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Truchas Peaks via Santa Barbara Canyon

July 26-29, 2007

Author and Leader: Dave Scudder

Participants: Arnold Wise and Dave Scudder

Original LAM Listing: click here

The best efforts of summer monsoon weather were unable to interfere with our trip up Santa Barbara Canyon to the Truchas peaks Thursday, July 26 to Sunday, July 29.  Our trip dwindled to two participants due to bad weather forecasts. Arnold, the other remaining adventurer, is an orthopedist.  I thought it fitting that my first backpack with a new hip (replaced in October, 2006) should be shared with someone who has, himself, performed hip replacements.

Hail in camp at Truchas Lakes

Our departure right after work and a fast food supper got us to the trailhead at Santa Barbara Campground at 7:00 p.m. and to our first night's camp 2 1/2 miles up Santa Barbara Canyon by 8:00 p.m.  Friday we started up the West Fork of Santa Barbara Canyon by 8:00 a.m.  Tracks in the trail included some from a good sized bear.  A beaver dam stretched several hundred (!) feet across one stretch of the stream.  We completed the 13 miles and 3200' vertical from Santa Barbara Campground to our base camp at Truchas Lakes at 3:30 Friday afternoon.  Hail punctuated our afternoon, but the evening was dry and serenaded by coyotes.  There was only one other party camped at Truchas Lakes.

Saturday morning we left camp at 7:00 and hiked almost straight southwest toward South Truchas.  Crossing a ridge led us into another lovely cirque where we were greeted by several young bighorn sheep.  We chose a promising green avalanche slope (what in winter would be couloir) and picked our way straight up to the ridge just north of the peak.  By 8:30 we were on top of South Truchas Peak, the highest of the Truchas at 13,102'.  In the west Redondo Peak seemed to tower over both Los Alamos and Black Mesa in an illusion of parallax.

Middle Truchas from South Truchas

The route from South Truchas to Middle Truchas requires a modest drop and climb of less than 300'. Because of this, purists don't count Middle Truchas as a separate summit.  As we gained our second destination at 13,066' on Middle Truchas by 10:00 a.m., clouds were already beginning to collect over our heads.

North Truchas, Truchas Lakes, Chimayosos

From the top of Middle Truchas we went down a ridge dropping toward the north into the basin which is the source of the Rio Quemado.  On the way we met a group of about eight people coming up.  The top of the ridge was narrow and rocky, but not too scary.  To get off of it we had to scramble, climb and scree-glissade down a steep rocky slope.  Ideally we would have climbed out of the Rio Quemado basin on a steep trail to a saddle just south of North Truchas Peak and completed the trio.  But as we reached the saddle at noon a big black cloud hovered overhead.  We resisted the temptation to bag the last peak, ate our lunch, and returned down the east side to camp.

By 4:30 the rain had stopped.  While Arnold fished I scrambled 45 minutes to the top of North Truchas.  On the way I met a group of bighorn sheep with a frisky baby.

Truchas family

Sunday we had plenty of sun to dry our gear before packing up.  Then it rained on us for most of our six hour hike out.  The trip was completed by a late lunch at Embudo Station.

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