Ascent of Sierra Blanca Peak on 2021-11-07

Climber: Bradley R

Date:Sunday, November 7, 2021
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Sierra Blanca Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:11973 ft / 3649 m

Ascent Trip Report

How I chose this hike:
An ultra prominent peak I had attempted (2018-03-05) once before, but had to turn around near the top.

Getting there:
I placed Sierra Blanca Trailhead, Alto, NM 88312 into Google Maps and it took me to the trailhead, just before the gate for Ski Apache.

The Drive:
Coming from Roswell, NM I was mostly on Highway 70. The last bit of the drive up the mountain was very curvy with awesome views.

The Hike:
I arrived at the trailhead around 9AM. The skies were blue, but there were pretty heavy gusts of cold wind. I packed and started walking around 9:15AM. I remembered much of the trail from my first attempt.

The trailhead was marked with a number I don't remember, but is T15 on the map I use. 0.6 miles in I meet a trail junction and move to T25 (Crest Trail). For another 0.9 miles I easily remain on the Crest trail with relatively level elevation gain, a total of ~350 ft. in the first 1.5 miles. This area is within sight of some of the ski lifts and runs of Ski Apache, all dry this time of year. (1.5 miles total)

Still on T25 I reach a sign that reads T25 but doesn't have an arrow showing the direction. This is the beginning of a burned wooded area with quite a bit of dead fall. After a bit of searching I do locate the trail, taking a sharp left at the sign. Another 0.1 miles later and I'm looking for the trail again, but just can't seem to stay on it. I remember the last time I tried the peak in the snow I lost the trail here and assumed I couldn't see it because of the snow, but now I'm off trail in the same place again. I just continue uphill, with my GPS I'm confident I'll come back out on the trail soon enough. After 0.3 miles of bushwhacking, avoiding deadfall as best as possible, and 250' of gain I'm back on trail. (1.9 miles total)

Back on trail I continue on T25 for about 0.4 miles before continuing on an unmarked trail for 0.25 to connect to a ski run "Ambush". Ambush and T78 run parallel to one another, but I walk up Ambush another 0.3 miles to behind the gondola. There's a few views here I take in. (2.85 miles total)

I now follow a dirt road that goes behind a large metal building and works its way around Lookout Mountain before I step off on a trail up Lookout to a concrete viewing area. This lasts about 0.33 miles and gains ~150'. Winds at the top were pretty fierce with the cool air cutting through my jacket. (3.20 miles total)

Now I head down to the saddle between Lookout and Sierra Blanca following the "Game Trail" ski run right on the boundary of the ski resort. There's an opening in the resorts boundary fence that I cut through to head up Sierra Blanca, losing ~300' in 0.45 miles. (3.65 miles total).

The saddle is free of trees and relatively flat. There is a use trail through here, but I missed it on the way up and the rocky terrain isn't too bad, but does slow me down a bit. After about 1/3rd of a mile I start climbing a steep ridge, again void of trees. I never do see a trail here and pick my way up making short switchbacks. This is the physically toughest part of the hike, gaining ~300' in a quarter a mile or so. (4.30 miles total)

Now I'm on a short kind of knife like ridge. The point that I turned around last time was on this ridge. This time the ground is void of ice and I find a use path to the right (west) If I'd found this last time I may have made it then. of the ridge and follow it without problem. Once across the ridge there's another short but steep climb to the top. (4.6 miles of hiking)

At the top I sign the summit register, which is a mess of loose papers. On the very top of the mountain the wind is heavy, nearly enough to push me around, but just a few feet east the wind is nearly gone. I take my time to eat a snack and take some photos before heading down.

Heading down I follow the same route I had used to go up until I return to the Ski Apache boundary. (5.4 miles total)

Here I decide, similar to last time, to head down the ski slopes. First the "Game Trail", then "Elk Ridge" (where I saw a nice herd of Elk, maybe 10), turned back onto "The Ramp" then onto "Lower Deep Freeze", then the Gondala Lift Line around Ski Apache's buildings to their parking lot back to my car for 1.2 miles of steep descent. A portion of Elk Ridge was especially steep making it tough to stay on my feet. I'm not sure that I wouldn't just descend how I went up if I had it to do again. (7.6 miles total)

I saw no one else away from the trailhead, though I did see a pack of Elk literally on Elk Ridge ski run..

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2755 ft / 838 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2755 ft / 839 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7.6 mi / 12.3 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2565 ft / 781 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2115 ft / 645 m; Extra: 450 ft / 137m
    Loss on way in:450 ft / 137 m
    Distance:4.6 mi / 7.4 km
    Start Trailhead:T15  9858 ft / 3004 m
    Time:3 Hours 36 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:2305 ft / 702 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 2115 ft / 645 m; Extra: 190 ft / 57m
    Gain on way out:190 ft / 57 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.9 km
    Route:Use Trails>SkiRuns
    End Trailhead:T15  9858 ft / 3004 m
    Time:2 Hours 14 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Sierra Blanca2 (0 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Lookout Mountain2021-11-07 a 
2Sierra Blanca Peak2021-11-07 b2755 ft / 840 m
Total Trip Gain: 2755 ft / 840 m    Total Trip Loss: 2755 ft / 840 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Bradley R
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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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