Ascent of Vintrero Benchmark on 2012-06-22
|Others in Party:||Garret Robinson|
----Only Party on Mountain
|Date:||Friday, June 22, 2012|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Location:||USA-New Mexico|
| Elevation:||12881 ft / 3926 m|
Ascent Trip ReportTwo years ago my son Garret and I started to hike the Big Costilla Peaks and ran across a no trespassing sign at the southern border of the Vermejo Park Ranch. Vermejo Park, in northern New Mexico, is the largest private property in North America. It is a secluded, gorgeous, green and lush animal refuge about the size of Rhode Island. We did not wish to trespass so we did not hike that day. I spent 9 months writing them, trying to seek permission to hike their peaks but they would not give me permission. I decided to treat my son and myself and stay at their ranch as a guest for 2 nights and 3 days for about two thousand dollars, and try to hike all of their 11 and 12 thousand foot peaks. There are 9 of them.
The only way that you can get into the park is by way of Raton and highway 555. All of their other gates are locked. It was a very long drive so we decided to campout Thursday night, June 21, 2012, at the Sugarite Canyon State Park, then get up at about 4 AM Friday and head into park and try to hike the 6 largest peaks; from Big Costilla Peak South to the Colorado boarder and Stateline Peak. It is a good thing Garret got reservations at the state park or they would not have had room for us. Garret fished and caught 2 trout at Lake Maloya. It was a beautiful canyon. We had a great dinner of trout, grilled rib eye steaks and some homemade apricot bread made by Garret’s wife.
We got up at 4:00 AM and drove an hour on highway 555 towards the gate. It was a beautiful lush drive and we say many elk and deer along the way. We arrived at a 6:00 AM, were let in the gate and drove 5 minutes to the lodge. We checked in and had a wonderful breakfast buffet. They treat you like you are on a cruise ship. We originally planned to hike in the southern end of the ranch on Friday, then double back then do the same thing on the north end Saturday. They assigned a ranch guide to be at our service for 2 days! His name was Brian. He said he would be happy to drop us off at the south end and pick us up at the north end! This would save about 12 miles and would make it possible to do all of the 9 peaks of 11K and above on our 3 days. He said no one had ever done this before and he was interested in going with us. We were happy to have him come. He got another man to help. Brian took a ranch 4 wheel drive truck. You must have 4 WD to do all the things we did over the 3 days. The other man was going to meet us at 7:00 PM at Glacier Lake near Stateline Peak. It took over an hour of driving to get to the start of our hike at the base of Big Costilla Peak South. We saw deer, elk and an antelope as we drove. We started hiking at 8:35, at an elevation of 11,500. We passed a beautiful lake along the way. It was a slow chug straight up and at times we had to use all fours. It felt good to make the ridgeline! The views and expanses were incredible. It took us 1.5 hours of continuous hiking to make Big Costilla Peak South, elevation 12,931, after hiking 1.7 miles. It was a wonderful cool crisp morning. On each of our 6 peaks we only stayed a short time and took pictures. We had a long way to go! We headed north along the ridge and arrived at Big Costilla Peak North, elevation 12,739, 2 hours and 15 minutes, and 3 miles from the start. We continued north to one of the signature peaks of the park, Peak 12,572. This peak is majestically viewed from much of Vermejo Ranch. Along the way we saw an expanse of elk, maybe 100 of them. They made a brown line across the ridge. They were looking at us, judging which way to go to avoid us coming at them. We arrived at the peak after 3 hours and 40 minutes and 5.2 miles from the start. Because of the great expense to stay at the lodge, I wanted to make sure that I got every possible peak, just in case it turns into a minor peak sometime in the future. I headed west to get a ridge peak, Peak 12556. Brian and my son Garret decided not do this ridge peak. I arrived there after traveling 6.3 miles and 4 hours and 10 minutes from the start. I ran on all the downhill parts to be able to catch up with them quicker. They were heading towards Vintrero Benchmark Peak, elevation 12,881 and we met up again about halfway along the ridge. Vintrero Benchmark Peak is not straight along the ridge, you have to hike back further to the west. We saw another very large group of elk and something I had never seen before, an elk nursery. The mother elks drop off their babies with 2 “nannies” and goes to eat food. The babies know to stay with the “nannies” as their mothers head out. We saw 18 babies with 2 mother elk. They all looked the same age. I got a great photograph. By doing this they have far reaching eyes and ears to protect the babies. I believe that I saw more elk today than I have seen in all my hikes put together. We saw them from start to finish. We arrived at the peak after hiking 5 hours and 40 minutes and 8.9 miles from the start. This was the first time that I sat down and only for a few minutes. I had a roast beef sandwich that the ranch provided. We headed north down a deep ridge then up to Jarocito Creek Peak, elevation 12,460. I hiked out to the far west side of the ridge. Our time from the start was 7 hours and 10 minutes and 10.6 miles. One more peak to do for the day! We were on the home stretch! We headed for Stateline Peak and before we started the long chug up I sat down for the second time and had a bite to eat. It was a hard chug up, especially after already hiking 5 peaks. The elevation gain was over 800 feet. We claimed both the New Mexico side of the peak and the Colorado side. We made them all! It took 14.4 miles and 9 hours and 50 minutes from the start. My son Garret did not take side peak excursions and his total mileage along the ridge was 12.7 miles. I planned to take what looked like an easy slide off the mountain to the north but Brian wanted to go straight down. This was the icing on the cake. It was a hard rocky steep way down. I wish we had tried the gradual slope to the north but we were committed. Finally we made the bottom then had to climb over many logs as we made it around Glacier Lake. We make it! I have done plenty of 12.5 mile hikes before but have never busted the 12.5 mile mark. (Except 2, 16 mile downhill hikes off the Sandia Crest as a Boy Scout) The total hike was 15.5 miles and it took us almost 11 hours to hike. Garret’s GPS, without the side excursions, was 14.4 miles. The finishing elevation at the lake was 11,685. We met the other driver at the lake and it took us an hour and a half to drive back to the first car then almost 1.5 hours to get back to the lodge. We spent nearly four and a half hours on the road and we never say another car. Hiking, we never saw another person. I have never felt such a wonderful feeling of seclusion as on the ranch. It might be most magnificent place, with a mixture of beauty and seclusion, in the United States, with the exception of Alaska. They treat you well on the ranch! The cooks waited for us. They usually are done at 9 but stayed to feed until almost 10:45. Seven meals were included with our stay. They said the special was the 24 ounce porterhouse but I could not resist the bison steak and Garret could not resist the elk steak. It was a wonderful meal finished off by a banana split. If we had been given permission to hike, we were going to camp on the ridge for 3 nights, but a soft bed that night sure felt good. I would call today’s hike the hallmark hike of my life! Not the hardest, not my very favorite hike, but close…. But the hallmark hike of my life.
We were up Saturday morning at 7:00 and Brian said he could help or transport us any way that we needed, but we said we didn’t need any transportation help for the day. We had a great breakfast buffet, got our sack lunch and headed out. Yesterday we got all the 12K peaks! Today we set out to do two 11K peaks. It took about an hour drive deep into the park, the last miles on a tough 4WD road. It was a beautiful clear, cool, crisp morning. Our starting time was 10:35 AM. We parked below Peak 11,610 at an elevation of 10,800 feet and headed straight up the mountain. It was a fair chug. We arrived at the top after an hour of hiking and 1.6 miles. Our plan was to hike, the ridge then double back without doing the peaks we had already done. We followed the old fence line. Almost all of the fences have been taken down on the ranch so that the animals can roam freely. It was a smooth easy hike. We hiked little Peak 11,460 along the way. We arrived at Vermejo Peak, elevation 11,610, after hiking 2 hours and 50 minutes and 2.8 miles from the start. We sat down for about 45 minutes, enjoyed the peak and had a bite to eat then headed back. Along the way, we heard a little thunder and felt a few drops of rain. I am very glad that there was not any lighting yesterday, spending a day above timberline. We saw a turkey, then a little while later we saw some elk, and me, being a science teacher who does not believe in macro-evolution, talked about how the elk horns would never evolve in the thick wooded environment elk spend much of their time in…. Never! I believe in micro-evolution, that things change only within the species; color, size, shape and chemical composition. That’s it! I only have one good picture of a transition fossil and I have been trying to get them for years. Show me a transition fossil from the mouse to the elk! The Bible says “There is no God.” It says…. “The fool says, “There is no God.” “ The beauty and wonder of this creation, the beauty and wonder of this place, there is no excuse! We skirted the high points on the way back and arrived 5 hours after we left. It only took us 1 hour and 25 miles to hike back. The total mileage was 5.1 miles. We were going to head back a different 4WD road but came across a fallen tree so had to go back the same way we came up. Garret wanted to do skeet shooting, they provide everything, but we did not have time. We could have gone back to the lodge and had a gourmet dinner but we had a second choice, an outdoor barbeque with music by a lake. We decided to go there. It was the best BBQ of my life; NY steak to order, bison hot dogs, veal bratwurst, brisket, chicken, ribs, grilled king crab legs and many great side dishes. Wow! After the nice dinner and music by the lake we headed back to the lodge. We saw a heard of buffalo on the way back. We sat out on their expansive porch and watched the daylight dim, the stars come out and a little raccoon hunt for food. I had another banana split and we went to bed.
Sunday morning we got up at 6:30 AM, had breakfast and checked out. We had permission to spend the day on the ranch. Before hiking, we went for a 2 hour horseback ride. It was included in our stay. On the way up we saw a large heard of buffalo. We horseback rode through the beautiful mountains and meadows and road along a beautiful stream. A bear was by the stream but I missed catching a view of him. After the horseback ride we only had one more peak to do, then mission accomplished! Peak 11,353 was a short drive away. We could have almost driven to the peak, but I wanted to make sure we had a good hike. We went up a 4WD road and stopped when the GPS said 1.2 miles as the crow flies, more on foot. The starting elevation was 10,450 feet. We hiked up the road and saw cliffs. We thought they were the top of the mountain, but it was only a false bluff. We hiked up around the cliffs on the road and then followed an old fence line. Before us was about an 80 foot cliff. We could have gone around but decided to go straight up. It felt okay, but I do not like doing anything with the possibility of danger and having done so many miles over the last 3 days should have gone around. We worked our way up to the peak and made peak number 9. We hiked all of the 11k and 12k peaks on ranch! It took us 1 hour and 10 minutes to hike to the top, 2.1 miles. We took some pictures and decided not to go down the cliff. We went down an easier way to the north, followed the fence line to the road then back to the SUV. The hike was 4.3 miles and it took us 2 hours and 10 minutes to accomplish. The total mileage for the 3 days was about 25 miles, but if they had not shuttled us it would have been around 37 miles. We appreciated the shuttling! We started the long drive back, an hour to the lodge, an hour more to Raton. We saw a bear along the way. It took us 4 more hours to get to the Albuquerque area, 6 hours to get back. It was worth every penny to me; to experience a place with the combination of the most beauty and solitude together that have experienced in my life, and to have hiked all 9 peaks I set out to do, and the joy of doing this with my son!
|Summary Total Data|
| Total Elevation Gain:||828 ft / 252 m|
| Total Elevation Loss:||347 ft / 105 m|
| Route Conditions:||Open Country|
| Gain on way in:||828 ft / 252 m|
| Gain Breakdown:||Net: 481 ft / 147 m; Extra: 347 ft / 105m|
| Loss on way in:||347 ft / 105 m|
| Distance:||3.7 mi / 5.9 km|
| Route:||Hiked ridge from Peak 12572|
| Start Trailhead:||12400 ft / 3779 m|
|Ascent Part of Trip: Big Costilla to StateLine Peak|
Complete Trip Sequence:
Total Trip Gain: 4511 ft / 1376 m Total Trip Loss: 618 ft / 189 m
|GPS Data for Ascent/Trip|
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Peaks: climbed and unclimbed by Phil Robinson
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