Ascent of Virsylvia Peak on 2010-09-20

Climber: Phil Robinson

Others in Party:My dog Daisy.
Date:Monday, September 20, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Virsylvia Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:12594 ft / 3838 m

Ascent Trip Report

I wanted to get a very early start, because of a long drive and a very difficult mountain, so I left my house, with my dog Daisy, at 2:20 AM, September 20, 2010, to head to northern New Mexico to hike the 12,594 elevation mountain, Virsylvia Peak. I took one of my 4 personal days off work to do this before the high elevation snows set in.

Nine days before this, I left the house at 3:30 AM with my son Garret to do the 2 Big Costilla Peaks in Northern New Mexico, but after hiking for awhile we came across a “No Trespassing for Any Reason” sign. We changed plans and headed to Virsylvia Peak. After a number of attempts in my Toyota Land Cruiser we headed to the little town of El Rito, north of Questa on highway 522. In the little town we headed east on El Rito road, then north. Our map showed a trail on forest service land that ascended very close to the top of the mountain. The 4 wheel drive road was very difficult and would scratch the paint of anyone with a new vehicle. Mine is made for this. We kept driving until the road matched up with the trail, but no trail. After leaving for Big Costilla at 7:15 it was now 11:00 AM. The trail showed it followed Jaracito Canyon. It may have been a great trail 50 years ago, but it does not exist now. Hard as we tried we only caught glimmers of the old trail. We needed an archeologist along to help us. It was very difficult hiking with many, many fallen logs. We hiked a half hour and were making little progress so, starting so late, we calculated we would be coming back in the dark. We decided to turn around. Garret panned for gold in the little stream and got a few flecks, then we headed back to the SUV. I was disappointed; this was the first time it did not work to hike a 12K or 13K peak. As we were driving away I marked a spot on my GPS that looked like a good open area to burn it up to the top of the mountain sometime in the future.

That future was nine days later. I arrived at that spot at 5:25 AM, the elevation was 8,550. It was going to be a hike with an elevation gain of 4044 feet straight up. I started hiking through the open area. I have come back in the dark on some hikes, but never started in pitch black darkness. Dawn did not show for the next 45 minutes. The area that looked open from a distance was not. It was very thick, higher than your head, scrub oak. This was much harder than 9 days before. Because of the thickness of the oaks, my flashlight only showed a short way. It was so thick I had to carry the dog and her little pack. I was moaning like a baby. The thing that kept me going was that I did not want to have to go back through the same stuff again and I had a determination to make it. I was getting cuts and scratches as I hiked. I spent one of the hardest uphill hours I have ever hiked. After 45 minutes twilight first showed. It helped some. I kept heading towards some pine trees and finally I was free. Don’t go either of the 2 ways we tried! From the pines it was a hard burn up the mountain with lots of logs and many small loose rocks. After gaining 2000 feet in elevation, all of the sudden I felt as strong as a bull ox and stormed it to the top. It was 9:25 AM. It took 4 hours of nonstop hiking. I hiked about 3 miles straight up. It was cold at the top and I put on my down jacket. The views were dramatic. The beautiful green alpine grasses of the summer had turned brown. Storm clouds were in the area. Looking in the distance, at lower elevations, you could see beautiful aspen trees in all their splendid fall colors. I took pictures and stayed around for only about 15 minutes and headed back. My goal was to avoid the scrub oak trees. The first 2000 feet went very well. The last 2000 is much harder with logs to go over and little loose rocks. Every time I saw oak I headed to the north. I went so far to the north that I ended up coming down the same way, “the lost trail,” that my son Garret and I hiked 9 days earlier. Finally I reached the tight, rough, tree branched, road and hiked south to my Land Cruiser. I was so happy that I did not have to go through the oaks again. I got back at 12:35 PM after hiking about 7 miles in about 7 hours. I would never recommend anyone going the way I did. You need a tough 4 wheel drive that you don’t mind getting scratched up. Do not go the way of the nonexistent trail. It is on the maps! Do not go through the oaks. The best way to go up is between the old trail and the oaks to the south but plan on 4 hours of non-stop burning it up the hill.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4082 ft / 1244 m
    Total Elevation Loss:38 ft / 11 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7 mi / 11.3 km
    Route Conditions:
Open Country, Bushwhack
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4082 ft / 1244 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 4044 ft / 1232 m; Extra: 38 ft / 11m
    Loss on way in:38 ft / 11 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.8 km
    Route:Near El Rito straight up Western Slope
    Start Trailhead:8550 ft / 2606 m
Descent Statistics
    Distance:4 mi / 6.4 km
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Phil Robinson
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.

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