Ascent of Sierra Mosca on 2014-07-23

Climber: Phil Robinson

Others in Party:Just me
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Sierra Mosca
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:11801 ft / 3596 m

Ascent Trip Report

I have been contemplating hiking Sierra Mosca and Peak 11,821 for the last 2 years. I had one failed attempt after work last year because of a nonexistent trail. I relocated that same day and did The Dome. Another time, while doing Peak 11,116, I was going to add an extra night to my trip, and come in directly from the east, but lost my cell phone and was not able to contact family to say I would be a day delayed, so I did not do the peaks then. I was going to go one week earlier, that morning it was raining and going to be raining for 2 days, so did not go then. I studied every possible way and came to the conclusion that they were going to be very difficult peaks to attain no matter which way I went. I resolved to have 2 very hard days of hiking. I can now see why few people have done these 2 peaks. I was a little psyched out about doing the peaks because I had a sense of the work involved. I would be carrying a full backpack the entire time and many of the trails on the map did not exist and it would take plenty of hard bushwhacking.

On Wednesday morning July 23, 2014 I left the house at 5:00 AM. I did not take my dog Daisy because I knew it would be a very difficult hike for my 10 year old dog. I was carrying a 38 pound backpack which included almost 9 pounds of water. To get there: From Pojoaque take highway 503 west to the dirt Forest Road 306 just before Chama, New Mexico, then drive until you see the sign that says Borrego Trail (Rio Medio). The next mile and a half from this point you will need a tough 4WD vehicle. Near an unused 3 sided forest display sign is the place to park. This is Trial Head # 8 leading to Trail #150. The starting elevation is 8200 feet and a really discouraging part of the hike is that you drop 700 feet in elevation before you start the 4300 plus elevation gain to the peak. I could not see the trail at all, so I decided to go as the crow flies towards the peak. (To find the trail up the river, see my return GPS listing) I descended to the Rio Medio below. The elevation was 7550. It is a rushing gushing little stream. I could not find a way to cross, so I waded through it. The next part of the hike I knew would be the hardest, and it was. I went straight up a very steep hill, at times on all fours, with a full backpack. It felt brutal, but after an elevation gain of 500 feet I was on a ridge. I was still at a lower elevation than my SUV. I scouted this direction before hiking and knew that it was a fairly nice ridge hike for the next several miles. There were lots of little of ups and downs but it was fairly easy hiking. The sunny morning turned to a light drizzle for the next 2 or 3 hours. I almost put on my rain poncho, but it was just light enough to leave it off. The big problem with the entire area is that it is so infrequency used that the trails are either no longer in existence or you can only see a semblance of a trail for awhile, then it vanishes. Last year’s trail 157 did not exist in any way shape or form. I was not hiking on a trail, rather a ridgeline. I have learned that if there is no trail, it is a lot better to be hiking a trail-less ridge rather than a trail-less valley. The first third of the hike I noticed lots of beautiful quartz and mica and picked up a few beautiful little stones for my granddaughter and grandson. I crossed Trail 227. Someone tried to mark the trail with red flags. I continued up the ridge until I came to Trail 156, near point 10,066. To my delight the trail existed! It was wonderful to be following a trail. The trail led to just below the 2 peaks and a little stream. I did not take all the water I knew I would need for the trip hoping to find water along the way. I finished my 40 ounce bottle and filled it up at the stream. I was going to hike to Sierra Mosca first, but the trail vanished. I decided to hike Peak 11,821 first then loop over to Sierra Mosca, elevation 11,801. That trail vanished also. I had to do lots of hard bushwhacking and followed near where the trail should have been, hoping it would be the best way. Along the way I saw a number of groups of grouse and one female turkey. It was a hard uphill full backpack chug. I was so happy to make the ridge! I hate to admit it, but there were a few times I was questioning why I was doing this! I could see the peak to the south and after a short ridge walk I was there. It took 10.5 miles and 8 hours and 50 minutes of nonstop hiking. The top is mostly tree covered but there are a number of open meadow areas. You do not get much of a view from the top. I wanted to get the hardest part of the hike over today so I continued on to Sierra Mosca. I thought it would be an easy go, but because it was late in the day, I was tired, the trail mostly did not exist, and I had to go over many downed logs, it was rather tough. It took about an hour and a half from the last peak. It was 6:00 PM. I hiked 12.3 hard miles in 10 hours and 20 nonstop minutes. I signed the peak log on the top. Only 2 other people had signed it. I took a couple of pictures and set up my tent on the very top. I was very disappointed, the entire top was covered with trees, and as hard as I tried I could not get even a hint of the grand vistas that you find on the tops of all the New Mexico 12 & 13 thousand foot peaks. It was cold. I put on my 18 ounce Feathered Friends down jacket then cooked dehydrated chicken teriyaki for dinner. I was beat and went to bed at 8:00 PM. I read some before going to sleep. It was a no moon night and I was hoping to see a panorama of stars but was only able to see a few through the tree tops.

I got up the next morning at 5:30. The sun had not yet hit the top of the peak. It was rather chilly. I packed up, had coffee and dehydrated breakfast skillet and was back on the trail. I felt fairly refreshed as I started the hike at 6:30 AM. I headed to the WNW and again could not find any clue of the trail that should have been there. I followed a ridgeline down until I met the trail from the previous day. It was nice to be walking on a trail again. I was able to follow it for quite some ways. It vanished at times, but then would appear again. I was following Trail #156 to the stream at the bottom, Rito con Agua, then to Trail # 150 along the stream Rito Gallina. The last half mile or so before the reaching the stream the trail vanished and I just chugged it down the steep hill to the stream. It was a small little stream, not nearly as big as the stream on the first day. The problem again was an unmaintained trail! I had to cross many fallen logs and at times the trail would totally vanish. It was a little difficult and did not have the hiking flow of a clean trail. I was very thankful for the times the trail was good and solid. It was a beautiful hike down. The forested valley was filled with beautiful aspens, spruces and furs which later gave way to majestic ponderosa pines. The meadows were rich green and flower covered. I saw a quite a few grouse. There had been a forest fire a few years ago along the lower part of the trail, but most of the trees were still standing. I arrived at the lowest part of the hike, elevation 7475. I was not happy to be hiking a 725 feet elevation gain at the end of the trip. It was hot and sunny hiking uphill to the SUV. I hiked for 6 hours and 20 minutes nonstop. It was 12:50 PM. I hiked 10.3 miles for the day and 22.5 miles for the 2 days. This was one of my longest 2 day hikes ever. My longest 2 day hike being 22.7 miles. The total elevation gain including the final chug out was 6212 feet.

If someone is really wanting a wilderness experience this is the hike. I did not see another person the entire 2 days, and it is like hiking in the days of old, with no trails or vanishing trails and just hitting it hard through the woods. I really researched the peaks and all ways are difficult! If I were going to recommend a “best way” to enjoy this hike. I would hike 7.5 miles and set up a base camp. The second day I would not take a full backpack to the top, do both peaks in about 7.5 miles, then return to the base camp. The third day I would hike the remaining 7.5 miles out. Doing 22.5 miles, in 2 days, with a full backpack the entire time, is a lot! …………To get to the top I would follow the stream, Rito Gallina, Trail #150, until I came to Trail #127, and even though I did not take this trail, it appears a better way to make the ridge than the way I did, on all fours. Once on the ridge, follow the ridge to Trail #156………….Another possible way would be to continue up the stream, Trail #150 to Trail #156, but towards the end you would have to cross many fallen logs followed by a very hard uphill. Once you connect with Trail #156 it is a nice hike until just below the peaks. At this point the trails vanish and the best way is to just go up one of the ridges to either peak and make a loop back. Happy hiking! It was a wonderful wilderness experience but I am glad those 2 peaks are behind me.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1401 ft / 426 m
    Total Elevation Loss:925 ft / 281 m
    Round-Trip Distance:12 mi / 19.3 km
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Stream Ford
    Gear Used:
Tent Camp
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:476 ft / 145 m
    Distance:1.8 mi / 2.9 km
    Route:From Peak 11821
    Start Trailhead:Saddle Inbetween Sierra Mosca & Peak 11821  11325 ft / 3451 m
    Time:1 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:925 ft / 281 m
    Gain on way out:925 ft / 281 m
    Distance:10.2 mi / 16.4 km
    Time:6 Hours 20 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Sierra Mosca & Peak 11821 (1 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Peak 118212014-07-23 a4811 ft / 1466 m
2Sierra Mosca2014-07-23 b1401 ft / 427 m
Total Trip Gain: 6212 ft / 1893 m    Total Trip Loss: 1465 ft / 447 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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