SynopsisAfter testing out our new kid carrier pack (Deuter Kid Comfort 3) on Pajarito Mtn the day before, we decided it worked well enough on our almost 6 month old baby girl Esme that a "bigger" hike was warranted. Lobo Peak (12115'), a peak neither Amy nor I had done, was the perfect choice: a 12er not too far from home but still substantial, about 8.5 miles roundtrip with 3800' of elevation gain. Also, Esme had been to 11000' in a car (Red Mountain Pass, CO), but we wanted to see how she'd do on a longer day out to higher elevations, as we anticipate doing many 13ers and 14ers in CO this coming summer. We drove from Los Alamos to the Manzanita Canyon TH arriving about 9:15am on a warm sunny day. Our new gear-up routine includes a breastfeed and diaper change, and we started hiking around 9:45am. Times: summit 1:05pm, back to TH 4:10pm.
Thanks to our friends Gary & Lee who kindly gave us the Kid Comfort 2 as a gift, which we recently used to trade up to the Kid Comfort 3 due to its having a built-in sunshade.
The hike and photosWe started out on an old road and I quickly realized that every "hike" now would be more like a "backpack" since I'd be carrying at least 25 lbs. (15 lb. baby, 7 lb. pack, several pounds of water), and that number will only increase as the little bugger gains weight. I was glad to have a walking stick. We also quickly came to our first stream crossing, which would be the theme of the day, not so great with a big pack with a baby in it. There may have been more crossings if not for the deep snow up high. After (count them) many more stream crossings, the trail switch-backed up and away from the stream and we thought the crossings finally were behind us. Soon we came to a nice small meadow.
The trail soon met up with the stream again and we had a few more crossings for a total of 11! The canyon was very lush and the trail otherwise very easy to follow. We met a solo hiker coming down who said he turned around due to deep snow ahead. I never like missing out on a summit, so from that point on I flipped on my stubborn switch for making the summit (hoping that the snow wasn't really that bad; it was).
After leaving the stream for good, the trail climbed up along a small ridge, and just when the memories of all the stream crossings were fading, we started encountering patches of snow of increasing size, until they pretty much became continuous at ~10500'. We stopped around ~10900' for a break (~11:45am), set the kid carrier pack down, and Amy breastfed Esme. When we stopped hiking, we realized it was actually a bit cool, so we also added a layer for Esme. We also put on our gaiters since we'd be tromping through deep snow. Upon departing, I checked the map frequently, and I followed where I thought the trail would be going. Luckily we didn't posthole too badly. Then I made the decision around 11500' to head E-NE straight up a steep grass/scree slope (since it was snow-free) to gain the summit ridge. This was a bit challenging with the heavy kid carrier pack, and I had to be extra careful not to slip and fall.
After quite a bit of grunting up the slope, we finally made it to the summit ridge just below 12000'. From here, it was an easy walk to the summit, which we reached around 1:05pm. We got some summit shots and retreated a few feet down to gain shelter from the moderate wind. With Amy's help, I gladly set down the kid carrier pack, and we enjoyed a snack and the spectacular 360 degree summit views, and Esme enjoyed a breastfeed and a diaper change.
We decided to follow the regular trail down since I thought descending the steep slope would be a bit risky with the kid carrier pack. The trail was dry until about 11600' at which point we just plunged stepped down the snow, roughly trying to follow where the trail would be. It actually wasn't too bad, and we didn't suffer too much postholing. The walking stick really helped here. Navigating only with my watch altimeter, we were able to find an isolated short stretch of the dry trail, and then we happened upon some footsteps in the snow. I said to Amy, "hey somebody else made it up at least this far." And then Amy said, "doiy, these are our footsteps!" We happily followed our footsteps all the way back to ~10900', the spot of our previous break on the ascent. Shortly thereafter, we stopped and took off our gaiters and hiked down the now-dry trail at Mach speed dreading all the stream crossings. Well, what can you do but just tackle them one after the other.
We were glad to get the stream crossings done and then just enjoyed the beautiful trail for the last 1000' or so vertical feet. Esme, after having been an angel all day long, finally started complaining, so we took her out of the pack for the final few hundred yards. We made it back to the car around 4:10pm and set out the camp chairs for a beer and a very belated lunch.
Baby notesPlease skip this section if you have no interest in hiking-with-baby related remarks. As mentioned above, this was our first "bigger" hike with Esme using the Deuter Kid Comfort 3 backpack. It is suggested that the baby be able to sit up well on his/her own before using this pack. Esme can't quite sit up very stably on her own yet, but she has very good head control. She is still too small for the pack, but we placed her rolled-up changing pad beneath her, and it worked great, not to mention that we'd have her changing pad when needed. This kid carrier is also great in that it has a built-in sunshade.
She enjoys being able to see out during the hike, and she also is able to fall asleep in the pack, in fact sleeping better and more deeply than we have otherwise seen! On this hike, she had very nice naps both on the way up and down. In fact, at one point, she was so soundly asleep that Mom got worried about her (she was just fine).
The other thing we were interested in for this trip was bringing Esme to >12000'. We live at 7200', and in fact Esme has never been below 5500' yet. Our own rule-of-thumb was to wait until she was 6 months old to take her above 12000'. The best information I've seen about taking babies to high altitude is basically to regard the baby as you would yourself and to keep him/her very well-hydrated, provided the baby is older than 3 months. She was one week shy of 6 months old on this hike. On the summit, she seemed a touch lethargic but otherwise didn't show any signs of difficulty with the altitude (i.e., no labored breathing or extra fussiness). The lethargy may have just been due to her being sleepy. Nevertheless, we think we will wait at least another few weeks before taking her on a high 13er or 14er hike in CO.
References and external links1. Carson National Forest website for the Manzanita Canyon Trail (#58)
2. Kalen, Kathy, The Hiker's Guide to the Enchanted Circle, 1999.
3. Latir Peak and Wheeler Peak Wildernesses, waterproof topo map, U.S. Forest Service
4. Lists of John website for Lobo Peak