Ascent of Cabezon Peak on 2017-08-03

Climber: Phil Robinson

Others in Party:Jim Miller
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Thursday, August 3, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Cabezon Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:7785 ft / 2372 m

Ascent Trip Report

I ‘m mostly interested in hiking the highest peaks in New Mexico, yet 2 years ago Cabezon Peak appeared on the Albuquerque Home Court Peak’s list, on . I already had most of the peaks and decided to complete the list. The peak is about 75 miles northwest of Albuquerque. To get there; travel about 19 miles northwest of San Ysidro on NM 550 then turn left on NM 279. This road is paved for 8 miles, and then continues for 4 more miles on a dirt road. At this point take the left fork onto BLM 1114, and then go about 4 more miles and you are at the entrance road directly west of the peak. (This is about 16 miles from NM 550.) Travel east on this rough road to the parking area. I took my SUV but could have probably made the entire route to the parking area with my regular car.

I was very excited to be hiking this peak. I have done a little rock climbing, but not much. In reading other trip reports it is mostly a Class 3+ scramble with some walls, but in the chimney there is approximately a 15 foot vertical drop that is a 4th class section. I noticed that some people used ropes in this area and at the very top, others did not. This is a peak that one should not do alone, just-in-case. I asked my friend Jim to accompany me. We left his home at 6:00AM in the Albuquerque area and were hiking at 7:55 AM. It was a beautiful day to hike, clear skies and no wind. The parking lot elevation is 6480 feet. We hiked the trail to the southeast side of the peak. The trail hike has a 500 foot elevation gain and you get some good exercise doing this. At this point the elevation is about 7000 feet and the assent begins. The views are spectacular on the entire hike! I felt like I was encased in a 360 degree picture. The area is geologically fascinating. Cabezon Peak is a volcanic plug and as you scan the area with your eyes you can see a dozen or more other interesting volcanic plugs. A plug is an eroded volcano. Cabezon Peak is the granddaddy plug of them all! Magma from these plugs worked its way through sedimentary rock, from an ancient sea, so fossils are abundant throughout the region……Interesting note, we saw a number of large millipedes along the trail….. From the point where the trail ends head north northwest towards a “notch” in the rock. There are rock cairns, and here-or-there trails along the way. The first part is through loose rocks and small boulders, then up 5 challenging areas, mixed with other slightly less challenging areas to reach the top. We read that the toughest area was near the bottom, and thought that we were hiking over it. We scampered up and over some rocks and thought, “Yeah! That was not much!”, but that was not the slot. The next steep section was the vertical slot located in the “chimney.” This was the toughest part of the hike. It is a little intimidating, but I was able to quickly scale up the slot and Jim followed with as he said, “white knuckles.” We then put out of our minds that we would have to descend this. The hike up was easier than I thought it would be planning years ago, but much tougher than yesterday’s thoughts. We proceeded up, going to the left of the big tree near the top, then directly west up a semi-steep sloop. It was a wonderful site to see the top. Cabezon Peak’s elevation is 7785 feet. There is a rock wind break and a hikers log to sign. The hike up was an hour and 50 minutes which included lots of picture stops. The elevation gain was 1309 feet. The weather was perfect, no clouds and no wind and not too hot. We stayed on the top for an hour and 15 minutes looking the top over, taking pictures, and eating a small snack. We descended at 11:00 AM heading directly to the east, returning the same way we came up. We had to pay attention for loose rocks and took our time going down. Several places I dropped my backpack below the rock face so I could get my back closer to the rock as I climbed down. I was mostly concerned about the vertical shoot. Things went well and then we came to the drop. We dropped our backpacks below; to be more freed up to make it down. I was going to go down first and Jim said he was going to “spider” down. I thought that that was not going to work well, but told him to go ahead first just in case he had a good plan that I did not see. He quickly changed from the “spider” to the way I planned to get down and slowly made it well through this drop. My adrenalin was flowing and I was fully focused. Bit by bit I went down facing the cliff. Jim instructed me to keep dropping my foot to a spot that I could not see, and soon I was safely at the bottom of the hardest part. We celebrated! It did not feel like we had fully climbed the peak until we had descended this point. We had to keep focus and could not go to sleep on the rest of the hike, but it went well to the bottom. We were both really pumped to have made it safely up and down! As I mentioned earlier, I have only done a small amount of rock climbing and it was challenging for me but it felt pretty good. This climb would be nothing for a person who regularly does rock climbing, but for a person that has never done any rock climbing at all, this hike could be a scary tough challenge. ….We saw several beautiful foot-long collared lizards near the bottom….. We happily descended the trail portion still enjoying the picturesque views. We made it back after hiking 3.6 miles which included some hiking on the top. (Straight up and down should be 3.2 miles.) It took the same time coming down as up, 1 hour and 50 minutes. The total up-down elevation gain for the day was 1600 feet. When we were ready to drive off, I discovered that I had stupidly left the lights on. My other car has bells and whistles to warn me, this vehicle has nothing. We rolled downhill and pushed the SUV a little to BLM road 1114. I had the hood up and jumper cables ready if anyone came by. I called State Farm and they had a person from Cuba, New Mexico give us a jump. Good thing, we never saw another person or car the entire day. This delayed our return trip home for about 2 ½ hours. I am going to pick up a jumper pack for possible future problems. I was a rafting guide for 10 seasons and many times would make the return trip home with an adrenalin rush, especially at high water times. I don’t get that feeling with regular peakbagging, but today I did. The focus and rock climbing challenge brought it on…….Now, after climbing this peak today, I have completed all 19 of the Albuquerque Home Court Peaks on and also completed every peak on all 4 NM peak challenges on that site…… Back to my own NM challenges……Psalm 121

Note:The GPS shows two slightly different tracks going up and down. This is a slight GPS mistake. We went the same way up as down.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1600 ft / 486 m
    Total Elevation Loss:295 ft / 89 m
    Round-Trip Distance:3.6 mi / 5.8 km
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1309 ft / 398 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 1305 ft / 397 m; Extra: 4 ft / 1m
    Loss on way in:4 ft / 1 m
    Distance:1.6 mi / 2.6 km
    Route:Trail to SE cornor then NNW through notch to top
    Start Trailhead:Parking area west of peak  6480 ft / 1975 m
    Time:1 Hours 50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:291 ft / 88 m
    Gain on way out:291 ft / 88 m
    Distance:2 mi / 3.2 km
    Route:Same as Route Up
    End Trailhead:Parking area  
    Time:1 Hours 50 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Phil Robinson
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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