the ayre came rebounding, with a greate noyse, very shrill, and whistling, in short that the whole hil did tremble. It was to be compared unto an oven where glass is made. The smoke and heate was so greate, that they could not abide it, and of force were constreyned to returne by the way that they had ascended: but they wer not gone farre, when the vulcan began to lash out flames of fier, ashes and imbers, yea and at last stones of burning fier: and if they had not chanced to finde a rocke, where under they shadowed themselves, undoubtedlye they had there bin burned.
“When with good tokens they were returned where they left their fellowes, the other Indians thoughte, that that place was an infernall place, where all such as governed not well, or used tyrannie in their offices, were punished when they dyed, and also believed, that after their purgation, they passed on to glory.
“This vulcan is like unto the vulcan of Cicilia, it is high and round, and never wanteth Snowe about it, and is seene a farre off in the nighte, it lasheth out flames of fier.
“There is neare aboute this hyl many Cities, and Huexozinco is one of the mightiest.
“In tenne yeares space this straunge hill of workyng dyd expell no vapoure or smoke: but in the yeare 1540 it beganne agayne to burne, and with the horrible noyse thereof, the neyghbours that dwelte foure leagues from thence were terrifyed, for the especiall straunge smokes that then were seene, the like to their predecessors hadde not bin seene.
“The ashes that proceeded from thence came to Huexozinco, Quelaxcopan, Tepiacac, Quauhquecholla, Chololla, and Tlaxcallan, which standeth tenne leagues from thence, yea some say, it extended fifteen leagues distant, and burned the herbes in their gardens, their fieldes of corne, trees, and clothes that lay a drying.”
J. M. T.