Ascent of Penitente Peak on 2021-06-13

Climber: Will Wente

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Sunday, June 13, 2021
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Penitente Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:12249 ft / 3733 m

Ascent Trip Report

Drove to Santa Fe Ski area parking lot, Sunday June 13, 2021, and started my run at 8:33 am on a beautiful, bluebird day with our dog Zeus. The parking lot by the TH was pretty much filled and there were LOTS of people out on the trails today. Took Windsor trail #254, which climbs 500 ft until it reaches the saddle at the Pecos Wilderness fence (0.72 mi). Followed Raven Ridge to the east along the fence-line on easy-to-follow, but steeply ascending trail. The trail breaks out of trees prior to reaching Deception Peak, 12,320 ft. I continued north on the trail over Deception Peak. Lake Peak is clearly visible as is the trail that follows on east side of the ridge with minor ups and downs. The trail (Class 2) to Lake Peak looks worse than it is and has little if any exposure, as long as the ridgeline is avoided. Arrived at Lake Peak (12,409 ft) with minimal route finding required after 3.17 mi., having run/hiked for 1 hr. 19 min. (1:19) from the car. This is the highest point on the hike and the views are tremendous and expansive. From the peak you can see Nambe Lake down below, Santa Fe Baldy, Redonda, the Truchas Peaks, and Pecos Baldy. There was a smoky haze in all directions, presumably from the fires in AZ. The forest fire east of Pecos Baldy was visible, and as I soaked in the views a lone helicopter fly toward the fire from the south.
The whole trail has either spectacular views above tree line or follows a moderate trail through beautiful woods. From Lake Peak, we descended east where the trail switchbacks on both sides ridge on the way to Penitente Peak (12,249 ft). There was a snow field in the saddle between Lake and Penitente Peaks, where the trail disappeared. Continuing to the NE along the ridge we arrived at Penitente. We met a couple backpackers returning to the SFSA parking lot via the route we’d just ascended. They wanted to pet Zeus, but he was all business. Descending off Penitente, we easily found the Skyline Tr. (#251) and descended it through the trees. It’s a beautiful trail and descends gently. There were a handful of downed trees across the trail still, which were easy to hop over, but not nearly as bad as the last time I ran this route in June 2017. Someone obviously spent a lot of time cleaning up the trail.

After 5.83 mi. (2:01), I reached the intersection with the Windsor Tr (#254), which we took all the way back to the car. We turned west on #254. At the junction where the Skyline Tr (#251) departs N to Windy Pass (read others call it this) and Lake Katherine, Zeus got mugged by a tiny, annoying dog, who seemed to think he was 10’ tall, but whose teeth probably weren’t long enough to get through Zeus’ coat. Zeus did a good job not returning the favor. Staying on #254, we finally crossed first of several stream crossings, where Zeus was happy to soak the paws and to lap up some water. It was a hot day, and even though it was still morning time, temps were probably approaching the 80s.

The well-trodden trail begins climbing after the last stream crossing (8.23 mi.), where the trail (#400) departs to Nambe Lake, and continues gently climbing (380 ft) until reaching the Raven Ridge saddle. The remaining trail is all downhill. Of course, I managed to roll my right ankle on a flat section of trail with a small root sticking proud, after I’d crossed countless other hazards. I made it back to the parking lot after 10.34 mi. (3 hrs exactly). Got to be one of my favorite loop runs along an easy trail, albeit with lots of climbing, but through some spectacular country with open vistas and dense forests. The trip back to town was pure Fahrvergnügen in the Tesla!
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Stream Ford
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Part of Trip: Lake Peak (0 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Deception Peak2021-06-13 a 
2Lake Peak2021-06-13 b 
3Penitente Peak2021-06-13 c 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Will Wente
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
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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