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 last trip).

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 evening.

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 beyond Artesia.

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 Culberson cohp:

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.

        Love, Adam