Ascent of Santa Fe Baldy on 2018-07-16

Climber: Stephen Mang

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Monday, July 16, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Santa Fe Baldy
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:12622 ft / 3847 m

Ascent Trip Report

My dad called me up and asked if I'd be willing to drive with him from Orange County to Santa Fe in one day so he didn't have to get a hotel in Flagstaff. I said sure, thinking we'd do the drive on Sunday, I'd find something interesting to do in the mountains on Monday morning, and I could fly home Monday night. Santa Fe Baldy fit the bill for "something interesting" because it's big, it wouldn't take too long, and it seemed like a nice trail from all the trip reports online. Sold.

We got to Santa Fe at 6 PM on Sunday evening in the middle of a thunderstorm, had dinner, and passed out. Monday morning we got a slow start. I dropped my dad off for his weekly bike ride from town up to the ski basin, drove up to the Windsor trailhead, and hit the trail by 8:45 AM. From everything I heard it's incredibly important to be off the peak by noon because of thunderstorms, but I was running so this wasn't going to be an issue.

After the short, steep climb up Windsor trail (254) to the Pecos Wilderness boundary, I was on trail I'd never been on before. There's about 300' of descent over a couple miles to the turnoff for Nambe Lake; I saw quite a few hikers on this section, but after the turnoff I had the trail all to myself. It was a beautiful trail, very runnable but with enough obstacles to keep things interesting. Meadows, pines, and aspens all made an appearance. At 11,000' I left the Windsor trail at a signed junction and continued on the Sky Line trail (251) up to the saddle at 11,600'. Here you can continue straight to go to Lake Katherine, but I made the left onto an un-numbered but signed trail toward the peak. Initially the trail was tough to follow through a rock field, but then it opened up into a grassy area and was distinct all the way to the peak.

There was a herd of cows hanging out at 12,000', and with the trail briefly blocked I had some time to pause and look around. Looking back over the Rio Nambe drainage I saw very ominous clouds gathering over Lake and Penitente peaks, but the sky over my head was a non-threatening gray so I wasn't too worried, plus it was only about 10:30 AM. I made it to the peak after the cows moved, encountering a bunch of marmots but nothing else of interest. Just as I touched the summit cairn on Baldy it started to sprinkle. That was my cue to leave, so I didn't hunt for a sign or register or anything else. I started running for the treeline and by the time I was back down to 12,300' the sky had fully opened up, with heavy rain and pea-sized hail. I still didn't hear thunder or see lightning, but the hail was enough to tell me that I should make as much haste as possible. By the time I reached the trees (11,300') the hail had stopped but the rain was relentless, and the cell over by the ski basin was putting on a real sound-and-light show. The remainder of my run back to the ski area parking lot was done in a soaking rain that turned the trail into a stream and had my hands and feet feeling like blocks of ice.

I made it back to the car in a total time of 3:40, with a time to the summit of 2 hours flat. The descent was slowed a lot by the trail conditions - not being able to see where your feet will land because you're running down a creek makes it hard to get any speed going. Total mileage was a little less than 14, with an elevation gain of about 2600'. The trail was completely above 10,000', which was a little tough on this flatlander but not as bad as I was fearing.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2300 ft / 701 m
    Round-Trip Distance:14 mi / 22.5 km
    Route:Windsor Trail / Sky High Trail
    Trailhead:Ski Santa Fe  10322 ft / 3146 m
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 40 Minutes

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