Ascent of Organ Needle on 2021-10-14

Climber: Rafee Memon

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Thursday, October 14, 2021
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Organ Needle
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:8980 ft / 2737 m

Ascent Trip Report

My last stop on my New Mexico road trip was Las Cruces, where I planned to climb Organ Needle, the high point of the strikingly beautiful Organ Mountains east of town. I planned to drive four hours to meet my family in Tucson after the hike, and I came very close to calling off the hike since I was pretty worn out and wouldn't mind arriving early. However, I convinced myself to go for it since my parents were expecting me late and I didn't have plans otherwise. I was a bit anxious about the class 3-4 crux section of the route near the summit, so I decided to wear my approach shoes for extra traction.

I arrived at the La Cueva Trailhead a little after 9am. I displayed my interagency pass in lieu of the $5 fee and started up the trail at 9:20am. It was windy, but luckily it was a very pleasant temperature. The first mile was easy, but shortly after that, the trail was much less traveled and overgrown from the big monsoon season. I debated going back to the car to change into long pants, but resigned myself to scratchy legs with my shorts and pushed forward. The brush relented, but the trail became much steeper as I gained elevation. I lost the trail several times in the overgrowth and got caught in a sketchy fourth-class downclimb after a misadventure near Juniper Saddle. Fortunately, it was not too disastrous, and I reached Juniper Saddle at 10:55am.

Above the saddle, I followed cairns into the gully above through slabs and more brush, slowly chipping away at the remaining 1,000 feet of gain. Trees all around me were creaking in the wind, sounding like creepy ghost voices at times. The path through the trees led me over the next saddle, where I dropped down and traversed in search of the crux. I was unsure if I had passed it and eventually just started climbing up, and a few seconds later I arrived at the recognizable slab. There were a rope and rope ladder hanging down, both in good shape but neither of which I wanted to trust. They were hardly required; I found the move to be merely 10 feet of exposed but easy third class requiring concentration for about 20 seconds. From the crux, I continued up an easy ramp the rest of the way to the summit, where I arrived at 11:55am.

To my surprise, I found another solo climber resting at the top. After taking my obligatory summit selfies and panoramas, we chatted, took photos of each other, and decided to descend together. Descending the crux was a little more difficult, but it wasn't an issue even without the aid of the rope. It was a luxury to have another set of eyes to help with the route-finding. We made it back to our cars at 2:50pm and drove to Las Cruces to grab food. Afterwards, he drove home to El Paso, and I finished the rest of the drive to Tucson, arriving home just before 8pm (one hour gained from NM to AZ).


* I was under the impression that Organ Mountains/Desert Peaks NM is gated until 8am, so I didn't make an effort to arrive early. The other climber said that it opens at 7am during Daylight Savings, but I can't confirm or deny this.
* To exit the park, you drive over one-way spikes and around the gate, so you will not be locked in. However, there are signs claiming that they will ticket cars left after sunset.
* There were both a fixed rope and rope ladder to assist at the crux section when I climbed. One should not count on them being there, and if they are, use them with extreme caution, as your safety is quite literally in someone else's hands.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Organ Needle from the La Cueva Trailhead (2021-10-14). Photo by Rafee Memon.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3974 ft / 1210 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3974 ft / 1210 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7.6 mi / 12.2 km
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Weather:Pleasant, Windy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3830 ft / 1167 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3586 ft / 1093 m; Extra: 244 ft / 74m
    Loss on way in:244 ft / 74 m
    Distance:3.9 mi / 6.3 km
    Route:Organ Needle Trail
    Start Trailhead:La Cueva TH  5394 ft / 1644 m
    Time:2 Hours 35 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3730 ft / 1136 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3586 ft / 1093 m; Extra: 144 ft / 43m
    Gain on way out:144 ft / 43 m
    Distance:3.7 mi / 6 km
    Route:Organ Needle Trail
    End Trailhead:La Cueva TH  5394 ft / 1644 m
    Time:1 Hours 58 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rafee Memon
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.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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