24 hours with Fabrizio Motta, the man who tries to climb three volcanoes in Mexico in one day

24 hours with Fabrizio Motta, the man who tries to climb three volcanoes in Mexico in one day

Night fell this Tuesday at the Piedra Grande del Pico de Orizaba mountain hut. Fabrizio Motta had arrived in the afternoon to acclimatize to the altitude and in a few hours to begin the ascent to the summit of Mexico’s highest volcano, 5,636 meters above sea level. For a little over a year, the man who is not a professional athlete has been training to reach three of Mexico’s highest peaks in less than 24 hours. Her goal is to repeat the challenge of ultramarathoner Alex Chikorita Roudayna in 2020 when she climbed Pico de Orizaba, Iztaccíhuatl and Nevado de Toluca in 22 hours and 20 minutes. Motta’s challenge started at midnight.

Motta, 48, is hoping to repeat the challenge and bring the times down. After descending from Pico de Orizaba, the athlete goes to Iztaccíhuatl (5,230 meters) and then to Nevado de Toluca (4,680 meters). The challenge does not include Popocatépetl, the country’s second highest volcano, as it is active. Initially, Motta planned to move from one mountain to another by helicopter, but she will eventually do it by car, as Roudayna did in 2020. In this case, the ultramarathoner traveled in a van with a team that included cameramen, physical therapists and other attendants, and the trips accounted for at least eight of the 22 hours, his team said.

Motta will complete the challenge accompanied by a guide. The climb, which has already started, was scheduled for last October but was postponed due to health reasons, according to the athlete. At the end of August, EL PAÍS accompanied Motta for a day to find out about his preparation. Those were the 24 hours with the athlete.

Motta stretches before starting his run in the Tlalpan Forest in southern Mexico City.Motta stretches before running in the Tlalpan forest in southern Mexico City Iñaki Malvido (EL PAÍS)

It’s half past five in the morning and Motta appears in front of his parents’ house in Tlalpan, south of Mexico City. He has the same breakfast he had for a little over a year when he first started making it: a protein shake, a cup of oatmeal, 10 nuts, a banana, and water. Motta gets in the car and drives 20 minutes into a forest. It’s still dark when he starts running, and the screens in the athletes’ hands glow like scattered fireflies. Drizzle, the day clears and more athletes arrive in the area. By then, Motta will be done. The mobile app tells you that you covered four kilometers in 28 minutes, which is seven minutes per kilometer.

It was a short and easy workout because his ankle is troubling him. At the weekend he was injured climbing Nevado de Toluca. After that, he was promoted to Iztaccíhuatl on Monday. And on Tuesday back to Nevado.

Motta climbed a mountain for the first time six years ago. His partner at the time invited him to celebrate his birthday by climbing Iztaccíhuatl. “The only things I had were a pair of gloves and a snow cap,” the athlete recalls. Motta explains that the closer the car got to the volcano, the higher the mountain got. The group that started the climb consists of a dozen people, but only two reached the summit: the guide and Motta, who set off crying. Halfway through, he’d remembered a scene from the movie The Mission starring Robert De Niro and a metaphor about “letting go of hate.”

Fabrizio Motta runs in the Tlalpan forest.Fabrizio Motta runs in the forest of Tlalpan.Iñaki Malvido

“I started the catharsis. I reached the top after dropping everything I was carrying. The mountain became my therapy, my way of healing, my way of being at peace, my way of finding myself, of knowing who I am,” he says. “Without knowing what I was getting myself into, I embarked on what became my passion,” he adds. Since then he has accepted various challenges. This Wednesday is one, but there are others: climb Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, then Aconcagua, the highest in America, and so on until you’ve scaled the highest peaks of every continent. “Not everyone throws themselves into an adventure,” he says confidently.

–Does ego play a role in the challenges you set?

-Initially yes. But I know that helping people is what drives me the most.

Motta explains that the money he receives from Challenge sponsors and anonymous donors goes to Fundación Alma, a group of surgeons who care for breast cancer patients. The athlete hopes to be able to raise enough for six women’s breast augmentation.

Fabrizio Motta poses for a portrait in front of his father's winter landscape.Fabrizio Motta poses for a portrait in front of a winter landscape of his father Iñaki Malvido

mountains with reason

Motta studied architecture at the Universidad Iberoamericana, a private university in Mexico, and works with his 85-year-old father in the family studio. On any given day, he says, after running, he would prepare the second part of breakfast — between three and five eggs, with sausage or ham, 50 grams of panela cheese, half an avocado, three tortillas — and devote a couple of hours to it work as an architect. But the day in August that EL PAÍS accompanies him, he returns, takes a quick bath and goes out again.

Enrique Colin, 34, and his father, Tiburcio Colin, 66, are waiting in a clinic. Just over a year ago, Motta started a project called Mountains with a Cause, which has nearly 45,000 followers on Instagram. The athlete organizes trips to the mountains every weekend and part of the money he receives – half, he calculates without specifying – goes to aid. It started with supplying pantries and blankets; then he got a hearing aid for a 10-year-old boy with hearing loss and now he’s trying to raise the money for two prostheses, one for Tiburcio, who is diabetic and has amputated a leg, and one for Alfredo, who will arrive later.

Enrique Colín kisses his father Tiburcio, one of the two men who would benefit from a prosthetic leg.Enrique Colín kisses his father Tiburcio, one of the two men who would benefit from a prosthetic leg Iñaki Malvido

“I felt the need to look for something that would give meaning to the mountains,” he later says in the garden of his parents’ house. The house is a structure with wooden floors and stone facades, full of paintings made by his father – the Maidens – and by one of his sisters – the Landscapes. In the living room there is a piano that Motta plays by ear and dozens of family photos on the piano. Motta is the youngest of four brothers.

After six it’s his turn to go to the gym. He doesn’t like it – he doesn’t enjoy running either – but he tries to train there for two hours every day. His training doesn’t come close to that of a professional athlete, because although he has sponsors, he doesn’t make a living from sport. “I’m just a mortal,” he says. When he comes back from the gym, his day ends early. A can of tuna, some veggies, and three crackers. He goes to bed at ten and falls asleep a few hours later. A few days ago he dreamed about the party he was going to throw after the challenge; There were his family, his friends and his girlfriend. “Not completing the challenge in 24 hours is not on my mind,” he says.

This Wednesday you have all day to complete the challenge in front of you. Pico de Orizaba, 5,636 meters; Iztaccíhuatl, 5,216 meters and Nevado de Toluca, 4,690 meters. The biggest challenge, he says, will be the mind. “It’s what can play against us, there’s a lot of hours, like 15 walks and walks up and down the slope, 36 kilometers walk. We have to be very strong to achieve that,” he says. From the refuge in Pico de Orizaba, Motta sent a WhatsApp message: “I am very excited and very encouraged, ready to face these three peaks in 24 hours. These mountains are dedicated to my daughter, whom I haven’t seen for five years”. The timer is already running.

Fabrizio Motta poses for a photo after running a few laps on the Tlalpan forest track.Fabrizio Motta poses for a photo after running a few laps on the Tlalpan forest track.Iñaki Malvido

belief of errors

A first version of this article stated that Fabrizio Motta would “move from one mountain to another by helicopter”, as assured by the athlete EL PAÍS. But finally, the journeys between the mountains are made by car.

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