The weather forecast earlier in the week said it would be sunny on Friday, March 17 when my friend, Jay, and I planned to head to the mountains. However, the forecast the day before changed to a 20% chance of rain in Santa Fe, which meant snow at higher elevations. We didn’t care about the weather at that point because we had been meaning to the climb Santa Fe Baldy for several months and had finally found ourselves with enough time to do so.
I walked over to the house of my friend, Jay at 6:00 am. We managed to get on the road at 6:30 am and arrived at the Santa Fe Ski Basin at 8:15 am. We got our gear on and proceeded to the trail at 8:30. The sky was filled with billowy cumulus, which lingered the whole day. The first leg up to the national forest boundary was intermixed with snow, mud, and ice. Beyond the pass in the national forest, a solid blanket of snow five inches deep was compacted by others exploring the area.
Around 2.25 miles from the trailhead we reached the turnoff to Nambe Lake that lies to the north of Raven’s Ridge. Nearly fifty feet beyond the intersection was the frozen stream that stems from the lake. Nights with temperatures below freezing and days above freezing lead to the creation of an ice dam that grew larger every time the stream overflowed and froze again. The ice was nearly 20 feet across, forcing us to put on our snowshoes, which had metal teeth underneath.
We took 40 minutes to eat lunch at Nambe Meadow. A beautifully foliated Gray Jay satisfied its curiosity by watching us from branches five feet above our heads. Some guy wearing sweats and running shoes passed us as we got up from eating. He was carrying a school-sized backpack and managed to get to summit nearly 40 minutes before us and continued to the north from there. We didn’t know where he could have gone with no sleeping bag or tent.
We hid our packs and snowshoes beneath some trees a hundred feet off the trail below the beginning of the ridge up to the summit. The rest of the route had no snow except for a few snow banks a couple of feet high on the ridge and a small snowfield near the summit. We reached the top of the mountain at 2:30 pm. After 20 minutes of exploring the top we headed down and got to our packs at 3:15. On a constant burn we made it to the intersection between the Windsor and Skyline Trails at 4 pm. At a steady pace, which burned us out, we made it to the turnoff to Nambe Lake just past 5 pm. Slowly, we made our way uphill to the forest boundary. The sun was falling in the west and the clouds were already setting in for what was supposed to be another snow flurry that night.
The setting sun illuminated the purplish clouds above our heads with a red hue as we caught our breath at the forest boundary. We pushed on through the increasing darkness that blurred the ice, mud, and snow into a mesh of unstable ground. We finally made it back to the car at 6:40 pm after everyone else at the ski area had left.
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