Ascent of Peak 12819 on 2010-08-03

Climber: Richard Oestreicher

Date:Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Peak 12819
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:12819 ft / 3907 m

Ascent Trip Report

The most difficult climb I’ve done so far, but also one of the most exhilarating. I’ve done more than a dozen other ascents over 12,000 feet but mostly on trails or at worst some scrambling across boulder fields. This one demands bush whacking through woods and deeply weeded areas; long, steep boulder fields; and some climbing on all fours approaching technical climbing grasping for hand holds. I did it by myself, which was probably foolish as I had a fall and minor injuries on the way down. A couple of other trip reports I read on line before going don’t emphasize these challenges. Probably the climbers were younger and more experienced than I am. I will be 63 in four days. I don’t imagine too many other geezers have been up here lately!

I left the Williams Lake trailhead at 11:20 AM and made it to Williams Lake in 49 minutes (my fastest time in eight trips) with another ten minutes around the west side of the lake. From there several semi-paths lead into the woods. I took one just south of the first major stream with small waterfalls. Coming back I took another just east of the second cascading stream. From the lake it’s about half a mile through the trees to a large marshy and heavily weeded meadow and then a treeless chute resembling a ski slope. It took me 30 minutes from Williams Lake to the top of the meadow and the bottom of the chute where it gets increasingly steep. At that point I’d estimate (I don’t have a GPS so it’s just a guess.) the elevation at around 11,500 leaving about 1300 feet to the top.

That 1300 feet took me about 2 hours and a quarter. One trip report recommends heading for a saddle east of the peak, but it looked to me like cliffs that would be dangerous to climb without ropes top the saddle. I headed up the chute to a smaller series of cliffs and rocky outcroppings just west of the peak. From below it looked like narrow, grassy and walk able slots penetrated the rocks. When I got there, I discovered that was not the case, and I had to climb up on all fours pulling myself up with handholds. The last few scrawny trees sit atop these rock faces. From there it’s another 700 feet up of steep rock and boulder scrambling to the ridge line about 100 feet below the peak. The ridge line is relatively level with several cairns holding USGS markers.

Impressive views in all directions make it well worth the effort. To the southwest you see Taos and vicinity in the distance and farther off the Jemez Mountains; to the South Jicarita Peak and the Truchas Peaks; to the Southeast Angel Fire, the Mora Valley and beyond; immediately below the peak a series of lakes on Taos Pueblo land; West the entire Wheeler Peak range; North Gold Hill and successive peaks all the way to Colorado.

I headed down after a half hour on top. Coming down, predictably, seemed more dangerous than going up. Finding safe footing coming down the rock faces scared me a bit. At the bottom of the rocks I stepped onto a snow patch that apparently masked a sheet of ice, my feet slipped out from under me and I skidded twenty feet on my back like an overturned turtle into the top of the boulder field resulting in a six inch gash on my right forearm and various bruises. After patching myself up with first aid supplies, I headed gingerly down the boulder field to the meadow where I ran into a Taos teen hiking group bivouacked for the night. They seemed surprised when I told them where I had been. Time down—2 hours and forty minutes including a 20 minute rest stop enjoying afternoon sunshine at Williams Lake. Back to the parking area at 6:05 P.M. Total elapsed time: 6 hours 45 minutes. Actual hiking/climbing time: 5 hours 40 minutes.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2859 ft / 871 m
    Distance:8.5 mi / 13.7 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:2759 ft / 841 m
    Extra Loss:100 ft / 30 m
    Distance:4.3 mi / 6.9 km
    Trailhead:10160 ft / 3096 m
    Time Up:3 Hours 45 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Extra Gain:100 ft / 30 m
    Distance:4.2 mi / 6.8 km
    Time Down:2 Hours 40 Minutes

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