Ascent of Redonda Peak on 2011-10-01

Climber: Phil Robinson

Others in Party:My son Garret
Date:Saturday, October 1, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Redonda Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:12357 ft / 3766 m

Ascent Trip Report

We parked at Panchuela Campground, in the Pecos River valley, after a 2 hour drive from the Albuquerque area. I took a personal day off work, Friday, September 30, 2011. We were planning to camp at Johnson Lake, elevation 11,115 feet. Being such a high elevation, October and cool weather, we were expecting the possibility of winter conditions. We usually hike in ultralight luxury with about 30 pounds, but expecting possible snow I packed 39 pounds and Garret packed 46 pounds. We both took along our minus 20 down bags and extra warm clothing. It was a beautiful fall morning with not a cloud in the sky. The starting elevation was 8350 feet. The fall colors were in their splendor as we hiked. We hiked along the beautiful Panchuela Creek, trail 288 for a couple of miles then followed the same trail along Cave Creek. I hiked this same trail, up to the caves, with my wife and 4 daughters in July 2006 when we camped at Panchuela Campground. It takes about 2.4 miles to reach the caves. The stream disappears into a mountain cave. Garret and I took a little break and examined the same cave I saw 5 years ago with my daughters. I did not realize that we had not seen the main cave until we returned from Johnson Lake. We continued our hike through the beautiful golden colors of fall. All of the sudden both of our GPS’s said that we needed to make a turn. We did not see a trail. We went on a little further but saw nothing. I figured we must have missed it and went back while Garret waited. I went about a quarter mile back but did not see a clue that there was a trail. Rather than bushwhack, we pressed on and after a little while, there was Skyline trail 251. The flaw is something that should be noted if using a GPS. We hiked up about a quarter mile and had lunch. After a little more hiking we turned on trail 267 towards Johnson Lake. The last 1.8 miles seemed to take a long time, but finally we reached beautiful Johnson Lake. It took us 7 hours and 8.6 miles of hiking. You are not allowed to camp close to the lake, so we moved a ways back and camped by a little stream. We set up camp and Garret went to fish. He did not have any luck, but later in the evening he caught an 8 inch fish with his hands. He threw it back. The weather was wonderful! We did not even see a cloud all day. We started the campfire and cooked fresh salmon over coals on a little grill. I hike with a small, 12” X 12”, 2 ounce, chicken wire grill and it cooked the fish to perfection. We also had a dehydrated teriyaki chicken mix. Hiking up we picked up a big puff ball mushroom and cooked it over Garret’s stove. I don’t think there is a better tasting mushroom. The fire died. We enjoyed the clear star filled sky then went to bed.
We got up at 7:30 the next morning and had coffee and oatmeal. Almost every time we hike we are visited by very curious 9 inch, grey, white and black birds. We were visited again by 4 of them. They were so curious of who we were that they got a couple feet away from us on the trees and ground and looked at us. I am not sure what type of bird this is. The bird book shows that it might be a mocking bird? Almost every trip this species checks us out. Rather than “burn it” straight up to Redonda Peak, I planned to use a ridge south of the lake as a ramp to the top. We left at 9:00 AM. It turned out to be a good choice. We had to climb over some boulders and weave our way through the forest but it was a good way up. I love the feeling when reaching a top ridge. The world opens up and it seems like you can see forever. We had about a half mile hike along the ridge to the top. It took us 2 hours and 15 minutes and 1.6 miles. Redonda peak has an elevation of 12,357 feet. I have stood on about 60 mountain peaks in New Mexico and this peak might have the most expansive views of them all. You can see the from the Sandia/ Manzanos mountains all the way to the Colorado boarder with vast views also from the east to the west. It appears you can see half of New Mexico’s distance from north to south not obscured by other mountains. We ate lunch and enjoyed perfect sunny, windless weather. I was not in any hurry to come down and we spent an hour and 15 minutes having lunch and looking around. At the top we started to see the first clouds of the trip and by the time we got to the bottom it was raining. We followed a different ridge, to the east, down. This is a good way to go down, but not a good way to go up. It only took us an hour to get down with a 2.7 mile hike. We got back at 1:30. Garret started fishing right away and caught 3 nice 12 to 14 inch cutthroat trout. We started a campfire, set down the little grill and had some of the best fish I have ever had. We also had some dehydrated beef stroganoff and dehydrated ice cream sandwiches. Just as soon as the sun went down, the skies were perfectly clear again. We put on all the wood and stayed up until the campfire faded.
The next morning we got up about 7:15 and had coffee and granola. We packed up and headed down leaving about 9:30. It was a beautiful hike down and part way down I was going to take a picture of the cave we visited on the way up and 5 years ago, when I realized that I had never seen the real caves before! There are 3 caves and most of the stream goes into these caves. The rest of the stream goes into the cave we saw on the way up. You can walk quite a way back into the caves and there are different passages going different directions. We did not hike in to far because our flashlights were packed away. The stream goes about a quarter of a mile into the mountain then reappears again. There is not a cave on the other end. It just comes through the rocks. There is a wonderful place to camp near the caves with a beautiful meadow. This would be a good place to go for a first time backpacker. We hiked the rest of the way down. It took us 4 hours and 7.8 miles. The total distance for our hike was 19.1 miles. It was a wonderful hike with beautiful fall weather. We did not need the winter gear, but you never know in October at 12,000 feet.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4007 ft / 1221 m
    Round-Trip Distance:19.1 mi / 30.7 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Tent Camp
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4007 ft / 1221 m
    Distance:10.2 mi / 16.4 km
    Route:Panchuela Campground up Cave Creek to Johnson Lake
    Start Trailhead:8350 ft / 2545 m
Descent Statistics
    Distance:8.9 mi / 14.3 km
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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