If it’s Saturday and I’m in Albuquerque you will frequently find me on the mountain. It’s a routine and I’m pretty stuck on it. But this Saturday when I woke and saw the blanket of cloud covering the mountain I lost all motivation to even think about climbing it.
I’ve not climbed to the summit since November, or maybe even October of last year. I’m out of good climbing shape and then when you add to that the fact that the upper third of the mountain has sloppy snow and ice on the trail, you have to then add hours to the total hiking time.
About 11:00 I saw that the skies were going to clear and I had a burst of inspiration and started throwing together my clothes and other gear. But then I sat down and started to add up the hours, and decided that even if I got on the mountain at 12:30 I could extend a fit 3 hour hike into an unfit four and a half hours, and then, adding for the snow, be looking at possibly six hours or more to summit.
I decided that it was time to take out the tram pass and head for the summit and skip a torture session.
Unlike the trails north of the crest parking lot, the main trail heading south from the tram was very packed and would not have made for good cross-country skiing. Hopefully this next week brings new snow and the cycle of packing down the snow will start all over again.
I had hoped that the ice fog that blanketed the south end of the range near my house would have extended to the tram but there was almost no evidence of it from the day before. However, the south peak, six miles distant, was still covered in the remnants of the ice.
Since I love panoramas, I added this one of the view to the south peak.
As I mentioned, the trail was not really in great shape for skiing.
After passing the tram I stopped for a minute to put on my spikes because I was sure I was going to be slipping and sliding on the next section of the trail.
In some places the snow was almost gone. This very spot was featured in my entry from last week when it was covered in snow and bathed in the golden last light of the day.
Meanwhile the occasional burst of cloud provided the afternoon’s mysteries.
The trail conditions covered every possibility you could imagine on the mountain, wet, dry, muddy, slushy, deep snow and a crown of snow filling in the trail.
When I was in line to get my ticket at the bottom a couple of guys announced that they were going to hike to the summit and ride the tram down. The guy was dressed in cargo shorts, low top running shoes and a long sleeve shirt. It never ceases to amaze me what people try to do on the mountain. I warned them about the snow, and since I was at the tram at 4:30 I know that they had not made it to the summit by that time.
I did meet a hiker just a bit past this section and he was tired and sick of the snow. He said he had been on the trail for 6 hours and I know that he had about 40 more minutes to go. Happy for the rest he chatted for a bit and told me that he had been advised that there was a short cut in the corner of the trail to avoid this section and its 45 degree slopes that can be really treacherous when they fill with snow.
He told me there were some aspens marked with ribbons and I recalled that I had seen them a week or so ago but had no idea of why the ribbon was attached to the trees. I walked past them and sat out on a overoook in the sun enjoying my perch at 10,000 ft until more cloud covered the sun and the temperature dropped by 20 degrees in 5 minutes.
I reacquired all of my layers from my pack and headed back for the tram, intent on finding the “by-pass” that would take me to the hard packed summit trail.
The route is there alright, and is one of the steepest pitches I have climbed in all of the Sandias. It’s a 1:1 slope for about 200 feet and tapers off a bit for the last 100. The climb was more of a “haul yourself up from tree to tree” while trying to deep from sliding down the mountain in the mud. Once I started I was committed to finish and I did.
However, if the trail is good to the crest house, I think I’d rather ascend that way and then walk through the woods to the tram.
This is my first attempt to photo the route, a stacked panorama that should have a couple more images to make it complete. The route finishes in the upper right hand corner of the photo as it follows the tree line up into an intersection with the meadow at the top. Click on the image to enlarge.
As expected, the trail just over the ridge was hard packed and quite icy. Spikes are recommended.
Cross country skier waiting for the tram. Great way to end the afternoon.