SynopsisAmy and I took advantage of fresh snow, good weather, and visiting family (i.e., free baby-sitters) to do a short ski tour and ski descents of UN 9950 (NM rank #232) and Rabbit Mountain (9938', unranked), which are in the Jemez Mountains and the Valles Caldera National Preserve (just west of Los Alamos, NM). From the Coyote Call Trailhead (~8720'), we skinned up a road (buried deep in snow) toward UN 9950, then headed up steep trees to gain the ridge (Rabbit Ridge) just NE of the summit. After reaching the summit, we skied down to the saddle (9750') to the west and skinned up to Rabbit Mountain, where there were great 360 degree views. There's a nice NE facing open slope just below Rabbit's summit where we got some nice powder turns before entering dense trees and finally open flats. We reached the road (NM 4) just a short 5 minute hike from our car. Our tour involved ~1420' vertical climbed/skied, ~2.5 miles roundtrip, and it took us ~2.5 hours car-to-car. Thanks to Jason Halladay for recent beta and also photos (2/14/10 & 12/26/08) of this area that inspired us to go.
Climb to UN 9950 and Rabbit MountainWe parked at a plowed space big enough for 2 cars at the Coyote Call Trailhead (on the south side of NM 4), which is located about 0.2 miles west of mile marker 41. It was overcast as we geared up and started skinning around 8:50AM. We followed the Coyote Call trail south and continued following a buried road to about 9100'. The road turned east and shortly thereafter we left it and headed up steeply through the trees. Just before getting to the ridge, it got quite steep, and it was quite a grunt with the foot or so of soft powder. We got to the summit of UN 9950 about 1.5 hours after leaving the car. It was nice and sunny by this point.
Unlike most Jemez summits, the high point on this one was relatively obvious. From here, we skied down the ridge toward the 9750' saddle between UN 9950 and Rabbit Mtn. There was a nice open south facing slope that begged to be skied, but the snow was already baked from the sunshine the day before, so we continued up the ridge toward Rabbit Mtn, arriving just 20 minutes after departing UN 9950. It felt warm in the sun.
Ski descentAs opposed to the south facing slope, the snow on the NE facing slope was nice and soft. We peeled the skins off and started the ski descent around 10:50AM. The snow was fantastic, but the open slope was way too short. It got steep with a nasty-looking gully below, so we ducked east into the trees and enjoyed some more nice turns before things quickly got flat.
We ended up at the road a short hike from the car. It was nice to see our tracks from the road.
Links & references1. Lists of John
2. Valles Caldera National Preserve
3. "Santa Fe, Bandelier, Los Alamos," Sky Terrain Trail Maps (2006).
4. Northern New Mexico Avalanche Exchange