Ascent of Latir Mesa on 2019-07-09

Climber: Will Wente

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Latir Mesa
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:12692 ft / 3868 m

Ascent Trip Report

We tied a family car camping trip to the Latir Lakes with this run/hike of six of NM's 12,000'+ peaks in northern NM (Latir, Venado, Virsylvia, Cabresto, 12456, and Bull Creek). The Latir Lakes is part of the Rio Costillo Park, which charges $20/night for camping and $7/day for fishing. We camped at the 3rd lake (largest) beginning on Sunday July 7, departed on the 13th, and pretty much had the place to ourselves with the exception of some day trippers. The fishing was excellent, especially at the 4th lake, which was a short, steep hike along the stream, past a waterfall.

I left camp with Zeus at 7:30. Because we were camped at the west end of the 3rd lake, we followed the trail to the 4th lake briefly before bushwacking through the woods until we found the maintained trail that connects the 9 lakes. That trail seemed to disappear at the 8th lake and we ascended cross country to the ridge that took us to Latir Peak. After 1.25 mi we were above 12,000 ft, and would stay above 12k for basically the remainder of the hike until we descended back to the lakes. After 2 mi. and 1:00, we were at Latir Peak with great views of the lakes, Venado and Virsylvia Peaks, as well as the mountains to the south. The wind was blowing and along with the cool morning air, made me put on my windbreaker. Otherwise, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and would stay that way for the day. Zeus has been on enough of these hikes to recognize the huge rock cairn, but he was pretty hyped up to continue on.

On our way to Venado Peak, we crossed Latir Mesa. The descent off Latir Mesa was down a talus slope, but wasn't long or bad. Most of the day was across high alpine, tufted grassy meadows, which was the case to Venado. The footing was a little too uneven for running, and besides it seemed like I was either climbing or descending quickly, which made running arduous. We reached Venado Pk after 3.5 mi and 1:30. The views kept on getting better, if that was possible. I could see the trail I'd follow, after returning from Virsylvia, on the way to Cabresto. It was the one stretch that seemed to have a trail.

From Venado, we continued along the ridge and picked up a slight descending trail amidst all the animal trails and wrapped around the peak until we had a view of Virsylvia Peak. Here Zeus ran off after a couple elk, but they were too far away. As I was counting those few elk, I looked further up the south facing aspect to just below the Virsylvia ridge and there was a herd of some 100 elk, making all sorts of noise and contouring west well ahead of us. Quite the sight! We descended into the saddle between the peaks then climbed up to the ridge and traversed to Virsylvia Peak where I found the first peak register. We arrived after 4.37 mi and 1:52. I was the first to sign in for 2019 -- the register dated back to 2017. The elk were out of sight well before we reached Virsylvia.

We retraced our steps, climbing back toward Venado, before contouring and then descending steeply to the ridge trail north of where the Bull Creek trail meets it. This was the longest stretch of relative flatness, which made for a nice change. In fact, the ascent to Cabresto Peak was not as steep a climb as the others. We arrived after 7.17 mi and 2:55. Here we found the 2nd register. Again we were the first to sign in for 2019. Someone had signed in on 12/27/2017, which was the winter in which we hardly received any snow.

The trip back to the saddle with Peak 12,456, the only unnamed peak we'd ascend, was a breeze. Temperatures were definitely warmer now and the breeze intermittent. It was a steeper but short ascent to the peak, and we were on top by 8.19 mi and 3:27.

The descent off the peak and over to Bull Creek Peak was fast (8.76 mi and 3:47). We descended across the only snow field that was in our way along our hike. After crossing the saddle, we ascended the talus field on the south aspect of the peak, but avoided the loose talus descent by descending slightly to the east and then contouring across the talus, which seemed better. The ascent from the saddle back to the ridge was steep and a bit of a labor. Had to work a little to kick steps in the snow -- the first attempt I slid right off the snow field. After reaching the ridge trail, it was a fairly pleasant return run to the lakes with either an easy trail or large cairns to follow. At Latir Mesa, we spooked a group of 15-20 big horn sheep on the steeper talus. We traversed on the trail to the east of Latir Mesa and as we rounded the peak spotted the only other hiker we'd seen all day -- Christie with our other dog Zia. Ethan and Taren appeared shortly thereafter. They had slept in, then hiked to the different lakes, taking my descent route up from the 9th lake to above treeline. We sat and had lunch together, enjoying the views in all directions, with the lakes spread out below us. Eventually, we descending the north facing slope to the 9th lake, do a bit of butt-sliding on the large snow field above the lake.

The total for the hike to this point was 12.19 mi., 5 hrs 43 min., and 4724 ft elevation gain. What a terrific hike on a beautiful day! Some of the most spectacular country NM has to offer!

Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Start Trailhead:Latir Lakes  
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: Latir Lake (0 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Latir Peak2019-07-09 
2Latir Mesa2019-07-09 
3Venado Peak2019-07-09 
4Virsylvia Peak2019-07-09 
5Cabresto Peak2019-07-09 
6Peak 124562019-07-09 
7Bull Creek Peak2019-07-09 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

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

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