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Cabezon Peak Climb, New Mexico

May 8, 2010

Trip Leader and Author: Dennis Brandt - Bio

Participants: James Taylor, Tom Claus, David Hand, Menanee Hand, Ron Morgan, Rick Kelley, Karen Grace, Mark Silla, Jan Studebaker, Jackie Little, Don Krier, Kelly Gallagher and Dennis Brandt

Dennis's Slideshow: click herePhoto Galleries from: Jim Taylor, and Rick Kelley.

Getting There: click here.

The Los Alamos Mountaineers enjoyed an exciting and successful climb of Cabezon Peak in windy and chilly conditions. Cabezon is a striking volcanic plug that dominates the skyline northwest of San Ysidro, New Mexico. It is the solid basalt core of an eroded volcano that was part of the Mount Taylor volcanic field. It rises through Cretaceous marine sediments that are rich in fossils. Approaching the peak from the north, as we did, it has an imposing presence, looking like a diminished version of Devils Tower.

Cabezon as seen from the trail on the hike in!  "We're going to climb that!"

The Los Alamos folks left town at about 8:25 and picked up Jan and Jackie at Thompson Ridge. At San Ysidro, we waited a while for all the vehicles to catch up. From there we drove about 15 miles north on US 550 to NM 279 and turned west toward the tiny village of San Luis and Cabezon peak. We got to the trailhead on the west side of the peak at 10:45 and began hiking at 11:00.

Some climbers requested a rope on this section of Cabezon's 4th Class chimney.

Cabezon looks daunting from the steep approach trail. The well-traveled trail ascends to a bench on the southwest side of the peak and then traverses eastward, beneath fortress-like columns of basalt. The bench-trail terminates southeast of the summit-block below a chimney the first visible break in the evenly spaced columns of the summit. We climbed a path through steep and very loose talus to the base of the chimney and the beginning of the climb. The chimney has a near-vertical 4th class section as well as a considerable amount of loose rock. To minimize the rock fall danger, our party of 12 climbers divided into two groups. The second group waited for the first to climb above the loose rocks in the chimney before starting up. Both groups climbed efficiently and safely under the watchful guidance, and/or belays provided by Tom, Jan, and Ron. Above the chimney a series of steep rock ribs and traversing ledges lead us to the top. There is some breathtaking exposure along the way and occasional gusts of wind forced everyone to take care with every step. We were on top by 1:00.

A short rest stop on the way up made for a nice photo shoot as well.

The top is gently domed and offers unobstructed views of the Jemez mountains and the Mt. Taylor volcanic field. After taking in the views and we ate lunch in a wind-shelter made up of volcanic "bombs", chunks of lava that had been ejected through the air by the volcano, before heading down the same route we took to the top. We rigged a hand line for the 20' cliff, just below the summit. There was a real danger of slipping on marble-sized pebbles just above this cliff. Later, a belay was offered for the steepest part of the chimney descent. Below the chimney one climber sat on a cactus the only mishap of any consequence on the trip.

We got back to the cars at 3:30 and drove to Jemez Springs for a relaxing dinner at the Los Ojos tavern before heading home.

Crew of Los Alamos Mountaineers at the base of Cabezon.
Only
Dennis, the photographer and trip leader, is missing from this group shoot.

My thanks go to all the Cabezon climbers for their attention to safety and excellent teamwork.


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Jan Studebaker

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