Ascent to Hermit Peak-9850 on 2014-08-04

Climber: Brad Repass

Others in Party:brother
Date:Monday, August 4, 2014
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Hermit Peak - 9850
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:10212 ft / 3112 m
    Remaining Elevation:28 ft / 9 m (1% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

Guilty of Stupidity. Now in spite of the tale below, this is a beautiful hike with some incredible views on the way up. The last two miles are spent hiking up the sides of two impressive cliffs. The switch backs are fairly tough and I definitely am going back next summer to climb this peak. Anyway, had spent weekend backpacking over Hamilton Mesa to Pecos River and back. Drove to Las Vegas area and El Porvenir campground which was still showing the effects of flash flood the previous week. Anyway, was planned day off and head for Hermit Peak next morning. but my brother decided mid morning he wanted to climb it that day. I hesitated -knowing how common T-Storms are in afternoon in New Mexico in July and August, I nevertheless went along. Mistake #1. Sunny, few clouds when we depart around 1045 a.m. Trail is pretty rough particularly the higher you get - extremely rocky though recent flooding probably had impact. Anyway, from campground taking Hermit Peak Trail ( Trail # 223) almost immediately you go through a gate in a fence and are on private property for a mile or so. Cross creek and climb a hill and as trail veers to right there are two trails or very old dirt roads. Take the one to your left. Signage here but not real clear. From there gradually climb for about two miles through forest and exit private property. Had passed large family - three generations - and soon after thunder to SW. Few minutes later see flash of lightning that direction about 5 miles off and after conversation persuade brother to turn back. Just then two guys in their twenties had broken off from remainder of the large family which had turned back. They report per their devices, T- Storm that is concerning me is moving away from us - all good- clear otherwise they report. So we proceed ( Mistake #2 ). Spend next 1.5 miles or so hiking up endless switchbacks with some breathtaking views - the route to the summit literally treks up the sides of two 1000 foot cliffs- on South and East side I think. I am 56 and not in as good a shape as my 50 yr. bro or the weathermen and gradually fall back. I come around a bend and see first my brother and then the weathermen reach a saddle between the two cliffs. At that time I hear thunder from the other side of mountain - cannot see what is in front of me weather wise due to cliffs. I hesitate - the saddle is within 300-400 yards and the summit appears to be a very short 100-150 foot climb from there. I proceed ( mistake #3). Within seconds there are three strikes - one just off trail about 80- 100 yards in front of me and two near the summit. Shout for brother to turn back ( okay it was a little more colorful than that) and start heading down - still within trees but fairly exposed on swithbacks. Weathermen soon sprint past me - report they did not reach summit, huge black cloud coming my way. Brother soon follows - he had seen the cloud and ran up to summit anyway. Get down in a hurry but the storm lasts a good 15 minutes with lightning followed by steady rain the rest of the afternoon. One other strike about 300 yards back was close. Harrowing - learned a lesson which I already knew. You start your ascent at dawn and you do not mess with lightning.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2700 ft / 822 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2700 ft / 822 m
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Weather:Thunderstorm, Cool, Breezy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2700 ft / 822 m
    Distance:3.9 mi / 6.3 km
    Route:Hermit Peak Trail ( # 223)
    Start Trailhead:7512 ft / 2289 m
    Time:3 Hours 50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:2700 ft / 822 m
    End Trailhead:El Porvenir Campground  7512 ft / 2289 m
    Time:2 Hours 30 Minutes

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