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Ascent of Trouble Benchmark on 2014-06-28

Climber: Phil Robinson

Others in Party:Garret Robinson
Date:Saturday, June 28, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Trouble Benchmark
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:12622 ft / 3847 m

Ascent Trip Report

This is the 4th year my son Garret and I have tried to make this hike, and finally we did it! The last 3 years the area was closed, during the time we needed to go, because of fire danger. There is a small window of yearly time that this hike can be done. If someone were to go in May, or even early June, the snow could be too deep to accomplish the hike without great difficulty. There is no water on the ridge, so we had to harvest snow for drinking water. If someone were to wait past the middle of July, on into August, it is possible the snow would be gone, and because we spent almost 3 days on the ridge, above the timberline, and above 12,000 feet in elevation, those dates could be dangerous because of the monsoon season’s lightning on the ridge. The perfect window of time is the last week in June and the first week in July. I picked the 4 days for this trip because it was a no moon time and I wanted to enjoy the spectacular dark star filled sky.
Day 1
We left my son’s house Thursday June 26, 2014 at 5:00 AM and headed to Espanola, New Mexico then east towards the Santa Barbara campground at the edge of the Pecos Wilderness. We started the hike 1.3 miles north of Santa Barbara campground, trail #28. I dropped Garret and backpacks off at the starting point, drove the car to the campground to park. It was 8:25 AM. I jogged on the road to meet Garret and the packs. It was a pleasant cool morning when we started the hike. The elevation was 8600 feet. I was carrying a heavier than usual backpack, 48 pounds, because we needed to bring extra water. There are no streams on the ridge. We were going to have to carry lots of water and harvest snow. I was carrying 11.25 pounds of water. (180 oz or 5 & 1/3 liters) I was also carrying 10 & 2/3 pounds of food which includes 2 pounds of restaurant grade prime rib eye steak. So of my 48 pound backpack, 22 pounds were food and water. We could feel the chug as we started off but it sure felt good to be hiking! Garret was not interested in hiking the 10K peaks so at about the 3 mile mark he waited as I bushwhacked up the steep hill. I left my pack with Garret. I arrived at the top of Bear Mountain, elevation 10,253 feet, 2 hours and 15 minutes and 3.2 miles after starting. There was no view at the top. It was tree covered. I hiked back down the hill and we continued on up the trail. Trail 28 turns into trail 22 and a short while later is the last water, a little spring on the right side of the trail. We hiked a little further and left our backpacks at a fork in the trail. We headed to Penascoso Mountain, elevation 10,979. Half way to the peak Garret decided he did not want to do that 10K peak. I continued hiking going further and further down hill. Climbing the peak was difficult. First I had to do some bushwhacking, then climbing over large boulders, finally I came to a cliff. It felt a little dangerous, but not overly, so I climbed the 20 foot cliff. At the top of the cliff was a nice view and I continued on another tenth of a mile to the top. This was 7.9 miles from the start and took 6 hours. I did not want to return by way of the cliff so I headed to the northeast and was able to avoid it. It was very steep going down but better than backing down the cliff. I continued back up the trail, met Garret, then we continued back to our backpacks for a short snack. By now I had hiked 9.5 miles in 7 hours. To do Penascoso & back to our packs took an elevation gain of 1524 feet. The trail changed to # 36. The next part of the hike was the hardest for me of the entire 4 days. Chugging straight up a trail with a full backpack after doing 10 miles already. Besides doing 9 peaks on this trip I also hiked 5 high point bumps. I hiked over to bump 11,518 then proceeded to Ripley Point, elevation 11,799. Ripley Point is tree covered with no view. I got a second wind and we hiked downhill planning to stop at the first snow. In a big flat meadow, perfect for camping, we spotted a patch of snow and decided to set up the first night’s camp. The elevation was 11,655. We hiked almost 9 hours to get to this point and 11.3 miles. We set up our tents and began to harvest water from the snow. Garret brought a large black shower bag. He filled it up and put it in the sun. We filled up our clear containers and put them in the sun also. Garret made a nice fire ring, gathered wood and lit a campfire. The campfire roared down to coals and I dropped my 2 ounce chicken wire grill on top. I boiled water with my little Coleman fuel camp stove for rice and I dropped our prime cut rib eye steaks on the grill. Some of the best steak I have ever eaten have been cooked this way, and this was no exception. After the steaks were cooked I toasted bagels on the grill. The steaks and the rest of the dinner were wonderful! We enjoyed an evening campfire until late, then walked up the hill to a large open area to admire the stars before bed.
Day 2
We decided to take a leisure Friday morning before continuing hiking. We slept until about 8:30, had a nice dehydrated meal called breakfast skillet, enjoyed the meadow and the views, continued to harvest water and slowly packed up. The black shower bag did melt some water, but it seemed to work better filling our 100 ounce camel backs and clear jugs with snow and putting them in the sun. We didn’t start hiking until 10:50 AM. We did not see the next patch of snow until 6 tenths of a mile later. We felt so blessed to have snow in our first night’s camping area. I was like God left a little bit of snow just for us in the perfect place. We reached the timberline at 12,000 feet in elevation and stayed above that elevation until Sunday. The views were spectacular and remained that way for the next 3 days. We were ridge hiking on Skyline Ridge! It also became colder. We were now living in the arctic tundra climate zone. For the next 2 days we wore our Feathered Friends down jackets as the wind howled too much around us. We hiked over to bump 12,499 on our way to the next peak. Two hours after leaving base camp, 13.4 miles from the start, we reached Jicarita Peak North, elevation 12,510. We proceeded, in the cold wind, to the 12,240 saddle and then up towards the next peak. This was the second hardest part of the hike, chugging up a very steep mountain with a full backpack to the tallest Jicarita Peak, 12,835. We arrived 3 hours and 30 minutes after leaving our camp and 14.6 miles from the start. We enjoyed the views and I took lots of pictures. We continued down to the next saddle, 12,540, then up to Jicarita Peak South, 12,828. We were 15.8 miles from the start and 4 hours and 45 minutes from last night’s camp. I imagine there have not been too many people that have hiked the 3 Jicarita peaks with full backpacks. It is quite a pull! I have been ridge hiking many times but I do not think I have ever seen the high alpine wildflowers looking so spectacular! Everywhere we went for our 2 days on the ridge different alpine wildflowers were filling the spaces with rich beauty across the entire color spectrum! We decided to camp before our next peak. We were looking for an area that was a little more sheltered from the wind. As we hiked we saw a group of male bighorn sheep, then a little later we saw a group of female bighorn sheep. We spied what looked like a good camping place in the distance and hiked to that spot. The wind was a little better, but there was no relief from most of the wind, so we set up camp. We had now hiked 17.7 miles from the start and 6.4 miles for the day. We hiked 6.5 hours today, including a short lunch stop. The wind was so strong that we could not put the flies on our tents. We aimed the pointed end of each tent into the wind. We were camping at an elevation of almost 12,400 feet. The highest I have ever camped. It was so cold we decided not to harvest snow until the next day. There was plenty of snow in patches all across the ridge. There was a small group of bristle cone pines nearby, so we cooked dinner there. Garret made a rock wall wind break but we did not get much of a chance to use it. We mostly used the trees as a cooking wind break and to try to keep a little bit warmer. Garret had dehydrated lasagna and I had dehydrated chicken teriyaki. For dessert we had my favorites, dehydrated raspberry crisp. We went to bed shortly after the sun set. In the middle of the night I pulled back my door and slept part way outside. It was a fantastic night; watching the stars, the milky way and falling stars throughout the night.
Day 3
We also took a slow morning getting out on day 3. We got up around 8:00 AM, filled our jugs with snow and put them in the sun, had a dehydrated bacon and eggs breakfast, packed up and headed out at 10:25 AM. Besides the beautiful grassy and alpine wildflower covered ridge, a number of areas were covered with boulders and we had to do boulder hiking a number of times over the 3 days. We proceeded to bump 12,441 then bump 12,529 and then on to Trouble Benchmark Peak, elevation 12,622. We saw some marmots and more bighorn sheep. The wind was still cold and cutting and we continued to wear our down jackets. We arrived at trouble peak 2 & ½ hours after leaving camp, 20.5 miles from the start. I have a feeling why they call it Trouble Peak. There are quite a few boulders fields getting to the peak and an especially difficult one to the west when we left the peak. I hiked over to bump 12,362 then proceeded up the difficult haul to Santa Barbara Peak, elevation 12,640. In the valley of the East Fork of the Santa Barbara River are beautiful lakes and meadows. I have hiked in this valley 6 times before and today will be the 7th time I have hiked Santa Barbara Peak. I have hiked it so many times because the area is one of my favorite in the world. I hiked the peak 2 times when I was in Boy Scouts, 3 times with friends and in 1992, with my then 12 year old son Garret and 10 year old son Brandon. It was a 35 mile, 5 day, first time hike for the boys and I made a peakbagging hater out of Brandon. It was too tough for a 10 year old. In the beautiful meadows of the East Fork we saw well over 100 elk grazing and sitting in the green grass near the little lakes. We made the top of Santa Barbara peak and saw maybe 75 more elk to the west. It took us 5 and 1/2 from the start of camp today and 21 & 1/3 miles from the start Thursday. It was clear the entire 4 day hike and the views were outstanding any direction that one looked, but it was still cold and windy! Garret’s wife was watching their 2 kids and having a little bit of difficulty with her voice so he talked about continuing on to the car today but I explained to him that we would be hiking in the dark and get back to the car past midnight. Too much too late! We continued to the north to our next peak and decided to camp in an area with less wind, We stopped before our final peak near some high mountain blue spruce trees. We arrived at the third day’s camp after hiking 24. 4 miles from the start, 6.7 miles and 6 hours and 15 minutes from the morning camp. We were camping at an elevation of 12,175 feet. We decided not to set up tents and sleep out in the open to enjoy the theater of stars! Garret found a place tucked up against the blue spruce and I went up the hill in the open. We relaxed, looked around awhile, watched the 100 plus elk with many baby elk travel trough a pass nearby, saw 4 deer look over another ridge at us, then cooked dehydrated shepherds pie. Laying down near the trees was one of the first times I was warm, not counting being in my sleeping bag. We went to bed shortly after the sun set and I woke up many times in the night just to stare at the star filled sky.
Day 4
We got up at 6:00 AM, ate breakfast, harvested a little more snow, packed up and left camp at 7:30 AM. We hiked the short distance to our last peak, Little Jicarita Peak East, elevation 12,328. It was 7:45 and 24.8 miles from the start. I studied the best way down when I hiked Little Jicarita Peak West several years ago with my daughter Lauren. We went straight to the north down a gradual slope. It was easy at first then became more difficult as we had to cross boulder fields and bushwhack over many, many fallen logs. Near the bottom we headed northwest until we met the middle fork trail. It felt like we were gliding down the trail after so many boulders and fallen logs. We still had almost 6 miles to go. We continued hiking until a large open meadow. I camped here with my 2 boys in 1992 and 3 other times in the past. The hike was now warm, green, flower filled and beautiful. We followed near the beautiful Santa Barbara River. It was as lush and green as any place in the world. The hike out, and the ridge we just completed, is one of my favorite places in the world! Near the bridge about a mile or so from Santa Barbara campground we saw 42 big trees that had been uprooted quickly and violently. I have never seen anything like it in my life. We talked about a flood doing it, or an avalanche, or strong wind and all the evidence ruled those possibilities out. We figured it was a quick very violent spinning wind and we were right. In the Santa Barbara campground was a sign talking about the “wind deadfall event,” a microburst! It had happened in the last 30 days and almost made the area impassable. When I called to ask more questions about the event I was told there had been another “wind deadfall event,” microburst, 6 or 7 years ago in the Pecos that had destroyed almost all the trees in a 4 mile long stretch, along trail 158. Last year’s forest fire burned out the area. It is an amazing event! I have never heard about this phenomena but plan to do more research. I can’t image being in the area when it happened. We arrived, worn out, at Santa Barbara Campground. I hiked 34. 4 miles over the 4 days and Garret hiked about 31 miles. My total elevation gain for the trip was 7558 feet. We arrived back at camp after hiking 9.8 miles today in 6 hours. This was a very special hike for me, and I would not have done this hike if my son were not able to go. Besides hiking in my favorite place in the world, the thing that meant the most to me was hiking this spectacular area with my son!
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:674 ft / 205 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country
    Gear Used:
Tent Camp
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:674 ft / 205 m
    Extra Loss:392 ft / 119 m
    Distance:2.8 mi / 4.5 km
    Route:Saddle between Jicarita S. & Trouble Peak
    Trailhead:Night 2 Camp  12340 ft / 3761 m
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: Skyline & Jicarita  (3 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
OrderPeak/PointDate
1Bear Mountain2014-06-26 a
2Peñascoso Mountain2014-06-26 b
3Ripley Point2014-06-26 c
4Jicarita Peak-North Peak2014-06-27 d
5Jicarita Peak2014-06-27 e
6Jicarita Peak-South Peak2014-06-27 f
7Trouble Benchmark2014-06-28 g
8Santa Barbara Peak2014-06-28 h
9Little Jicarita Peak2014-06-29 i
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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