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  Cerro Pedernal Climb plus Jemez Mountain Biking

August 3 through 5, 2007

Trip Leader & Author: Dennis Brandt

Participants: Bill Priedhorsky, Karen Grace, Terry Morgan, Jackie Little, Ron Morgan, Kathleen Gruitzmacher, Tracy McFarland, Shelly Cross, Troy Matevia, Dave Chamberlan, Jeri Sullivan, and Dennis Brandt

Original LAM Announcement: click here

Participants started at various times on Friday afternoon, according to different work schedules and car pool arrangements. Cerro Pedernal is approached via Forest Road 100, south from Youngsville. The final stretch of road up Temoline Canyon is fairly rough and steep. However, with careful driving no particular difficulties were encountered by the heavily loaded vehicles, which included 4WD and AWD SUVs and a 2WD pickup truck. Camp was set on a forested bench at 8940 ft. elevation, ˝ mi. SSW of Cerro Pedernal. This rarely-used camp is suitable for several tents and affords a fine view of the mountain.

View of Cerro Pedernal from camp.

On Saturday our party of twelve started out a little after 9:00. We traveled cross-country in hot and sweaty conditions through a dense mixture of scrub oak, juniper and pine on increasingly steep and loose terrain. The final approach to the summit block is on a well-defined but steep and direct trail. The key to the climb is locating the 12ft high, 3rd class break at the base of the basalt summit block. This appears to be the only break in a monolithic vertical cliff band that extends all around the Southwest facing side of the mountain. The break in the cliff is easily found because it is about 100 ft NW of an easily visible square-shaped cave. All climbers made it up the 3rd class section without the use of a rope, though some were pretty nervous.

The climbers

After the 3rd class section, the route to the top is fairly obvious, and a little circuitous. Care was taken to avoid knocking rocks on people below. We arrived on top (elevation 9862 ft.) at about 11:00. Many were surprised to find that Cerro Pedernal is not a flat-topped mesa, as it appears from the more common viewpoints but is in fact a remarkably narrow ridge that runs NW to SE. Once assembled, we proceeded directly to the NW point to take in the views and have lunch. Everyone was impressed by the views, which included the Ghost Ranch basin, colorful sandstone cliffs to the northwest, and distant mountain vistas to the southeast. We were also impressed by an intense thunderstorm about five miles to the northwest. Fortunately it was tracking to the northeast, but there was another storm forming to the southwest that looked like it was aiming for us. So we had a hasty lunch, walked quickly to the SE point and then back to the descent trail. Cerro Pedernal is no place to be during a lightning storm.

Climbers on top.

Once below the cliff band, the descent was slow-paced due to the steepness and looseness of the trail. It looked like we would be caught in a rainstorm, but it held off. We returned to camp via a jeep road that we intercepted below the northwest point of the peak. The road is longer but easier to navigate than the morning approach route.

Six people broke camp early Saturday afternoon and drove home. The remaining six; Bill, Jackie, Karen, Dave, Jeri, and Dennis did some mountain bike riding in the afternoon near camp, explored the agate outcrop that Cerro Pedernal is named for, and had a comfortable evening dining and sitting around the camp fire. Bill read a novel aloud for our entertainment. There was rain during the night.

Sunday morning we broke camp around 9:15 and drove south on Forest Road 100 to the edge of Valle de la Grulla at 9700 ft. From there we rode mountain bikes on a scenic 14 mile trip of intermediate difficulty that included the circumnavigation of Cerro Pavo at 10,000 ft. Valle de la Grulla is a beautiful alpine meadow in the Santa Fe National Forest that is used for cattle grazing. Cerro Pavo is a thickly forested mountain with occasional nice views of valleys and canyons as well as a good view of Chicoma mountain. The route included an all weather road, and rough dual track jeep road. Everyone enjoyed the ride.

Cerro Pavo Jeep Road.

While driving home, we passed beneath Cerro Pedernal just as it was hit by an intense thunderstorm. It nearly disappeared from view under the downpour. We were certainly grateful that we weren’t on the peak then.

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