Ascent of Capitan Peak on 2013-07-13

Climber: Rob Anthony

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, July 13, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Capitan Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:10083 ft / 3073 m

Ascent Trip Report

Left Socorro early in the morning and headed out to Capitan, NM. I took SR 246E for 32 miles to FR 130. I went up as far on FR 130 as I could in my lowered car, and parked at an old hunting campground. From here, I hiked 2 miles to the Capitan Peak trailhead (TR #64).

The Capitan Peak trail begins by meandering up through valleys and ridges covered with the charred remains of the 2004 fire. Consequently, there is not much shade during the summer and the hike was made more demanding because I was carrying a gallon and a half of water for myself and the dog. The only good source of water on this hike is a spring feed creek near the trailhead.

At about 8,000 ft, the trail tops out on a ridge and some shade is offered by non-burnt pine trees. Around 8,500 ft, the trail tread gets noticeably worse and the begins traversing scree slopes. After several switchbacks on the faint grass and rock path, I left the trail and bushwhacked straight towards where I expected the summit to be. I hit the summit in exactly 4 hours from my car.

The summit is in kind of a grassy field and is marked by a substantial rock cairn. The peak offers great views of the Capitan Mountains (including the highpoint), the Sacramento Mountains, and the surrounding plains of Southeastern NM and Western Texas. This is a class 1+ summit, just a rough trail and easy bushwhack.

From here, I decided to try and get to the Capitan Mountains HP, turned out to be a bad decision. I bushwhacked west and met up with the crest trail (#58). This trail is in terrible shape. There are literally trees felled everywhere and scree slopes to contend with for the ENTIRE ROUTE to the HP. My pace slowed to about 1 mph and I had to make many detours to avoid large clusters of felled trees. I lost the trail frequently and ended up doing lots of class 2 scrambling. Stubbornly, I pushed on hoping the trail would improve.

By 5 o'clock, I thought I was close to the summit, but knew I wouldn't be able to get back to a good trail by dark. I decided to call for help and arranged to be picked up on FR 56, which I knew was close and that I could walk down in the dark without risking injury.

I did hit the Capitan Mountains HP, but have decided not to count it, since I had to have my butt bailed out. I hit the radio towers and FR 56 around twilight and started heading West on FR 56. I was picked up about 3 miles down the road at the intersection with FR 9038D (Padilla trail #59).

I made some very ignorant decisions on this hike and was fortunate that everything ended well. I should have turned around when I discovered that the horrid condition of the Crest trail, and vow never to make a mistake like this again.

Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:5744 ft / 1750 m
    Elevation Loss:1933 ft / 588 m
    Distance:20 mi / 32.2 km
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Hot, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:4344 ft / 1324 m
    Extra Loss:50 ft / 15 m
    Distance:8.8 mi / 14.2 km
    Route:Capitan Peak Trail (#64)
    Trailhead:Hunting Campsite of FR 130  5789 ft / 1764 m
    Time Up:4 Hours 0 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:1883 ft / 573 m
    Extra Gain:1400 ft / 426 m
    Distance:11.2 mi / 18 km
    Route:Crest Trail #58. FR 56
    Trailhead:9600 ft / 2926 m
    Time Down:7 Hours 30 Minutes

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