Ascent of Sierra Blanca Peak on 2018-03-05

Climber: Bradley R

Date:Monday, March 5, 2018
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Peak:Sierra Blanca Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:11679 ft / 3559 m

Ascent Trip Report

How I chose this hike: On vacation to New Mexico, wanted to summit it's only ultra

Parking: I placed "Ski Apache" into Google Maps, the trailhead is just before reaching Ski Apache.

The plan: Hike Scenic trail to Crest Trail (seems to be a combination of trails 15 and 25) to Lookout Mountain Trail then scramble to the top of Sierra Blanca Peak, and return via the same route. I didn't follow this on the return.

The hike: I started a few minutes before 8:40 AM. There was iceand snow early on, and I contimplated going ahead and putting on my snow shoes, but ended up waiting. A little more than a half mile in I decide snow shoes will help, they stay on practically the rest of the day.

At 0.6 miles I meet a fork in the trail, but continue straight on the Crest trail (I think it was labeled 15 on the sign). After this much of the snow and ice disappears. The trail nears some of the runs on ski apache and I can hear the ski lift running and see a few people going down the slopes.

A little over a mile in the snow returns and exceeds what I was walking through ealier. I don't think I stepped on soil again until withing a mile of finishing. With the snow I have a bit of a hard time following the route, and based on the GPS I cut the corners on a few switch backs. Now at 2 miles of hiking I approach the slopes again and am out of the forest. Through here when the wind stops I quickly get warm, but as soon as a gust hits I'm cold again.

After 2.25 miles of hiking I've been struggling with post holding in many areas, despite my snowshoes and am having difficulty with route finding often. I'm thinking about turning around here, but know if I do I'll be upset with myslf later. Not long after I reach a rope that may represent the edge of the ski complex, I'm not sure. I go around the rope and continue on the route in my GPS.

Near 2.6 miles of hiking I take a left onto the Lookout Mountain Trail. After taking this turn the hiking is easier for a while and I get some of the first nice views. This helps to remotivate me. At roughly 3 miles the trils comes right next to the Ambush ski run. Through here the snow is too soft and I begin postholing again. But now I know I'm at least getting close to Lookout mountain.

3.3 miles in I walk behind the building for the Gondola, it's not running. Soon after this there's a sign for Lookout Moutain, I duck under a rope and head that way and reach Lookout's summit at 3.45 miles. There are wonderful views all around, including Sierra Blanca. I descend from Lookout and step onto the Game Trail ski run until I reach the corner of the ski area at 3.9 miles. Soon after this I reach the low point of the saddle and begin a steep ascent up toward Sierra Blanca. I find that the ice is quite hard in some places, but don't really have any difficulty with the snowshoes digging in.

At 4.45 miles I reach the top of this ridge, at what would end up being the high point of my hike. I head down from here to another saddle just prior to the final ridge up to the summit. This saddle is what I would consider a knife edge. To one side it's a shear cliff. With the snow and ice I didn't want to get too near it as I was afraid something would give and I would go with it. I stayed on the other side which was still quite steep and made some progress. Eventually, though, the ice becomes so hard that I don't feel my snowwhoes are digging in, and it would be quite a while before anything stopped me. I had a hard time making a decision, but finally turned around at 4.5 miles.

I return to Ski Apache via the same route I had left at 5.1 miles. I wanted to shorten the overall hike so I started down the Game Trail Ski run, as it seemed low on traffic. Soon I reached tape saying the run was closed, I thought this would be good since I wouldn't have to worry about traffic. I ducked under the tape and kept on until I met the Elk Lift Ski Run at 6.1 miles which was also closed, so I headed down it until I hit dirt (6.7 miles) on the opposite side of the parking lot from where I'd parked. I headed to the car and reached it at a total of 7.3 miles.

I'm disappointed I didn't reach the top, it's the closest I've ever gotten and had to turn around, but it was the right decision. What was left was beyond my ability.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2364 ft / 720 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2364 ft / 720 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7.3 mi / 11.8 km
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Snowshoes
    Weather:Cold, Very Windy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2064 ft / 629 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 1834 ft / 559 m; Extra: 230 ft / 70m
    Loss on way in:230 ft / 70 m
    Distance:4.5 mi / 7.2 km
    Route:Scenic>Crest>Lookout>Game Trail Ski Run>Scramble
    Start Trailhead:Scenic Trailhead  9845 ft / 3000 m
    Time:4 Hours 5 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:2134 ft / 650 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 1834 ft / 559 m; Extra: 300 ft / 91m
    Gain on way out:300 ft / 91 m
    Distance:2.9 mi / 4.6 km
    Route:Scramble>Game Trail Ski Run>Elk Lift Line Ski Run>
    End Trailhead:Sceninc Trailhead  9845 ft / 3000 m
    Time:2 Hours 26 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Sierra Blanca Attempt

Complete Trip Sequence:
 Lookout Mountain2018-03-05 a 
 (Attempt) Sierra Blanca Peak2018-03-05 b2364 ft / 721 m
Total Trip Gain: 2364 ft / 721 m    Total Trip Loss: 2364 ft / 721 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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