Not What I Planned
I took off work on Thursday afternoon and drove from East TX to Amarillo. I was planning on attempting Sheepshead Peak, in the Pecos Wilderness of New Mexico, but woke up on Friday morning to news of the Carson and Santa Fe National Forests being closed to hiking due to the extreme fire danger. I contemplated what to do for a bit before remembering a peak I had looked at on this site a few weeks ago that was the same distance from Amarillo as Sheepshead, West Spanish Peak in southern Colorado.
Scouting it Out
So I drove on up to Walsenburg and found somewhere to get some food and check check this site on my phone for some details on the peak. I had nothing else to do that day so headed on up to the peak. I arrived at the Cordova Pass Trailhead around 2:15pm and started hiking not planning on going very far. As expected by my lack of acclimatization I struggled a bit, but before I knew it I had reached treeline. It took me a bit over an hour to cover the 2.5 miles and <1,000 feet to treeline.
Above treeline starts the Class 2, climbing since I had never done any extended Class 2 I decided to go up a bit. Its loose talus and if you manage to stay on trail it has some gravel. As I am turning back I get a call from my grandfather, never been on a mountain with this good of cell signal. It takes me a bit over an hour to get back to the trailhead from low on the slopes above treeline.
The last hard mile to the summit. The point in the foreground obscures the view of most of the route above treeline.
I returned to the Cordova Pass the next morning around 9:15am; there seemed to be a decent number of cars in the parking lot. I gathered all of what I needed for the hike and headed out. It was an uneventful hike up to treeline and I only saw a few people. Near treeline there was a gathering of people who I assume were eating lunch, I did the same a short distance up the slope.
The weather was still looking very good, though you could see the smoke off in the distance, actually it was a bit warm on the way up to that point. I put on some extra sunscreen and started my way up. The trail was hard to follow so I made my way along the path of least resistance. After close to an hour above treeline I began to hear claps of thunder and the clouds began to build. Everyone else continued up so I decided to continue though I kept a watchful eye on the weather from that point forward.
The middle section of the climb is the most technical. It never surpasses class 2 unless you searched for more, but it still can be rough. Breaks became more frequent, but watching the group ahead of me with kids and middle-age guys in jean shorts kept me moving. The slope eases a bit as you get closer to the ridge so I picked up the pace a bit.
There was one small patch of snow just as I topped out onto the ridge. From here it is a pretty simple ridge walk to the crowed summit. At this point I began to hear the static in the ground and peoples hair started standing on end. I should have turned back, but decided to go bag the summit. I got my token summit picture and began the slog back down. Just I turned to go down I again got a call from my grandfather; strange how he called two days in a row right at my turnaround point.
Skies not looking good.
The Weather Turns
Off to the west you could see where the precip was beginning to fall. The winds became gusty as I left the ridge and began to make my way down the slope. I consciously wanted to move much faster than my tired legs would safely move down the loose, steep rock that was slowly was becoming wet from the drizzle and ice pellets that were beginning to fall. Amazing that I was sweating on the way up and now it was cold, wet and windy. At times the ice pellets fell heavily and I saw some impressive lightning, but I was thankful that it was raining. After about two hours I finally made it down to treeline.
By this time the storm had given way to off and on sprinkles. Without much fanfare I walked the last 2.5 miles back to the car.
Finding a good hotel to shower and crash in was awesome after a hard half day's work. I will definately be back to this area in the future.
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