Ascent of Hermit Peak on 2006-05-28

Climber: Edward Earl

Date:Sunday, May 28, 2006
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Hermit Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:10240 ft / 3121 m

Ascent Trip Report

Hermit Peak is a classic hike on a trail in the Santa Fe National Forest near the town of Las Vegas NM. Its profile is unmistakable: it is surrounded on three sides by sheer rock cliffs. Though not visible from Las Vegas itself because the sightline is obstructed by a foothill in the foreground, it is easily seen and identified from many other places in the surrounding area.

From business 25, the main N-S drag in Las Vegas, I headed W on Mills Ave just N of a Phillips 66 near the N end of town. After 1½ miles I turned R on NM-65, which is signed as Hot Springs Blvd. Zero your odometer here or use the mile posts, which also start at zero here. At 4.6 miles the centerline ends. At 12.9 miles the road forks; both branches are paved. The left branch is FR-263 and the right branch, which I took, is FR-261. At 15.0 miles I entered the NF. Half a mile later is the Hermit Peak trailhead, which has a gravel parking area immediately off the road. Signs indicate that the Hermit Peak trail is #223.

After just 2 minutes on the trail I turned left at a fork where there is a sign with an arrow with no apparent meaning. After 1 more minute the trail crosses a gravel road within view of the El Porvenir CG. After 10 more minutes the trail came to a jeep road; I turned L, went 100', and found the signed continuation of Hermit Peak trail #223.

The trail gains elevation steadily and has many switchbacks as it climbs the steep rock-walled gully between Hermit Pk and a subsidiary hilltop to its SW. At 9900', the trail tops out at a rock outcrop near a saddle. The trail then turns right and heads upward toward the summit in the forest. At Hermit Spring, which is at the campground shown on the topo, is a trail junction. A sign says the left branch goes ½ mile to Hermit Peak and provides no indication about the right branch. I took the left branch, which contoured around the W and N sides of the the peak but never approached the summit directly. Eventually, I reached the E rim near its N end. The views were great as I moseyed southward along the rim, following the trail intermittently. Eventually I discovered a trail that headed W directly to the summit. The summit itself is forested and offers no views. I located the witness mark in an open patch of grass about 25' S of the highest point on the trail, but I was unable to locate the benchmark. I stepped on every patch of ground that seemed like it might be the highest earth.

Continuing W on the summit trail, I arrived back at the spring and junction and found I had returned via what was originally the right branch. The sign at the junction, therefore, is a little misleading in that the right branch takes a more direct route to the summit.

Total time was 5 hours, 2800' elev gain.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2740 ft / 835 m
    Distance:6 mi / 9.7 km
    Route:Hermit Pk Trail
    Trailhead:El Porvenir CG  7500 ft / 2286 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:2 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:2 Hours 

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