Member Trip Report



Polvadera Peak Ascent, Jemez Mountains, New Mexico

September 20, 2009

Leader and Author: Jan Studebaker.

Participants: Bill Priedhorsky, Kathleen Gruetzmacher, Joe Ortega, Ron Morgan, and Jan Studebaker.

Slideshow: click here.    Current Point Forecast: click here.    Getting There: click here.

Topo Maps: Online and Polvadera Peak Quad (10.3 MB).

I couldn't help but notice beautiful Polvadera Peak on a recent hike to Chicoma Mountain with Bill Priedhorsky and friends.  It's huge meadow looked like a wonderful place for lunch, and none of us had climbed this relatively unknown mountain in our own backyard.  Polvadera Peak overlooks the Valles Caldera National Preserve from the north, climbs to 11,217 feet (3,418.94 meters), and is located at N 36.059742, W -106.404754.  Polvadera's closest neighbor is Chicoma, with Cerro Pedernal also nearby.

Polvadera Peak as seen from Chicoma Peak.  Note the proximity of Cerro Pedernal.

I researched the web thoroughly, but found very little information on this seemingly mysterious peak, except that geologists considered it one of the best locations in the state for obsidian.  I found no trip reports, but did discover that Michael Di Rosa from LANL had led an earlier trip to the peak by bushwhacking, on and off trail, from Chicoma.  Michael ascended via the south face of the peak.  After perusing several maps, I decided to access the mountain on back roads from Abiquiu, and do the ascent from the north side.  If the dirt roads shown on Google Maps were accurate, we could almost drive to the base for a 4 to 5 1/2 mile round trip hike with a 2000' elevation gain....sounded pretty easy.

Bill, Joe, Kathleen, and Ron on the hike in; Jan is the photographer.

As it turned out, Google's road map was inaccurate but good enough to get us to a blocked section of the road where we parked and began our longer and more difficult than desired hike.  If we were to walk the closed road it would have been several miles longer than just hiking a due south line of site, so we opted for the more direct bushwhack.  Since we were now starting the hike at about 8250' rather than the hoped for 9200', we would also have to add 950 vertical feet to our hike (not counting the ups and downs of the bushwhack itself).  The line of site bushwhack worked as predicted.  The second half of the hike in was through beautiful meadows and aspen forests, sometimes on good game and bovine trails.  When we reached the base of the mountain we veered into a most unpleasant 'dead and down' bushwhack for the remaining 2000 vertical feet.  The summit was marked by a cairn, with fleeting views of the valleys below us.

A view from the summit of Polvadera Peak.

We had a much deserved lunch break on the summit as the clouds and thunder began to roll in.  Although we had hoped to get to the huge meadow on the south face, the way down to it looked to be harder than we wished, considering the time, weather, and state of our energy depletion.  After two half-baked attempts at getting through the dense forest and steep rock covered terrain, we opted to bail.

We decided to drop down the north side of the peak (same side we came up), and try to find the end of road that Google had shown on the map that had turned out to be blocked.  Although the road was not exactly as shown, we did eventually get to our car; it was perhaps 5 miles away....what a joyous moment it was to finally find the car!  It did rain a slight bit on us on the way back, but we had great weather for the most part.

View of Cerro Pedernal on the descent of the north side of Polvadera Peak.

Overall, we put in a bit over 3000 vertical feet in perhaps 10 miles on our hike.  Our slideshow leaves out most of the bushwhacking, but certainly shows some of the beauty we encountered.

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Jan Studebaker

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