Texas April 2005 Trip Report


I wished to "clean up" the Texas county highpoints that are good mountains. Lying west of the Pecos River, there remained three counties - all of them with good prominence as well - Hudspeth (Eagle Peak), Presidio (Chinati Peak), and Brewster (Emory Peak).

Indeed, the six highpoints of Brewster, Culberson, El Paso, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, and Presidio Counties afford both the highest six county highpoints in Texas, and the six largest Texas prominences on the Texas Twenty Finest list.

Access issues abound for both Eagle and Chinati Peaks. Emory Peak is the Big Bend National Park highpoint; and is the Texas state most prominent point with nearly 4,000 feet of prominence.

The trip consumed six days, from Thursday morning April 14 to Wednesday morning April 20.

Trip Details

The table illustrates schedules for every member of the west Texas trip. HP = "highpoint".

April 14 April 15 April 16 April 17 April 18 April 19 April 20
****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ******
S.C. North Franklin Mtn (El Paso Co.) Eagle Peak Chinati Peak Mount Livermore Emory Peak Drive to El Paso El Paso to Tucson
A.H. San Diego to Hudspeth Co. Eagle Peak Chinati Peak day off in Fort Davis Emory Peak Drive to El Paso El Paso to San Diego
J.H. Alamogordo to Hudspeth Co. Eagle Peak Chinati Peak Mount Livermore; home
E.E. San Diego to Hudspeth Co. Eagle Peak Chinati Peak Mount Livermore; El Paso El Paso to San Diego

From the table, it is clear that J.H. and E.E. had a shorter trip than S.C. and A.H.

I describe below only my personal experiences.

Thursday, April 14

The flight with E.E. to El Paso was nonstop and uneventful. S.C. met us in a rental; we got more food; and headed on Interstate 10 southeast to Sierra Blanca where J.H. was patiently waiting. Sierra Blanca, the peak, was an alternate were we to have found Eagle Peak access too difficult.

As a caravan we scouted various western and southwestern approaches to Eagle Peak, finding no luck from the southwest with locked gates aplenty.

A western approach up Frenchman Canyon proved exceedingly lucky - meeting the elderly Kit Bramblett who owns the ranch at the canyon entrance. "I like people" was the first full sentence he said to us upon a chance encounter on the public approach road. We were set.

I will not provide details of either his ranch location or contact information because I respect his privacy and do not wish a flurry of highpointers disturbing his property. You can receive this information from me on a "need-to-know" basis ONLY.

Friday, April 15

The hike up Eagle Peak was entirely by jeep road. It was quite steep (for a road) for the several hundred vertical feet prior to reaching the summit ridge. Thereafter a 3/4 mile walk past a subpeak leads to the highest point in the Eagle Range and of Hudspeth County.

The ascent consumed about 2.5 hours, with 2 hours for the descent.

We caravaned to Marfa and thence into Pinto Canyon to scout the access situation for Chinati Peak. It looks BAD. There is a ten mile stretch of road with the warning that all land to either side of the road is private property. Parking a vehicle on the road's shoulder or off the road but partially hiding behind bushes were both deemed too risky.

We now understood why A.M. did the approach in total darkness.

Saturday, April 16

S.C. made the "ultimate sacrifice" by offering to drop us off in the morning, returning then to our makeshift campsite mere yards on the public side of the ten mile stretch.

The climb of Chinati Peak consumed 10 hours 15 minutes, including 5 hours 55 minutes for the ascent and a 45 minute summit break amidst a helipad and several communications structures. I was pleased to have climbed a mountain that the authorities consider sufficiently inaccessible as to warrant helicopter travel!

The main issue is a set of cliff bands that must be traversed by carefully finding their weaknesses as class 3+ paths. We followed a sketchy route description provided by A.M. A more detailed trip report by J.H. will soon become available, so that future Chinati aspirants can avoid the navigation errors we suffered among the cliffs.

We drove onwards, camping at a State Park in preparation for Mount Livermore's "open date" the following morning. My pint of ice cream, in Marfa, was well-deserved.

Sunday, April 17

I had already climbed Mount Livermore and so spent the morning in nearby Fort Davis. I enjoyed a Texas-sized breakfast at the local eatery, sharing the table with a retired couple from east Texas on their own vacation. They treated me to chocolate meringue pie for dessert after my (very cheesy) cheese omelet, biscuits with gravy, sausage, and hash browns.

After the climb of Livermore, E.E. drove to El Paso with J.H., flying home to San Diego the following morning.

S.C. and I continued south to Big Bend National Park, camping in the Chisos Basin Campground at a good site.

Monday, April 18

S.C. wanted a loop hike clear out to the South Rim for its famous view. I joined him, after, of course, taking the spur trail to the summit of Emory Peak. Please note that there are TWO summit pinnacles. You want the northeast one - with about 15 feet of class 3 climbing followed by about 30 feet of class 2 scrambling. Removing your pack may help.

We drove to Terlingua, Texas for dinner. As the original site of all chili cookoffs worldwide, Terlingua is likely the most funky town I have ever visited in the states. S.C. got the "two-for-one" burger deal for the night; I got treated (!) to a chili appetizer (no beans) with tortillas; a main dish of cajun blackened salmon atop a meal-sized salad; and a wonderful dessert of cinnamon sugared tortillas with pecans, chocolate sauce, and a dash of prickly pear cactus jelly - just the thing for a meal in the Chihuahuan desert!

We camped again in Chisos Basin. A skunk swiped my snack food at 11 p.m., scampering to the bushes with his prize to share with family.

Tuesday, April 19

This was a lazy day driving back north to El Paso for a motel room with shower. The day's highlight, at least for me, was a meal in town, with S.C., at a restaurant specializing in Texas barbeque. I had the combination platter - finding the brisket most delectable; the pork ribs most tender; and the other items nearly as delicious. We were both stuffed, especially after a "wine margarita" flavored with mango.

Wednesday, April 20

S.C. dropped me at the airport eighty minutes prior to my flight, one that stopped in Las Vegas prior to reaching San Diego. S.C. drove home to Tucson, a five to six hour drive, by mid-day.


This trip increased my glob span to 1,670 statute miles - from the (new) southeast end as the southern tip of Brewster County, to the northwest end as the northwest corner of Pacific County in Washington state. Edward Earl increased his span to 1,730 miles by connecting Brewster County (which he already had) to his home glob via getting Jeff Davis County.

Brewster County gives me 45 of the 50 largest area counties in the lower 48 states - the only remaining ones being Aroostook County, Maine; Beaverhead County, Montana; Cherry County, Nebraska; Idaho County, Idaho; and Saint Louis County, Minnesota.