Ascent of Peak 11981 on 2012-07-31

Climber: Phil Robinson

Others in Party:My dog Daisy.
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Peak 11981
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:11981 ft / 3651 m

Ascent Trip Report

I am off during the summers and had only a week left before having to go back to work so I decided to do a 2 night, 3 day backpacking/camping trip to hike 5 peaks north of the Latir Lakes in northern New Mexico. I loaded up gear of 33 pounds of ultralight luxury which included 9 pounds of water. I was not sure if I would be camping near a water source. I took my dog Daisy and left the house at 5:30 AM on July 31, 2012. The total drive was about 4.5 hours. I drove on road 552 to the town of Costilla turned east on highway 196 until the entrance to the Rio Costilla Park Land and Cattle Company. I paid for a 2 night, 3 day pass to hike on their land. I drove on a very good dirt road which changed into a tough 4WD road and continued to the end, which is at the third of seven Latir Lakes. The drive from Costilla to the Lakes is about an hour. Everything was lush, green, forested and beautiful. I started hiking at 10:30 on a cool, crisp morning. I had no other choice but to burn it up the hill with a full backpack. I had a little backpack for Daisy. The starting elevation of the hike was 11,160 and I had to burn 940 feet to the top. I reached the ridge, elevation 12,100, and enjoyed beautiful views of peaks I had hiked in the past. I could not see Peak 12,025. I knew the best way was to hike a ridge north then west. I headed out on a ridge and thought I would just cut over. I was in deep forest and my GPS was not reacting quickly enough so I reverted back to my old Boy Scout’s map and compass skills. Before going I obtained a large topographical map of the area. I set a bearing towards the peak and followed the degrees on the compass to go the correct direction. I did this a number of times throughout the trip. It is the first hike I have had to do this because of the deep forested peaks. I am glad I had the Boy Scout training! I had to go way down then way up a very hard tree covered hill. Half way up the hill I came upon a dirt road. I followed it and looped around until I found a gradual way to the top. I dropped my backpack and headed to the peak. I arrived after hiking 3 hours and 3.5 miles. This is the only one of the 66, 12K peaks that does not have a beautiful view. The top is thick in trees. Timberline starts at 12,000 feet in New Mexico, but I guess it did not make it here. I headed directly down the ridge west to the saddle, elevation 11,590, “Hooters Pass.” I was going to follow a road around but then decided to hike straight up to Peak 11,981. I hiked through lots of forest with fallen trees. I arrived there after hiking 3 hours and 50 minutes and 4.5 miles. I thought I heard a kid calling for help in the distance, but it was a bird. I realize why none of the peaks have names. They are not very interesting at the top. You get incredible views, at times, while hiking, but the tops of all 5 peaks are deep in trees with no views. I missed the 12K and 13K peaks with the endless views. I headed west down the slope to the next peak. I saw a group of grouse fly in front of me. Later I saw a hawk speed through the trees. My dog had a little seizure and I had to stop. I carried her and her backpack for a ways. She weighs 18 pounds. After a while she was better. I put her down, but carried her backpack for most of the trip. At the bottom was a gorgeous meadow. A sign said “Big Bear Meadow.” I saw a mother turkey being followed by a group of baby turkeys. I should of left my backpack there because I ended coming back and camping the night, but at the time I was not sure where I was going to camp so I trudged on with the backpack. I went from the meadow to a very well maintained road and followed it up the hill. The entire 3 days hiking I never saw another person, never saw a clue another person was around, no clues of past camps. There were perfect dirt roads, 4WD dirt roads and dirt roads no one could ever drive on with trees growing up in the middle of them. There was not even a clue the roads were being used, not a bent grass blade on the roads. I don’t think that I could have gotten into the peaks any other way than I did. I imagine Rio Costilla closes the other roads. After following the roads then bushwhacking it to the top I arrived at Peak 11,312 after hiking 6 hours and 20 minutes and 7.33 miles. I headed down the mountain and followed the roads south to Peak 11,275. The last little bit I had to bushwhack it up the hill. I arrived at my final peak for the day after hiking 7 hours and 20 minutes and 9.3 miles, two miles from the last peak. Peak 11,275 is my 100th big New Mexico mountain peak counting repeats! I followed roads down to “Big Bear Meadow” and had spectacular views of past peaks that I had hiked. I found a great place to camp in the meadow near a little stream. This was the lowest elevation point of my trip, 10,560 feet. I hiked 11.7 miles for the day and it took 8.5 hours. I wanted to get the hard part over early. Interestingly I did not see any large animals, yet I saw plenty of signs. My elevation climbed for the day was 3183 feet. I put up my tent and cooked a dehydrated meal of beef stroganoff and had a dehydrated ice cream sandwich. As soon as I finished eating it started to rain so I entered the tent early, did not have a campfire, and read. I was looking forward to a full moon night, but there was a little too much cloud cover. It only peaked out occasionally.

I woke up to clear skies, a crisp morning and a beautiful sun filled meadow. Knowing that I had the hardest part of the hike over I took a leisure morning enjoying the meadow, eating breakfast and packing up. At 10:30 I started the hike. I hiked from the meadow to the untouched roads and followed them towards the next peak. Most of my hike was on roads. I passed beautiful forests of pine, blue spruce, and aspen, through stunningly green meadows and past little streams. I followed a road covered with shinny mica. I arrived at “Big Horn Meadow” and decided that that was where I was going to spend the night, so I left my backpack there. My GPS said that I had about 2 miles as the crow flies more to go. I arrived at very small peak with very nice views. For the first time I could see the next peak. I followed the road down then bushwhacked up the aspen covered hill to the top. I arrived at the top of Peak 11,123, after 2 hours and 50 minutes of hiking and 4.6 miles. I headed down the peak, followed the roads. As I was hiking I saw a female elk and when I arrived at “Big Horn Meadow” I saw a deer bounding on all 4 legs through the meadow. I took about a 30 minute lunch break and walked to the far south end of the meadow then followed a little stream further up the mountain and set up camp. I debated whether to go on further, but it was such a nice spot I decided to stay. I hiked, with the lunch break, 5 hours and 25 minutes and 7.5 miles. My camp was at an elevation of 11,070 feet. I had 1683 feet in elevation gain today with the ups and downs. I set up my tent and it started to rain a little so I went inside. After a little while it quit and I cooked a dehydrated meal of whole chicken and mashed potatoes. Shortly after dinner it really started to rain, hail and thunder. It rained really hard! A little equipment note: I put some effort into finding the right ultralight tent and I could not recommend a better tent, the Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 person tent. It fits 2 people, very snugly, or one person with lots of equipment room. It has a great vestibule in the front for dirty boots and it only weighs 34 oz with the tent and fly, 39 oz with the stakes. That’s a little over 2 pounds, lots of room and as hard as it rained not a drop inside! I couldn’t recommend a tent more. I am so glad that I did not continue hiking. I would have been caught in the deluge. The moon only appeared a little through the clouds that night. I enjoyed hearing the bubbling brook as I went to sleep.

I got up before the sunshine hit the camp. It was a cool morning and I needed a warm shirt. I had some coffee, packed up and started the hike at 7:40. I debated whether to go back a little and hike the roads to get higher up on the top but decided to bushwhack it straight up. I was concerned it could be overly dense forest trouble. Almost the entire hike to the ridge was in wet marshy meadows and at times lots of logs to cross. Part way up I found a road and started to follow it to gain higher ground but it started to go the wrong direction and I knew the big cut around the mountain would not be worth it so I went back and bushwhacked up. Further up I found an ancient road with trees growing in the middle of it. I arrived at the ridge, and peaking through the trees had the best views of the trip, about 270 degrees of spectacular views. The next mile was my favorite part of the hike. This is where I should have been on day one before heading west to Peak 12,025. I followed the north/south ridge to the east/west ridge looking over the seven Latir lakes. I completed a big loop and was hiking where I was 2 days ago. I took some spectacular pictures and headed down the same way I had come up. I arrived back at the SUV after a 2 hour and 50 minute hike and 3.6 miles of hiking and for the day 1125 feet of elevation gain. The total hike was 22.8 miles with climbing elevation gain of 5991 feet. The 4WD ride out of Rio Costilla Park was gorgeous.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:391 ft / 119 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Open Country, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Tent Camp
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:391 ft / 119 m
    Distance:1 mi / 1.6 km
    Route:From Peak 12,025 - Saddle 11,590
    Start Trailhead:11590 ft / 3532 m
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: 5 Peaks North of Latir Lake (2 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Peak 120252012-07-31 a1675 ft / 511 m
2Peak 119812012-07-31 b391 ft / 119 m
3Peak 113122012-07-31 c732 ft / 223 m
4Peak 112752012-07-31 d385 ft / 117 m
5Peak 111232012-08-01 e2808 ft / 856 m
Total Trip Gain: 5991 ft / 1826 m    Total Trip Loss: 3055 ft / 931 m
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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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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