OverviewThe traverse from Mt. Livermore, the state's 5th highest summit, to Mescalero Mountain, Texas' 9th highest peak, is arguably one of the most wild and enjoyable climbs under the Lone Star. Tobe Gap, the saddle hanging high in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, draws climbers along the highest fence-line in the state and a Class 4 ridge to boot. Although the route can be done year-round fall and winter are the best time to avoid oppressive heat and snakes. This is a very, very seldom attempted route; even though the Davis Mountains Preserve is only open a few times each year, you're still very unlikely to run into someone else on the ridge.
If solitude, scrub-brush and side-hilling interest you, then Tobe Gap just might be your climb!
Please note that since the ridge could feasibly done in either direction, I've attached it to both Mt. Livermore & Mescalero Mountain.
Getting ThereSee the Getting There text on the main Mescalero Mountain page for information on how to get to the Davis Mountains Preserve.
Once at the preserve, either hitch a 4x4 ride or walk the ~7mi down the Madera Canyon road to the parking area at about 6,360'. From this point, you can either go up the Bridge Gap Road toward Mt. Livermore or up the Tobe Gap Road directly toward Mescalero Mountain.
From the summit of Mt. Livermore:
Descend roughly west along the line of a barbed wire fence that begins in a meadow at the base of Livermore's summit block. Stick as close to the fence as possible for the first quarter mile, though you may have to stray a bit to avoid the densest brush.
When coming to the crux cliff (the face looks almost due West), traverse to climber's left along a narrow and exposed ledge to reach a crack that can be down-climbed. Watch out for spiny cacti growing in the cracks on the cliff!
At the base of the cliff, follow the now broad ridge to the mid-point of the saddle with, strangely enough, a saddle made of rock in it! Along this stretch, it's probably easiest to stay on the north side of the fence.
Begin climbing back up the slope toward Mescalero, and find the easiest place to cross over to the south side of the fence-line. If you don't, you'll find yourself in a painful grove of cactus that will force descent back toward the saddle. Continue climbing up the rocky ridge, which widens into a large grassy slope home to many rattlers. Consider taking along hiking poles just so that you can make more vibration here, to help the snakes to get out of your way.
Break to climber's right (north) when it seems appropriate and snake through a grove of stunted trees to the base of the Arrowhead's summit block. Search around for the easiest access point (Class 3) or simply take the first entrance you see (Class 4) up toward the summit.
Once on the small plateau, climb up the grassy slopes to the state's lowest "8er" summit. Enjoy the amazing panorama as a reward for your effort!
Descend off from the summit block and choose your fate:
A) retrace your steps back to Mt. Livermore (least painful option)
B) begin you descent toward the prominent meadow to the north
If you choose option B, begin side-hilling toward the meadow. You can either walk around the top of the meadow to see some great scenery, or begin descending toward the drainage. This is your last opportunity for a comfortable resting place before you get back to the road.
Pick your way carefully down the steep slope to a brushy and rocky ledge that circles the base of the plateau on which the meadow sits. The going is very slow on this stretch due to the vines and dense vegetation covering the loose rocks. Keep moving along the avenue toward an obvious grassy shoulder overlooking Madera Canyon.
From this shoulder, another decent spot to rest & rehydrate, pick your own path of least-resistance down the brush-covered scree slope toward the obvious creekbed to the east. This section is incredibly tiring as your feet will likely be complaining of the constant side-hilling to your left. Be careful not to twist an ankle on the loose slope, and watch out for rotting trees that love to give way as soon as you touch them.
After getting to the flats near the stream-bed, head roughly north through the opening forest until you encounter Tobe Gap Road. Follow the road back to the parking area at the junction with the Bridge Gap Road.
You can obviously reverse the route, but I don't have any experience with climbing it the other way. Methinks it would be easier to climb the brushy talus below Mescalero that it is to descend it, but I can't be certain.
Even though this climb doesn't entail much distance or elevation gain, the route is very exhausting simply because you'll be moving to your left all day. Granted I was wearing a pair of fairly new boots, but on my visit, the constant impact of the descent caused me to lose 4 toenails to bruising.
Essential GearLots 'o Water (I drank 6 liters on an autumn ascent and was bone-dry well before I got back to the Visitors' Center);
Gaiters (to keep out scree & seeds);
Whatever else you deem necessary