Ascent of Little Costilla Peak on 2011-08-27

Climber: Phil Robinson

Others in Party:Just me.
Date:Saturday, August 27, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Little Costilla Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:12584 ft / 3835 m

Ascent Trip Report

Because of an ambitious hiking plan I left the house at 3:20 AM, Saturday August 27, 2011, and headed towards northern New Mexico to hike 3 mountain peaks. I drove north to Costilla, New Mexico then headed about an hours drive east, on highway 196. I parked at the corral parking area (N 36.47.088 W 105.14.073) just south of Little Costilla Peak after a 4 hour drive. The starting elevation was 9950 feet. I did not bring my dog because I thought this hike might be a little too much for her. It was a cool, (49 degrees) crisp, cloudy morning when I started hiking a 7:30. I went left of the fence, skirting the road, until I came to the ridge that headed straight up to Little Costilla Peak. I went straight up. It was a strenuous hike but I did not find it overly difficult. Near the top the wind was blowing strong. It was a chilly hike. After several false ridges, I arrived at the top of Little Costilla Peak, elevation 12,584, after a 2.5 hour nonstop hike at 10:00 AM. The distance to the top was 4.2 miles. The temperature was a crisp 48 degrees. I took some pictures and planned my route to the next peak, Ash Mountain North.
Rather than going straight at the peak, I went a little to the right through a small V shaped valley. It is steep but not too difficult. Below the timberline I entered a forest and continued straight at the peak. I was startled by a large elk running through the forest as it was startled by me. Towards the bottom of the hill there were a number of fallen logs that I had to climb over. At the bottom, elevation 10,775 feet, I reached a beautiful meadow and had a plan, after scouting from the from the last peak, to follow the meadow north and approach the peak from the north side. I followed the meadow until it turned east into the mountain then proceeded up. At this point also, there were many fallen logs to climb over. I reached the ridge and decided to hike the knoll just to the north before doing Ash Mountain. I reached the knoll which was my furthest point from the car. It took 6.6 miles to reach there and 4 hours. I then proceeded south to Ash Mountain and the boulders began, 2 to 2.5 miles of them! I arrived at Ash Mountain North, elevation 12,260 feet, after hiking 4.5 hours and 7.1 miles. It was noon.
The hike from Ash Mountain North to Ash Mountain South is almost continuous boulders! It was very, very hard hiking. You have to watch every step or risk twisting an ankle. My technique was to take a little glance up ahead to make sure I was on target, then only look a short way ahead for the next step or two. I also tried to angle down and use one side as a hand hold. It was very tedious! You have to come off the mountain to an elevation of about 10, 775 then go back up again. Only a little place at the bottom did not have boulders. It was very hard and tiresome going up boulders to get to Ash Mountain South. Finally I reached the top, elevation 11,430 after hiking 8.25 miles in six hours. I took pictures and looked around and did not really want to do more boulders, but I did not have a choice. Rather than going back down the way I came, which might be the best way to do the descent. I continued south along the ridge. I began to realize that there were cliffs almost all the way to the west. I did a lot of praying to find the right way down without descending into a cliff. I went south to the saddle, boulder walking all the time, and decided to try a place down. Fortunately it was a small area that I could get around the cliffs. It was hard going down but not dangerous. I do not want to try anything that might be dangerous and would rather go back than try something that might be life threatening. This was not. At the bottom I was still boulder walking until I make the trees. I was so glad to get off of those boulders! I have hiked boulders before but never something this long and difficult. I should have scouted Ash Mountain South better from Little Costilla Peak. Fortunately the first try got me down safely. (I loaded GPS coordinates to show a fairly safe way down.) I can see someone making many attempts looking for a way down to the west and that is why I said that it almost is better to go down the mountain the way you came up even if it is a little longer. I kept hiking through the forest until I came to meadows and a little stream. I had only stopped for moments since I started hiking because I knew that I had a very extensive hike. This time I sat down for 10 minutes near the little stream and ate a little lunch. I usually bring enough water, but didn’t this time, thinking I could fill up and use halazone tablets if necessary. I learned something! You should replace old halazone tablets every year or two. I had these tablets about 6 years and never opened them. The cotton had been leached yellow and the tablets were black. I am going to replace mine every year to have as a backup and make sure I bring my 2 ounce Sawyer filter that is in the line of my camelback drinking container. I like this better than pumping water. You just suck the tube or let gravity do the work and it is suppose to last a lifetime. At only 2 ounces it is great for ultralight backpacking. I could never go back to pumping. I did not have this with me, and by the time I got back I was about the thirstiest I have been hiking. I will make future adjustments. I brought about 35 ounces of water. You need more than that for a long hike like this. One of the highlights of my growing up was being a Boy Scout in Troop 166 in Albuquerque; hiking, camping, leading my troop as a boy leader for a year as the Senior Patrol leader and becoming an Eagle Scout. I am now 56 years old and the older I get the more I appreciate the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.” I will be a little more water prepared next time. I followed the little stream down thinking that I was going to do more bushwhacking and to my delight found a little trail that made the last 2 miles wonderful! By this time I was very hot and the last mile had a refreshing little rain. This trail lead me back a little east of where I parked the car and then I hiked about a quarter mile west on the road to the car. This trail would be almost impossible to find from the road if someone were just wanting to hike up the beautiful meadow canyon to get to the Ash peaks. I got back to the car and drank a little water that I had left behind. The total hike was 8 hours and 45 minutes and I hiked 12.3 miles. It felt like I had hiked more than that, having to hike on boulders for 2.5 miles of the trip. I headed back and almost immediately saw a heard of about 20 to 25 elk. I stopped 4 times going home just filling up on fluids. It was a wonderful hike and I know I got my exercise for the day.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2634 ft / 802 m
    Round-Trip Distance:12.3 mi / 19.7 km
    Route Conditions:
Open Country, Bushwhack
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2634 ft / 802 m
    Distance:4.2 mi / 6.8 km
    Route:Corral Parking up the Southern Slope
    Start Trailhead:Corral Parking  9950 ft / 3032 m
    Time:2 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Distance:8.1 mi / 13 km
    Time:6 Hours 15 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Corral Parking Base

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Little Costilla Peak2011-08-27 a2634 ft / 803 m
2Ash Mountain-North Peak2011-08-27 b460 ft / 140 m
3Ash Mountain2011-08-27 c935 ft / 285 m
Total Trip Gain: 4029 ft / 1228 m    Total Trip Loss: 765 ft / 233 m
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.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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