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Spanish Peaks Climb and Exploration

Fri, 2013-05-24
Michael Altherr

Both an Objective Oriented and Exploratory Trip to the Spanish Peaks Widerness.
Overview: As long as I have traveled South along I-25, the Spanish Peaks have callled to me like the sirens of Greek mythology. This has been going on for over 35 years. It is time to answer the sirens call. Attractions: Interesting geologic formations, and stunning views being the eastern most prominences rising to over 10,000’ above the great prairie.
My objective is to complete a circuit that includes the summits of both West (13,500’) and East (12,650’) Spanish Peaks. The difficulty arises in that this circuit is approximately 15 mi in length with 7,000 feet of total vertical gain. We will leave Los Alamos around noon on Friday May 24 and drive approximately 5 h to Cordova Pass Campground. At 11,250 feet, Cordova Pass is an alpine camping experience.
Although objective oriented there are options for those interested in something a bit less strenuous.
Options: The dual summit party will get an alpine start, and plan to summit West Peak in time to view the sunrise. Others could depart later and follow the primary objective group up the West Peak Trail to the summit of West Peak and return the same way (a round trip of approximately 5.5 mi with only about 2500’ of vertical gain). This would be a great opportunity for a new leader to get some independent experience by leading the second party. Those interested in continuing to East Peak will descend 3,000’ toward the East to the saddle and reclaim a little over 2,000’ in 5 miles to reach the East Peak summit. For a real time view of the objectives look at ( We will then return to the saddle and traverse on the South side of West Peak on the Wahatoya Trail to return to our camp. Our return will involve some orienteering as the trail exists on only a few (old) maps. Upon return, we will enjoy a leisurely communal dinner to celebrate our success.
I plan to break camp Sunday morning. I am planning to return via Raton with a reconnaissance stop at Sugarite Canyon State Park. It is (was) a jewel in the NM State Parks system. Unfortunately, much of it was burned in a fire two years ago and I am interested in how it is recovering for consideration of a future trip. I will bring climbing gear as there are some beautiful top ropes in the area that we could play on before pushing back to Los Alamos. There is a small lake and there used to be a number of nice trails in the area as well. FYI – there were showers available at Sugarite.
Gear Recommendations:
Sleeping bag, pad, and tarp or tent.
Appropriate clothing and foot wear for alpine conditions (Camp is at 11,250’)
Food for two days of camping. I’ll have a grill and one small stove.
Climbing gear for top roping (if we go on to Sugarite)

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