Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Sep 6, 2010
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Fall

Cerro Pedernal

I've been a trucker for 30+ years, and have been past Cerro Pedernal many times, always barely staying on the road, as I scoped it out maybe a few moments too long. This butte is featured in the recent movie, "3:10 To Yuma", with Russell Crowe, as a backdrop to the fictitious town in the story. On Labor day weekend, my wife and I decided to give it a shot. Forest road 100 is easy to find, just a few yards east of Youngsville, the very last town before you come to Abiquiu Lake. Take the road, travel four or five miles, and turn left on Forest Road 160, more of a jeep trail, basically the very first time you have the opportunity to turn left off of Road 100. Not having a map, as usual, and making yet another mental note to get one next time, we were a little unsure if Road 160 actually went to the base of the butte, and consequently parked too far away, as the road meanders a bit, and at times veers away from the target. Later, as we looked down from the top, we could see that 160 indeed goes right up to the west base of the butte. The west base offers some perfect camping spots, to rest the night before, and scramble up the next day, would be the preferable option for us next time. Our initial attack, as we bushwhacked to the base, sans trail, did not notice these camping areas until we looked down later. When we were able to get an unobstructed view of the butte, we took out the binoculars and carefully scanned the 30-50' band of volcanic rock (I believe: basalt) that circumvents the butte about 2/3 of the way up, for a possible route. From the west side, you will see a black cave-like indentation in the band, about midpoint, and about 100 feet to the left of this dark "cave", is a fairly obvious route up the band, or looked to be, through the binoculars. We headed straight for that area, and still not finding a trail, went straight up the talus slope, which was firm and not loose at all. The grade is very steep, I would imagine 15-20% (my guess, I'm not a professional climber). Reaching the band, we came upon an obvious trail, and proceeded to the aforementioned spot, which was actually pretty easy. Previous climbers have built up a small cairn of rocks, from which you can get your first boost as you ascend the 20' or so, vertical ledge. So many people have climbed it, that the handholds are smooth, and even somewhat oily. A quick 20 second scramble, and you crest the band, and from there switchback up the ridge to the summit, and are treated to one of the most beautiful views in New Mexico. I was completely blown away with the view and peaceful spiritualness. The summit is only about 30' wide, but is roughly 1/4 mile long, and there are many spots to sit and gaze.....and wonder why the hell you hadn't climbed it years ago. Coming down, we spotted a trail next to the talus slope we had ascended, but since it switchbacked and was basically washed out from overuse, it was actually slower and looser than merely staying on the firm talus slope. Highly recommended. A beautiful, peaceful, solitary, majestic place. You won't forget it.


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