Begin from the Windsor Trail trailhead at the parking lot of Santa Fe Ski Basin. Regardless of which direction of the loop you take, the approach begins on Windsor Trail.
The Penitente-Lake Pake-Windsor Trail Loop is a 12-14 mile loop covering two 12,000+ peaks. It can be climbed in one long day, but good camping can be found in Puerto Nambe, the basin below Penitente Peak and Santa Fe Baldy.
At the trailhead, you have the option of which direction of the loop you will take. If you would like to get the elevation gain out of the way early, it is best to climb Lake Peak first, traverse over to Penitente, and then descen via Trails 251 and 254. If you prefer to get the long hike out of the way first, then you should take the Windsor trail to Puerto Nambe, up to Penitente Peak, and then return by climbing back over Lake Peak and down Raven's Ridge. For those who are unfamiliar with the area, it is probably best to climb Lake Peak first, because route finding is a bit easier.
The description below is to do the loop counter-clockwise (Lake Peak first). To do Penitente Peak before Lake Peak, simply reverse the route.
From the trailhead, follow Windsor Trail to the North. The trail is a bit steep for the first mile, but the climbing ends when the trail enters the wilderness area, which is marked by a wooden fence crossing the trail. Leave the Windsor trail and follow the fence line to the right (east) up Raven's Ridge. At first the ridge is broad and ill-defined, so simply stay on the right side of the fence. Eventually the fence line ends, but simply continue upward along the top of Raven's Ridge. Shortly after the fence line ends, the trail swings near the north edge of Ravens Ridge and eventually comes to a neat overlook that offers incredible views of Lake Peak, Nambe Lake, and Santa Fe Baldy. There are several false summits on Raven's Ridge, but they are easily avoided by skirting to the south (right).
The trail along Raven's Ridge eventually emerges from the trees and you will be able to see that it intersects a higher north-south ridge. Climb to the top of the north-south ridge, which is the South Ridge of Lake Peak . Turn left (north) at the top fo the South Ridge and follow it to the summit of Lake Peak. Before you get to Lake Peak, you will encounter a few areas of third-class climbing as the ridge narrows to a foot or so in a few places.
From the summit of Lake Peak, follow the ridge connecting Lake Peak with Penitente Peak to the east until you reach the summit of Penitente. Trail 251 follows this ridge but, in winter, it will not be visible.
From the summit of Penitente Peak, you can return by climbing back over Lake Peak and descending your route of ascent. To complete the loop, however, follow trail 251 to the Northeast. After a few hundred yards, the trail begins to follow a ridge to the North and then intersects with Trail 254. Turn left (Northwest) on Trail 254 and begin descending down into Puerto Nambe. From trail 254, trail 251 veers off to the right Northeast toward Santa Fe Baldy If you're feeling especially strong, and have an extra hour or two, you can take a side trip to the summit of this Peak.
Continue along trail 254 to the Northwest until it makes a sharp turn and begins heading South and then West Again. Follow trail 254 from this point for about 6 miles to the trailhead. The trail from here is relatively flat, except for the descent for the last mile. About a mile from the trailhead you will pass the wooden fence that you followed up Raven's Ridge. It's all down hill from here.
A good map is essential for routefinding on this climb. I recommend the "Pecos Wildnerness" map, published by the US Forest Service.
No technical equipment required in summer.
In winter time, an ice axe and possibly crampons are needed for the traverse to Lake Peak. Skis or snowshoes are needed for the approach. Also, the trails are difficult to find when there is a lot of snow cover, so a GPS or other navigation equipment is recommended for those unfamiliar with the area.
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