March 18 2009Kessler and I set off to do a winter ascent of Mount Taylor, one of the highest mountains in New Mexico. The weather was perfect, but we weren’t sure how far we would be able to drive up FS Road 193 so we knew it could be a long haul if we wanted to climb the peak.
After an early morning start, we drove towards the trailhead and found that we could only drive two miles on FS 193 before having to stop in our 2wd low clearance vehicle. It would be over three miles each way to reach the summer trailhead (Gooseberry Trail-later we found out that there may be a shorter winter route).
We donned our snowshoes and after walking almost an hour and a half we wondered if we might have over shot the summer trailhead since the area was covered in snow (none of the three ranger stations/visitor centers we visited had a topo map of the mountain for sale!). We decided to head east up the mountain because it really wouldn’t matter if we were on the trail since everything was covered with snow anyway.
We climbed steeply to the ridge through the open forest and followed the ridge up the mountain. We found some scraps of trail and a couple cairns, but when we got high enough on the mountain we could see that the real trail was on the next ridge to the south and across a gaping valley.
We climbed our rugged ridge through the lava rock, having to remove our snowshoes once we hit the rock until we reached the real trail when we weren’t far from the summit. We put our snowshoes back on and climbed to the summit of Mount Taylor on perfect bluebird weather day. It had taken us over six hours to snowshoe the six miles to the summit, which isn’t bad for a six year old.
After eating lunch and enjoying the views from the summit, it was time to head back down. We took the “real trail” down, but found that it really wasn’t an advantage or any faster than the route we took up especially in the areas that were sparse on snow. We followed the trail back to the trailhead where it was a long haul back along the snow covered road to the vehicle. It was a rewarding climb and had taken us ten hours round trip. Kessler was pretty tired and went to bed well that night. It was a record long distance for him on snowshoes and possibly for me as well.