Southern New Mexico end October 2002 Itinerary
Dear mom and dad,
I provide here an itinerary for my upcoming
driving trip to New Mexico (hereafter "NM".)
I first provide an overview of how this all fits into
the "big picture". Then I provide details specific
to individual counties.
OVERVIEW - General
I am currently working on counties in NM. I have 17
of 33 counties there - roughly 1/2 thanks to the
trip there last month wherein I got 12 counties.
The current trip is designed to get me 7 counties
of which 6 are in NM and one in Texas (TX).
Of the 7 counties, 3 will be done with Edward Earl
on the weekend.
The remaining 4 counties will be done prior to my
retrieving him in El Paso at the airport. They include
3 counties in southeast NM and the TX state highpoint -
which is also the Culberson County highpoint (cohp).
The TX state highpoint will, when connected to
my home glob via Otero County (the latter to be gained
on this trip), extend my so-called glob span from the
current 1,339 miles (Ferry County, Washington state
to Roosevelt Co, NM) to somewhat more than 1,450 miles.
Again, this is the final out-of-state trip
that I planned for the calendar year to get county highpoints.
These plans were conceived in April and are not some
"sudden decision" because of the freedom afforded from the
absence of a paying job.
There is, however, an importance difference between
the current plans and those conceived one-half year ago -
I had planned on brief, 2-3 day weekend trips wherein I flew
to the climbing area and returned to work - knocking myself
out just to get back by Monday morning.
Clearly time is no longer the priority.
Instead money is a concern. Apart from the depreciation
in auto value (which would eventually
occur ANYWAYS were I not to travel - just at a LATER DATE),
it is considerably cheaper to drive than the combination
of flying along with renting a high-clearance vehicle on
a daily basis.
Monday Oct 21
The driving route to NM is very plain - just head
east on I-8 as it passes, in turn, through Yuma, Gila Bend,
Tucson, crosses the AZ-NM border, Lordsburg, Deming, and
finally Las Cruces. See below regarding where to stay
for the night.
Tuesday Oct 22
I wish to explore White Sands National Monument and
the nearby communities long associated with the atomic bomb
testing program. Trinity Site is nearby - however I have
missed the public tour on October 5 (I also missed the
famous Albuquerque Baloon Festival by one week on my
Were I to sleep at Andy Martin's home in Tucson the
previous night, I would still have 400 road miles to drive
on Tuesday - so leaving insufficient time to enjoy
the dunes of White Sands etc ... .
Thereby I will likely forego staying in Tucson Monday
night in favor of getting further towards my destination.
To this end, I may drive as far as Las Cruces on Monday -
a long haul (700 miles), but one which gives me adequate
time the following day to explore the area.
I might have enough time to get my first county
by late afternoon. If not I would try to sleep as close
as possible to the highpoint (HP) area for Chaves County
in anticipation of climbing it the following morning.
To visit White Sands Nat'l Monument, one drives
northeast on NM highway 70 from Las Cruces ... eventually
reaching Alamogordo to the east of the Monument.
I would minimally like to reach Alamogordo by Tuesday
Wednesday Oct 23
Drive from Alamogordo east on NM highway 82 about 50
miles and turn south to town of Dunken. From Dunken it is
a short distance to the Chaves cohp:
One Tree Peak (7,089 ft)
This is a 3 mile round trip hike with an obvious landmark
on its summit as a single tree. It is almost trivial and
involves nothing difficult or dangerous.
Continue driving east on route 82 about 50 miles to
Artesia - thence north on route 285 to Roswell - now
infamous for its emphasis on alien invasions. Drive east
40-50 miles on route 380 to Caprock - and "climb"
the Lea cohp:
east side of road about 1.2 miles south of intersection
with route 380 (4,476 ft) on the Mescalero NE USGS quadrangle.
I have provided a topographic map of this HP. It is
not really a hike at all.
This forms the most eastern point of my journey.
I drive to the following day's venue as the Eddy cohp very
near the TX border - return, heading west on route 380
to Roswell. Drive south on route 285 to Artesia. Continue
south on route 285 to Carlsbad, NM - some 40 miles
Carlsbad is the furthest place I would want to stay
this night. More appropriately I should drive right to
the HP area for Eddy County and sleep in my vehicle.
Thursday Oct 24
Drive on NM route 137, thence on increasingly poor
roads to the point marked "P" on the map provided for
climbing the Eddy cohp -
unnamed point (7,480+ ft)
and as indicated on the map provided. This is a
cross-county affair with elevation loss that must be
regained upon returning to the vehicle - for a total
elevation gain of 1,700 ft.
This is perhaps a 5-6 hour hike. Previous highpointers
have complained about high temperatures and the need
for sturdy trousers owing to nasty cacti and thorn bushes.
By going end October and wearing the appropriate
attire I avoid these problems - banking on the collective
wisdom of less fortunate folks.
After this hike I return to Carlsbad and cross the
TX border for the next day's venue, driving southwest
on route 180 to sleep at Guadalupe National Park.
Friday Oct 25
Guadalupe Peak is the TX state HP and the
Guadalupe Peak (8,749 ft)
Getting to the top entails a spectacular
hike with wonderful views of geological features. The trail
is extremely easy to follow (thousands take it annually),
and it leads right to the summit. The round trip is 8.4 miles
and the elevation gain is 2,950 ft.
Edward Earl did this hike several years ago and he was
off the mountain by noon or thereabouts. I will count on
early afternoon since the days are short in late October
with consequent later start in the morning.
After Guadalupe Peak it is about 100 road miles west
on route 180 to El Paso. Here I pick up Edward Earl and
we drive north back into NM for the following day's venue.
Saturday Oct 26
We will attempt two county highpoints on the same hike -
which is the only reasonable way to do it since the two
peaks are one mile apart via a high ridgeline.
See the map provided for more details.
Lincoln cohp Lookout Mtn (11,580 ft)
Otero cohp Sierra Blanca Peak (11,973 ft)
We park at a trailhead parking lot at roughly the
10,000 ft level. Parking at the skiing lot saves a few hundred
feet of gain - but is closed at 4:30 PM. We don't want
to risk getting locked in for the night at my vehicle
so we will not park there!
Snow is an issue for this climb. We are pushing the
seasonality considerations by attempting a 12,000 footer
in the end of October. Fortunately the latitude is roughly
that of San Diego - and the resort does not open for business
until Thanksgiving Day Nov.28 - so suggesting that historically
they do not accumulate enough snow for clients until a month
after our climb.
There are numerous trails leading to the summit of
Lookout Mtn within the resort. None lead south along the ridge
to the top of Sierra Blanca Peak.
Sierra Blanca is the principal draw of this trip -
it has the highest prominence of any peak in the state
(some 5,500 feet). Thereby Edward wishes to attempt it first,
that is Saturday, rather than Sunday.
This climb is not difficult - but will consume more
time than otherwise should we have to push through fresh snow
rather than walk on solid ground. I am prepared for whatever comes.
Sunday Oct 27
Edward and myself attempt the Dona Ana cohp -
Organ Needle (8,980+ ft)
This is a semi-technical climb that is highly sensitive
to rain and/or snow. With either we will cancel it, drive back
to the El Paso area, and climb the HP of El Paso County instead
(2,500 ft elevation gain).
A map of the summit area is nothing but a jumble of squiggly
lines that are too closely spaced to be of any use. Hence a map
is not provided.
The climb involves an approach on foot from the base of the
Organ Mountains, in turn located immediately east of Las Cruces.
The elevation gain of previous trip reports is 4,100 feet -
although that can be reduced to 3,600 feet with judicious use
of 4 wheel drive and some nerve at the wheel.
This is an all-day climb and we will have to be on our toes
to get up and down before sundown given the short days of
late October. The semi-technical portion is only for the top
few hundred vertical feet, i.e. the vast majority of the climb
is simply hiking uphill on slopes of ever-increasing steepness.
The crux is a 20 foot nearly vertical section. However it
has very solid handholds and a diagonal crack for foot placement.
Some would rate this class 4 - others would call it class 3.
In any event it is certainly FAR easier than summit day on
Granite Peak in Montana!
We will probably NOT bring a rope since,
on an earlier climb of Organ Needle with 11 people
(March 17, 2000 with Scott Surgent in attendence),
nobody needed a rope going up - and only 3 of them needed a
rope belay going down (climbing downhill is always more
psychologically daunting a challenge than climbing uphill -
principally because you cannot see where to put your feet).
I always bring extra food and a parka with gloves
in case, for some reason, we do NOT get back to my truck by dark.
It would be an uncomfortable but survivable night.
Were it to rain or snow we would have had no business on the
mountain in the first place - and would have gone to El Paso
instead as described above.
Again, the closest community is Las Cruces. The Organ
Mountains do NOT lie in a National Forest. Instead, they are
immediately west of White Sands Missile Range. Please note
this in case you do not hear from me by mid-day Monday.
YOU CANNOT EXPECT A PHONE CALL from me Sunday night -
chances are very good that we would just camp at my truck
without driving out from the area. Consider yourself
fortunate if you DO hear from me at that time.
Monday Oct 28
I drop Edward Earl at the El Paso airport and then begin
the long drive home. I may get all the way back (740 road miles),
or more reasonably, stay with Andy Martin in Tucson to split up
the driving into two sessions.