Ascent of Peak 12429 on 2016-06-30

Climber: Phil Robinson

Others in Party:Just me
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Thursday, June 30, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Peak 12429
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:12429 ft / 3788 m

Ascent Trip Report

I had been pondering this set of 3 peaks for several years and knew that it would be one of the toughest on my list of peaks to hike. I thought about an overnighter, but didn’t want to carry all my gear to the top. I knew I could do it in a day, but it would be a tough hall. To make my hike easier, my wife and I stayed 2 nights in Taos, New Mexico, that way I would not be driving 7 hours the same day of the hike. I studied all of the angles on maps and Google Earth and came up with 2 possible routes. To make my hiking more efficient, I scouted the 2 possible areas the day before. One area, north of the peak, looked overgrown and not very accessible. The second choice, northwest of the peaks, looked the best. On the way to Taos Ski Area I planned to stop at Cuchillo de Medio Campground, ford the stream and follow a ridgeline to the top.

I left the condo at 5:00 AM and was hiking by 5:20. It was first light, and in the dusk of the morning I forded the stream and there was a steep hill. It didn’t look like what I saw yesterday! I went further up the hill and, “Oh no!” it was not the correct area. I looked at the map and should have driven further to the east. I went down, forded the stream and back to the car. I drove further to the east and started again at about 5:40 AM. It was a disheartening start for such a tough day ahead. My incorrect stop was part of the same campground and looks just like the other area in the dusk light of the morning. It was a cool cloudy morning with the temperature in low 50’s. The entire hike the temperature stayed in the 50’s. The starting elevation, after dropping down to the stream, was 7967 feet. The day before I scouted to see if there was some type of log bridge or rocks to cross. The rushing stream is about a foot deep and maybe 40 feet to cross. Without great pains, there is no way to keep the feet dry, no log bridge, no rocks to cross. I marched across the stream not concerned with wet boots. They would lose their sogginess in about a half mile. I headed up to the ridge. The ridge has hard areas, nice easy stretches, 2 brutal areas, some boulders to deal with, and not too many downed trees. The elevation gain to reach Peak 11,912 is a real kicker. I climbed straight up the mountain, 3945 feet. I arrived at the top after hiking 3.4 miles. It took 3 hours and 15 minutes to hike. The top, and also the ridge getting there, is tree covered with only occasional views. I proceeded to the next peak, heading almost directly east. There are a few up-downs along the way. The hike is through the forest with only an occasional view. I arrived at South Fork Peak, elevation 11,978, after hiking 5.2 miles from the bottom. The total hike time was 4 hours and 55 minutes. It took almost another 1000 feet in elevation gain to reach the top. South Fork Peak is located on an edge with magnificent high alpine views in 3 directions. Looking towards the west it is tree covered. I took some pictures and headed towards Peak 12,429. The hike heads south, then southeast along a ridge. The forest opens up in places to show wonderful views along the ridge. Timberline in New Mexico is about 12,000 feet in elevation. All seventy plus 12K and 13K peaks have spectacular views……with the exception one. The expansive views makes hiking all 70+ peaks such a marvelous adventure! I reached timberline and the world opened up! Every direction magnificence! Ground level was covered with high alpine wildflowers. I arrived at Peak 12,429 after hiking 6 hours and 20 minutes. It was 12:00 noon. I had hiked 6.7 miles and added another 900 feet to my daily elevation gain. Further to the south is Vallecito Mountain. I hiked it with my son in 2008. (See my trip report) I debated doing it again. It only showed a half mile as the crow flies. It looked like a nice grass covered hike with a final butt buster push. I decided to head that direction. Dark thunderclouds were starting to come in, and I came across a jagged decline, so half way along, I decided to head back. If I had not already hiked the peak, I would have done it for sure. I was now 7 miles from the start. At this point I looked to the south and saw a large herd of big horn sheep quickly heading around a mountain. I headed back going below the last peak. Just as the hike descended below timberline, I heard thunder. I was able to skirt the second peak, going to the west. On northwest side of this peak, in the saddle, there is an old corral. It started to rain. I delayed putting on my poncho because sometimes it stops just as I put it on. I thought I could skirt the next peak, looking at the WRONG preplanning trek. I started down, then again, “Oh no!” I saw the wrong trek and had to head back uphill 200 extra feet to my original place. I put on my poncho because it was now really raining. I had to re-climb the first peak a second time. There is not a way to avoid hiking Peak 11,912 again. Part way up it stopped raining and I took off my poncho. I made the top. It was now 3:10 PM. It took another 1000 feet in elevation gain, including the 200 foot mistake. Now I had to descend almost 4000 feet straight off the mountain. I hiked what seemed like a very long way, looked at my GPS, and it had hardly moved. It took 3 hours and 10 minutes of hard downhill to get back. I wadded back across the stream and returned to my car. My GPS said I had hiked 13.6 miles, later when I saved the trip it said 11.3 miles and the same trek put on Google Earth said 12 miles. It felt like 13.6. I have a new Garmin Montana GPS so it might need some adjustments. My total elevation gain was 6859 feet. (Peakbagger’s app says 7191 elevation gain) That’s the most elevation gain I have ever had in a single day. In perspective: my 64 mile Mt. Whitney hike in California last year, going over several ridges, had a little over 12,000 feet in elevation gain over 6 days. This was over half that gain in a single day. It was a tough hike. I don’t know of an easier way to it, although I am sure there are much tougher ways. The total hiking time was 12 hours and 40 minutes. If your are speculating this hike by my time……….I pick a pace I can do all day without stopping, it is not too fast, but I can do it all day. I did not have any stops except momentary stops to take a picture, catch a breath, or look around a little at the top. Rarely do I ever get a blister. This time I had a quarter size blood blister on my heal. I think it reflects the difficulty of the hike. I am 61 years old and I don’t think I could have done this hike in my Boy Scout hiking days or college. I told my wife it is 75% mental, and for this hike I had to push over the mental bump. It was wonderful to have a short drive back to Taos for the night and a nice dinner out.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:864 ft / 263 m
    Total Elevation Loss:35 ft / 10 m
    Route Conditions:
Open Country, Bushwhack
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:864 ft / 263 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 829 ft / 253 m; Extra: 35 ft / 10m
    Loss on way in:35 ft / 10 m
    Distance:1.5 mi / 2.4 km
    Route:South Fork Peak to saddle then up
    Start Trailhead:South Fork Peak  11600 ft / 3535 m
    Time:1 Hours 25 Minutes
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: South Fork Peak +2

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Peak 119122016-06-30 a3945 ft / 1202 m
2South Fork Peak2016-06-30 b978 ft / 298 m
3Peak 124292016-06-30 c864 ft / 263 m
4Peak 119122016-06-30 d1072 ft / 327 m
Total Trip Gain: 6859 ft / 2090 m    Total Trip Loss: 815 ft / 248 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.

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