For a long time I have wanted to climb Cerro Pedernal
(9862'), an iconic New Mexican peak made famous by several Georgia O'Keeffe paintings
. We often see its distinctive profile
on our way to and from Colorado, but yet we never made a special trip to climb it. We had time to kill driving back from Colorado on this day and decided to climb it on the way home.
Cerro Pedernal from Forest Road 100.
We drove up to the end of the 4WD road (~9100'), where we had these two fine views:
Tribute to Georgia O'Keeffe. We found the skeleton and happened to have the flower in our car.
Cerro Pedernal from where we parked.
We started hiking around 2:30pm and followed a pretty decent trail that switch-backs up the center of the slope in the previous picture. Eventually, the trail skirts to the right (SW) of the summit block. We reached the weakness in the SW-facing cliff bands about 15 minutes after leaving the car. There was a latilla (log) leaned up against the short crux section (~12' tall). There is also a small white arrow
painted on the rock. We scampered right up. Amy thought it was class 3. I thought it was class 4-.
Amy hiking toward the summit block.
Amy near the top of the crux. The white arrow is visible (bottom right).
Once above the crux, the trail resumes and zig zags up to the top of the butte and then heads northwest to the high point. We reached the summit 30 minutes after leaving our car.
Amy hiking toward the high point.
The view from the top was spectacular in all directions.
Polvadera and Chicoma to the south.
View to the northwest.
We took some pictures and started heading down. We both down-climbed facing out just to see if we could (it was easy for both of us, but we're used to this stuff).
Scott down-climbing the crux.
We thought there was good potential for some trad-climbing routes up the taller sections of unbroken rock. Maybe next time we'll bring our trad gear. Here is one of the more aesthetic lines.
We got back to the car around 3:30pm. The roundtrip took exactly 1 hour (1 mile roundtrip, ~750' elevation gain).
The 4WD road started out fairly mellow, but the last mile or so was sporting even in our Nissan Xterra Off-Road. The drive was almost as interesting to me as the hike and climb. Please refer to the main SP Cerro Pedernal page
or Gerry Roach's writeup for the Temolime trailhead
for directions. We drove about 1/4 mile past the spot in Roach's description. From where we parked, we could see several cairns for the trail we used. I believe there are other trails that lead from the spot described by Roach as well, but we didn't see them nor did we look very hard.
If you cannot drive (or wish to avoid driving) the 4WD drive road, this becomes a ~7 mile roundtrip hike with ~1900' of elevation gain.
Amy thought the crux was class 3. I thought it was closer to class 4 since it was fairly vertical, and use of hands was integral and essential for making upward progress. Although the crux is short (~12' tall), a fall could easily result in broken bones. Some people may want a rope for protection. Also, I would not want to climb this when it's wet.
References and external links
Kai Huschke, 50 Hikes in Northern New Mexico
(Countryman Press, Woodstock, 2007), p. 106.
Gerry Roach's trip report
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NM