Ascent of Guadalupe Peak on 1989-05-06

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Saturday, May 6, 1989
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Guadalupe Peak
    Elevation:8749 ft / 2666 m

Ascent Trip Report

Saturday, May 6:

I got up very early, mainly because of the lousy place I had chosen to sleep in my car that night, and groggily ate my cereal and drank my water as more cars and trucks rumbled by a few yards away on U.S. 62/180. I made a mental note to myself to never try these rest areas again, a promise I soon broke.

It was a very short drive on the highway up a little bit to the access road for Pine Springs Campground in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and a short, dusty mile on the dirt access road brought me to the campground itself, at the base of the Mountains, the highest range in the enormous area of Texas.

Despite my early start, the campground was chock-full of people milling about and getting ready to hike up to Guadalupe Peak, basically all the Winnebago types and scout groups that had spent the night at the place and paid for the privilege, something I was glad I didn’t do. I used the campground’s bathroom, got my pack together, and started up the well-worn herd path to Guadalupe Peak, 8,749 feet high, the highest point in Texas.

The trail was very crowded—it seemed like everyone from El Paso had decided to come out and climb the peak, making it by far the most crowded state high point I climbed all year. On the first part of the trail, steep switchbacks up the scrubby desert forepeak of Guadalupe, I passed a lot of winded families and teenagers, soon pretty much all alone in front of all the early risers who had gotten on to the trail before me. I had to be careful to take this more direct route, since many signs indicated that the way to Guadalupe was on a longer, graded trail that swung around to the back—my Zummwalt map helped a bit in figuring this out. As the trail wound around along a desert ridge I was playing tag with some little kids who were way out in front of their group, and some of them actually beat me to the summit, which I reached after more winding switchbacks up the final cone that offered nice views of the top of El Capitan, the sheer-rock faced neighboring peak.

The summit had a six-foot metal pyramid on it that was a memorial to postal workers (don’t ask me why), and an old guy and two of the kids were there when I arrived, at about 9:30 A.M. or so. It was a perfectly clear day, and the view of the surrounding desert flatlands was expansive. I wrote in the logbook, talked to the old guy there for a while as the kids milled about and waited for the rest of their group, explored the scrubby desert of the rounded summit area, and took the obligatory pictures (me and the old guy taking shots of each other) and descended just as the main mass of kids showed up—perfect timing.

On the way down, as the trail wound through the thin groves of low pines, along narrow ledges at the side of cliffs, and switchbacked down steeper slopes, I saw millions of people on the way up, and half of them were classic “Puff, puff—are we there yet?—pant, pant—how much further?” types, and I tried to be as honest as I could answering them. In the stretches where there were no people, I enjoyed the desert scenery and fantasized about climbing Mt. McKinley later in the summer. I made sure that I took the short, steep way down, and, after perhaps longer than I thought, I arrived back at the parking lot.

It was still fairly early, and I was glad that I had completed my climb before the blistering heat of midday arrived. I next stopped at the little visitor center for Guadalupe Mountains National Park, in a mobile home in a dusty parking lot, and realized why there was construction going on for new facilities—this National Park was the most underdeveloped one I visited. This tiny trailer, though, was full with an enormous group of school kids, so I left pretty quick after snagging some literature and maps.

Guadalupe Peak, Texas, is crowned with a metal pyramid monument (1989-05-06).
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2927 ft / 892 m
    Trailhead:5822 ft / 1774 m
    Quality:3 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)

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