Ascent of Sierra Blanca Peak on 2012-08-25

Climber: BMS 914

Others in Party:Eric Kassan
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, August 25, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Sierra Blanca Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:11973 ft / 3649 m

Ascent Trip Report

The trip began poorly as we got a bit of a late start and found the road to the ski resort blocked by a ranger nine miles up (three from the resort) due to "construction". We asked if we could go up to hike and were firmly declined. It was unclear if we were forbidden from Sierra Blanca, the resort, or just the road. We decided not to ask and "stealth" the peak.

We parked at a lower turnout, and we began up a steep but firm slope, headed for Buck Mountain. Eric had planned this for a relatively easy day coming off Blanca Peak in Colorado, and now it was going to be much tougher, if even possible. To make it worse, clouds were building and a thunderstorm was clearly on its way.

Eric elected to continue up Buck Mountain, but didn't mind waiting for me if I wanted to solo Sierra Blanca, so we parted under leaden skies amid the first of many raindrops to follow.

I continued down a slope, snuck across a road, down another steep slope, and made it to the nearly-deserted ski resort, then crossed the large parking lot trying to look casual. I reached the forested area on the other side just before the rain began in earnest. Hiking up animal trails (elk) I worked my way up toward the saddle and Lookout Mountain (a secondary objective), trying to ignore the thunder, and hoping for a weather window in which I could summit without any lightning issues.

By good fortune, the weather cleared just as I reached the saddle, and I worked hard not to waste the opportunity. I went down the saddle toward SB, which was covered in wet, tussocky plants and hidden small boulders. To the left of the saddle was a dirt road, which would cost me a few dozen feet of elevation but make for better speed, which I badly needed. I followed the road until it curved, then cut up to an animal trail, which took me too far east. From this side, the connecting ridge looked quite jagged and sheer. While I do enjoy this type of summit, I didn't have the time for it on this day: I needed a quick hiking route to the peak. Looping back to the west got me to the far side of the ridge, which was far easier and quicker. I continued the rest of the way up amid slabs of stone, doing some occasional light climbing, more to save time than out of absolute necessity.

I climbed up the last boulder at the summit and got some great shots, but could see it was time to leave, and quickly, as ugly dark clouds were closing in. I nearly made it back to the saddle with Lookout Mountain when the rain started again. (see the Lookout Mountain TR for the rest of the story...)

-Note: the GPS track shown was re-created after my batteries died during the descent. It is fairly accurate, with the exception of the long, straight 1.4 mile line my software insists on drawing between my starting point at a turnout along the road and my finish at the ski resort parking lot. So please disregard this annoying anomaly.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2971 ft / 904 m
    Elevation Loss:1765 ft / 537 m
    Distance:5.5 mi / 8.9 km
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble
    Weather:Thunderstorm, Cool, Breezy, Low Clouds
Thunderstorms and hail
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:2947 ft / 897 m
    Extra Loss:925 ft / 281 m
    Distance:4.9 mi / 7.9 km
    Route:Ski resort to North Ridge
    Trailhead:Turnout off (closed) highway  9951 ft / 3033 m
    Time Up:3 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:840 ft / 256 m
    Extra Gain:24 ft / 7 m
    Distance:0.6 mi / 1 km
    Route:North Ridge
    Trailhead:Saddle w/Lookout  11157 ft / 3400 m
    Time Down:23 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Sierra Blanca

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Sierra Blanca Peak2012-08-25 a
2Lookout Mountain2012-08-25 b
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by BMS 914
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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