Ascent of Ladrones Benchmark on 2016-05-07

Climber: Phil Robinson

Others in Party:My daughter Christina and her dog Bane. My 2 dogs Major and Captain.
Date:Saturday, May 7, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Ladrones Benchmark
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:9210 ft / 2807 m

Ascent Trip Report

On Saturday morning May 7, 2016 my daughter Christina and I headed south from Albuquerque to hike Ladrones Benchmark, elevation 9,210 and Ladron Peak, elevation 9,143. I am mostly interested in hiking NM peaks with a higher elevation than these 2, but these 2 peaks were listed on a list, the “Albuquerque Home Court Peaks Challenge,” so I decided to hike them. Other peakbaggers are interested in Ladrones Benchmark because it has a fairly large prominence of 3140 feet and has the highest prominence of any 9K peak in New Mexico. I took my 2 dogs Major and Captain. They are fun, action-packed, wirehair fox terriers. Christina took her dog Bane. My 2 dogs are 1 year old brothers. I took Captain for his first peakbagging experience 2 weeks ago. He is more than likely going to be the default peakbagging dog. His brother threw up in the SUV both going to the peak and returning home. This happened even though I gave him motion sickness medicine.

To get to the peak take Bernardo exit 175 off Interstate 25. Head west on a rough paved road over an old bridge. After about a mile and a half the road turns into a dirt road. Turn right onto County Road 12 and go about 21 miles. This is a very nice smooth dirt road. It is a little tricky getting to the starting point, but you can use these coordinates, N34 26.649 W107 07.537, and let the GPS take you there. When you get to the coordinate keep driving until the end of the road. We started hiking two thirds of a mile before the pedestrian gate, at an elevation of 6400 feet, just keep driving past the coordinate point to the end of the road. The last couple of miles you might need 4WD, or a vehicle with good clearance. I made the mistake of thinking that because the peaks were so close to Albuquerque, and a low elevation peak, compared to what I had been hiking, that I could start late. We did not start hiking until about 10:30 AM. If you are going to hike both peaks, I would recommend starting about 7:00 AM.

It was a pleasantly cool morning. Just before we started hiking we saw about 8 deer and then saw signs of elk along the hike. Shortly after starting the hike, Christina got some nice pictures of a little horny toad. We followed a dirt road to the gate and beyond, then started following a stream bed. I accidently did not fill one of my water bottles, so I knew we would be short of water unless we found some. Captain carried a little backpack with some water and food but it was not enough for all 3 dogs. Fortunately we found a water trough and put the dogs in it for some water. Later we found a puddle at a spring, so it ended up being enough water for them. That puddle will not be there later in the year, so bring lots of water. This is the first time I have hiked a true desert mountain peak, and this is not a place to bring dogs unless they are extremely “cactus savvy.” My dogs are, because we have cactus all over my property. I was carrying Christina’s water and lunch because the dog threw up on her backpack. I always carry about 15 pounds just for conditioning and emergencies. I decided to carry the dog’s pack and Christina was finding very interesting rocks and asked if I would carry them. As a little girl the rule was, “ you want the rock – you carry it back.” I thought it was kind of cute, so I said, “Yes.” I did not realize until the end that I was carrying 9 rocks. We followed the road to a dry stream bed and then up a southwest side ridge. I was kind of following a GPS trek that I found online. It is a fairly tough hike to the top of the ridge. There are lots of boulders, cactus and some hard uphill. I oddly found a little gold heart locket on the way up and gave it to Christina. It felt so good to finally make the ridge. It is a rough jagged ridge and depending on the way you go, fairly easy or fairly difficult. We found both. It is rated a Class 2 peak. There were 3 false peak tops on the way to the real top, so it was a little discouraging to Christina to think we made the top, only to go down then back up again. It took us 4 miles and almost 5 hours to reach the top of Ladrones Benchmark Peak. (We started 2/3 of a mile further than we needed to.) The views are wonderful in all directions.

The lower Ladron peak was only about a third of a mile away as the crow flies, but you had to go way down then way up. Christina did not want to do that peak with me, she was fairly worn out. She waited for me at the saddle between the 2 peaks. I decided to take Major with me and the other 2 dogs stayed with Christina. I was fairly worn out also. Probably 15 times as I headed to the next peak I said in my mind, “I am not going to do it! I am heading back!” but I knew I did not want to come back to do it, so I pushed on up a very difficult peak. I also knew we were going to be coming back in the dark, but I was very well prepared. It was very hard going up, especially with the dog. I did more hand-over-hand, almost vertical rock climbing, than I have ever done on a peak before, lifting and pushing the dog up to the next level. After hiking the peak I discovered it is a Class 3 peak. I am kind of glad I did not know that until after the hike. There might have been an easier way than the way I went, but it was getting late and I did not have time to try alternate ways. Major and I finally reached the top! It took 6 hours and 20 minutes and 4.63 miles from the start. The views were great! I signed my name to a peak log that was in a little jar on top. I sent a text to my wife that I would be home about 10:00 PM then quickly headed back down to the saddle.

It was hard going down. I met Christina and we decided to head south below our first ridge, then to the point where we first met the ridge. It was very hard going up, mostly because I was tired and thirsty. My mouth was almost stuck shut with dryness. I tried to eat a little lunch, but knew it would just make me more thirsty. Christina said if she had done the second peak, she would not have made it back. It was a good choice for her to stay back. I had to stop and rest many times getting back up to the ridge. Christina said that because I was carrying her rocks, her stuff, the dogs stuff and 15 more pounds, she would carry the pack. I have never given my pack away, but because of the rocks and to give her an appreciation of what I was carrying, and to give me a rest, I gave her my pack on the last part to the top of the ridge. At last we made the ridge! The sun was up but soon would be setting. Rather than go up a false peak, then down the way we came, we went straight down a gully. It was hard all the way with lots of boulders. The sun set and just about the time we met our on-the-way-up GPS trail. We needed to use flashlights. Fortunately the hardest part of the hike was over. As I mentioned, I carry 15 pounds every hike, mostly for conditioning, but I have plenty of emergency gear and we had 2 small powerful flashlights to use. It would have been very difficult on this new crescent moon night to get down with out the flashlights. (Always carry a couple of small flashlights and well thought out items, because you never know what will happen.) Being an Eagle Scout, the Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared” and there were ways that I was not prepared on this trip, but will get better next time. We stopped several times on the way down. The dogs wanted to call-it-a-night, but we kept moving. When we stopped, turned off the flashlights, and looked at the dark clear night sky, it was spectacular! I enjoyed hiking at night, Christina did not. We followed the stream bed then cut north to the road. Just at that point we found the water trough. It had more water than our way up, so I am guessing it is filled by a timer. We put the dogs in for a drink and rolled them a little in the water to cool down. They were so happy. We slightly missed the main road on the way down, and had to follow another road in a triangle to get back. We continued down the road and it was a happy sight to see the SUV. It was 11:45 PM and we had been hiking 13 hours and 15 minutes. We hiked 3 hours in the dark . We hiked 9.7 miles. (It will be 1 and 1/3 mile less if you drive to the end of the road to start.) Our total up-down elevation gain was 4115 feet. We drank a little water in the SUV and it sure tasted good! I did not have cell phone reception from the top down, so I knew my wife would be somewhat worried. It could have been a little tricky driving the dirt roads at night, so I put the town of Bernardo as a waypoint then, then track-on-road, then followed the GPS. We reached I-25 then north to Belen and went to a Sonic drive-in shortly before 1:00 AM. We got two 44 ounce slushies each! Christina called to let her mom know I would be late. We stopped again for water to add to the slushy ice. It was wonderful to get hydrated again. After dropping Christina off, I got home shortly before 3:00 AM.

I would recommend a thorough map study before hiking these 2 peaks. It ended up being in my top 12 brutal hikes, especially climbing the rock face. I should never have taken a lower elevation peak for granted! I asked Christina, but knew the answer, if she would have gone on the hike knowing what she knows now, and she said, “No.” If you are looking at my GPS trek, I would take it with a grain-of -salt. Some parts were good and some parts I would not repeat again, but I do not know what I would have done differently, at least the way we went was doable.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2970 ft / 905 m
    Total Elevation Loss:160 ft / 48 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2970 ft / 905 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2810 ft / 857 m; Extra: 160 ft / 48m
    Loss on way in:160 ft / 48 m
    Distance:4 mi / 6.4 km
    Route:East on road to streambed then ridge south of peak
    Start Trailhead:West of Peak 2/3 of a mile before pedestrian gate  6400 ft / 1950 m
    Time:5 Hours 
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: Ladron BM & Peak

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Ladrones Benchmark2016-05-07 a2970 ft / 905 m
2Ladron Peak2016-05-07 b1145 ft / 349 m
Total Trip Gain: 4115 ft / 1254 m    Total Trip Loss: 825 ft / 252 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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