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Ascent of Simpson Peak on 2018-06-16

Climber: Phil Robinson

Others in Party:My daughter Christina
Date:Saturday, June 16, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Simpson Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:12976 ft / 3955 m

Ascent Trip Report

Day 1: My daughter Christina came to town for a 2 week visit and we made plans to have a 3 day peakbagging and backpacking adventure. I originally planned for us to peakbag in the Pecos Wilderness, but fire restrictions closed the area. We decided to go to the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, home of the highest peak in New Mexico. We left the house at 5:00 AM, June 15, 2018. We drove to the town of Red River then went south on Highway 578 to the East Fork Parking area. We arrived at 8:20 and were hiking by 8:40. The starting elevation was 9630 and it was a cool clear morning. Christina brought her dog Bane along for the trip. I had a 34 pound pack and Christina had a 29 pound pack and Bane a little pack with food. New Mexico was in the middle of a drought, so I was surprised how lush and green everything was. We could hardly find a square meter that did not have wildflowers in it. We started hiking on Trail 56, later this turned into Trail 91. I have 2 speeds of hiking, one is a slow a pace, but I can do it all day without stopping. Then I have a “let’s move it” pace. I used the slow pace, and except for some standing pictures stops, we did not stop all the way until we reached our camp at Horseshoe lake. We made it in 4 hours and 20 minutes. That was an hour and 15 minutes quicker than my trip 6 years ago. My GPS said the hike was 7.2 miles with an elevation gain of 2412 feet. It was 1:00 PM when we arrived. On our hike up we saw deer, bighorn sheep and marmots. The first night we stayed on the top of a little ridge above and northeast of Horseshoe Lake. Our camp was at an elevation of almost 12,000 feet. This is above the timberline and arctic wildflowers were everywhere. We set up camp in an area with spectacular views. I usually like to bring prime t-bone steaks, and cook them on the fire the first night, but the area was under stage 2 fire restrictions, so we planned on cooking dehydrated meals for the entire trip. I planned to cook these meals on my little propane stove, but in the fray of also helping Christina pack I forgot my pot to boil water. I racked my brain trying to figure out how we could boil water to cook our dehydrated meals. Then I remembered 4 sheets of aluminum foil I had been carrying for years and never used. The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared” and the older I get the more valuable the understanding of the motto gets. I carry many little things I “never” use but when I need them they are invaluable. With 4 sheets I made a rough pot and we were able to use it to boil water for 6 servings. The first evening I had dehydrated lasagna and Christina had chicken teriyaki. I tried a new water filter system for the first time and it is the best! It is a 10 liter gravity bag by Katadyn and only weighs 12 ounces. It rapidly dispenses purified water to the degree it almost feels like a spigot, compared to old ways. It gave us about a liter a minute. I only had to make 2 trips to the lake and we had way more water than we needed. We played some cards in her tent before we went to bed. We planned to get up at sunrise, but there was a strong steady wind flapping our tents and it made it hard for both of us to sleep. I thought it rained for 2 hours but it was only the wind. I knew rain was coming, the remnant of Pacific Coast Hurricane Bud. Usually I watch the weather and try to avoid large storms but we did not have a choice. This was the only time Christina could go.


Day 2: The wind became too much for both of us! I asked Christina if she wanted to start hiking in the dark. She did, and we started hiking at 4:00 AM with flashlights. We hoped to try to beat the coming storm. We circled the lake and headed up the south ridge then west. The entire hike was filled with dramatic elements; hiking in the dark, watching twilight appear, feeling a part of the magnificent sunrise, seeing ominous clouds heading our way, and then being a part of the storm. We arrived at Simpson Peak, elevation 12,976, after hiking an hour and 35 minutes. It was about 2 miles from camp. Our elevation gain was 3620 feet since the start of the hike yesterday. It was 5:35 AM and the sun was just peaking over distant Baldy Mountain. As we were continuing on with our hike we heard a pack of coyotes with their crazy yips. It sounded so odd in the early morning hours. With the storms coming we switched to my “lets move it” pace. Some maps show the land we were moving into as mostly forest service land with the peaks slightly over the edge, others show it as Taos Reservation land. Years ago I received permission to do a few peaks on the edge by Taos rangers and we didn’t see any “No Trespassing” signs so we went on. We were really moving it! We saw a herd of elk along the way. We cut off the trail and headed straight for Peak 12,014. We were bushwhacking and this was very hard for Christina. We should have stayed on the trail to Larkspur Peak then cut east along the ridge to Peak 12,014 then headed back down to the trail. We did not know this. All the massive foggy darkening clouds were moving in. It started to sprinkle. We fought up the hill to the top of Peak 12,014. There was a tiny scramble on the top. It was now 7:30 AM, about 3.5 miles from Simpson Peak and 12.7 miles from the start yesterday and we had gained 4230 feet. It took us about 2 hours to hike from Simpson Peak. It was raining so hard we had to put on rain ponchos, but we were already wet to the bone. We made a poor attempt at a garbage bag rain poncho for Bane. We cut west on the Ridge to Larkspur. It took about 35 minutes to get there and seven tenths of a mile. The time was 8:05 AM. Christina came from near sea level in California and was having a slight bit of elevation sickness and with the thin oxygen air was very worn out. Her dog was a little worn out too. We did not do any bushwhacking on the way back. The trail took us all the way back to “Simpson Peak” ridge. To get to the ridge there is an elevation gain of about 1300. My jacket was wet. It was cold and I had another “Be Prepared” moment. I got out a little 2 ounce 100 percent wool head face and neck hat that I have carried for years, but never used. It kept me amazingly warm. It was a beautiful hike, but with the rain, elevation sickness and concern about her dog Christina did not want to do Wheeler Peak. We had a late breakfast of dehydrated blueberries, milk and granola on the ridge then parted. She went down the trail we had come up and I went to Wheeler Peak. I gave her a walkie-talkie so that we could communicate. As soon as we went our separate ways the heaviest part of the storm hit. The eye of a hurricane is calm, but the eye-wall has the most powerful wind. The remnant of Hurricane Bud’s eye-wall must have just hit. It was a wild storm and it felt like near hurricane force wind with rain and hail on the top of Wheeler Peak. She tried to ask me a question with the walkie-talkie and I had to huddle behind the “Wheeler Peak Sign” to be able to hear her. It was kind of wild fun on top, and kind of not! It was now 18.2 miles from the start. I hiked 4.8 miles from Larkspur Peak in 3.5 hours with some stops. I had been hiking 6 hours and 15 minutes including some stops. This is my 3rd trip to the highest New Mexico peak, 6 years ago with my friend Jim, and 12 years ago with my son Garret. Christina missed the highest peak in New Mexico by three-tenths of a mile, but she said she might do it another time. It was a good choice that she did not go. It was a wild storm and she and the dog were very worn out. It was tough fighting the storm. I hiked over to Mt. Walter, elevation 13,138. It was so cloudy/foggy that I was not sure of the correct way down the ridge. I huddled in my rain poncho and put in an old trek from 6 years ago and followed the ridge down on my GPS. It was hard wind all the way down until near the lake. The total hike was 19.6 miles, 12.4 miles for the day. The up-down elevation gain was 7222 feet from the start yesterday. It was 9 hours and 10 minutes from our 4:00 AM start. It was 1:10 PM. I met up with Christina in camp and laid down to take a nap. The hard wind was flapping the tent again! We had planned to move camp. I was worn out and didn’t wanted to move it until after a rest, but the get-it-over-with feeling was greater. We took everything heavy out of our 2 tents, took out the stakes, then carried the tents, opened up, below the ridge to a tree-enclosed, almost wind free zone and set up camp again. We only moved a short distance, but it made all the difference for a restful night’s sleep. We took a nap then got up and cooked in the make-shift pot. I had dehydrated shepherd’s pie and Christina had lasagna for dinner. We had a dehydrated chocolate cheese cake mix with chocolate crumbles. I put dehydrated bananas and strawberries in it and we had a great dessert! I walked up to the lake thanking God for a fearful and wonderful day. While I looked at distant Baldy Mountain I saw a beautiful round rainbow. I have never seen a round rainbow before. I took some amazing pictures of it. We went to bed early and both had a great night’s sleep.

Day 3: We let the sun get us up at about 6:45. We took a leisure morning packing up and getting out. We had a “skillet” breakfast of eggs, potatoes, sausage, peppers and onions then packed up. It started to rain so we put on rain ponchos. We left camp at 8:45. It was a nice hike down and soon we took off the ponchos. We enjoyed the wildflowers, mountain streams, greenery and the gorgeous views on the way down. It took 3 hours and 50 minutes to leisurely hike down. The total hike was 26.2 miles. The total up-down elevation gain for the 3 days was 7297 feet. It was Father’s Day and I felt so blessed to be with my wonderful daughter Christina on that day! We went to Red River, had a burger at a little burger shop, then headed home. (16 more to go)

See almost 1500 NM peak pictures.... https://peakery.com/members/Phil-Robinson/
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3420 ft / 1042 m
    Total Elevation Loss:74 ft / 22 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country
    Gear Used:
Tent Camp
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3420 ft / 1042 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3346 ft / 1020 m; Extra: 74 ft / 22m
    Loss on way in:74 ft / 22 m
    Distance:9.2 mi / 14.8 km
    Route:Trail 56 to Horseshoe Lake
    Start Trailhead:Wheeler Peak Parking Trail 56 to Horseshoe Lake  9630 ft / 2935 m
    Time:6 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Route:To Peak 12,014
Ascent Part of Trip: Wheeler 12014 Larkspur +2 (2 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
OrderPeak/PointDateGain
1Simpson Peak2018-06-16 a3420 ft / 1042 m
2Peak 120142018-06-16 b1164 ft / 355 m
3Larkspur Peak2018-06-16 c200 ft / 61 m
4Wheeler Peak2018-06-16 d2130 ft / 649 m
5Mount Walter2018-06-16 e383 ft / 117 m
Total Trip Gain: 7297 ft / 2224 m    Total Trip Loss: 1911 ft / 584 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Phil Robinson
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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. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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