Doña Ana County High Point Trip Report
Date: March 31, 2001
Author: Scott Surgent
We met at the junction of Dripping Springs Road and Soledad Canyon Road, which is about 5 miles east
of I-25 at the University Avenue exit (behind A Mountain), at 7 a.m. There were 12 of us eventually in
about 7 vehicles; we convoyed up the skethy dirt road toward Modoc Mine, parked and started our hike.
Scott H.'s altimeter read ~4,900 feet. The actual Needle itself isn't obvious from down below without
some pointing it out.
We hiked up the remainder of this old 4wd road up to a saddle, down a drainage and up another small
ridge toward "Yellow Rocks", a convenient landmark. Here, the Needle loomed high above us, and a
smaller foreground peak "Point 7,778", just below. We began to hike past a second drainage and up the
ridge to the cliffs below "7778". We found a trail and followed it up to a major saddle very near 7778,
about 3 miles and 2,500 feet of gain. One member in the party, pressed for time, opted not to go to the
summit and returned to his vehicle.
The remaining 11 of us began the steep walk up the slopes below the Needle. We stayed left below some
cliffs, then crossed some rocky portions; small orange dots and cairns help mark the route. Our group
separated into two: one group went right, another (mine) went left. My group encountered some heavy
bushwhacking before coming back onto the main route (coming down, we took the other route, which was
full of loose rock, so choose your poison). The use trail steepens, gains the cliffs immediately below the
Needle, then climbs steadily up Dark Canyon to the pass just south of the Needle's massif. Trees in the
canyon helped with handholds and balance; snow was minimal on the west side although still in
abundance on the east.
We descended down the east side very briefly, hugging the cliffs, crossed a small rocky outcrop, and came
to the main obstacle, a short 20-foot wall but blessed with a large diagonal slit and bomber handholds.
We all free-climbed it going up, though it took some time. The summit was just an easy 5-minute walk
from here. We all relaxed for about an hour, picking out nearby ranges. The weather was magnificent.
The hike down was fine. We set up a belay line for those who wanted it going down the wall, then just
retraced our route. The loose rock and dirt made going down tough in places. Again, our group split into
fast and slow factions; I stayed with the slow group. We took our time, then managed to lose the trail near
Yellow Rocks, which added about 45 minutes and some cactus experiences to our hike. We were back out
to the vehicles around 6:30 or so.
My thanks to everyone who went on the climb. It was a strong group and a very enjoyable hike and climb.
Note: Ungnade's "Mountains of New Mexico" describes this route and remarks the summit as being
9,012 feet. Perhaps this is from an old map?