The Organ Mountains are quite a spectacular sight when viewed from the southern New Mexico city of Las Cruces. They rise up abruptly from the foothills and quickly reach heights of more than 5000' above the city that lies just a few miles to the west. The Organs are a small range of mountains that lack a large footprint, but they more than make up for that deficiency with a vertical presence that can't be ignored.
Photo by Walt and Mimi Miller
One of the most spectacular peaks in the range is the easily distinguishable peak of the North Rabbit Ear (NRE). From the city of Las Cruces the three Rabbit Ears (North, Middle, and South) are often hidden from view by the Rabbit Ears Plateau (sometimes referred to as the Rabbit Ears Massif). However, when viewed from the east side of the range the three Rabbit Ears dominate the skyline. While the Rabbit Ears do create a beautiful backdrop for White Sands Missile Range and the BLM recreational area of Aguirre Springs, some would argue that they are best viewed from the neighboring Rabbit Ears Plateau.
The NRE on the far left as viewed from the Rabbit Ears Plateau
The NRE is the most massive peak in the Rabbit Ears group and it's slopes offer a complicated collage of steep faces, vegetated chutes, bulging buttresses and an occasional swath of picture perfect granite. This peak once boasted to be the most visited summit in the Organ Mountain range, but it appears that it has fallen out of favor and there is little evidence of the attention this peak once garnered.
The convoluted nature of the steep walls that surround the NRE become obvious as the climber approaches.
The NRE is a massive block of granite that culminates in a nice rounded summit, and though the summit provides a great place to relax and enjoy views of the better part of southern New Mexico, the admission to the show is fairly steep (no pun intended). The easiest known route on the NRE is rated 5.3 and you may well find that the crux has nothing to do with rock climbing but rather it involves that delicate balance of staying on your feet, holding onto the rock, and avoiding a cholla which has decided the best place to grow is on the only spot that you can find to use as a hold.
The first glance of the NRE upon entering Rabbit Ear Canyon
There are two primary methods of approach to the NRE. The best way to approach an east face route is likely from the Aguirre Springs BLM recreational area, but there is no trail and the bushwhacking may be severe. The primary approach used for all of the other routes is via the Topp Hut Mine and Rabbit Ears Canyon.
To access the primary approach take US 70 east out of Las Cruces towards Alamogordo. Take the NASA Rd / Baylor Canyon exit that is the last highway exit before reaching San Augustin Pass. Head 3.9 miles south from the exit on US70. At this point you'll pass a cattle guard and see a primitive dirt road that heads toward the mountains. Pull off here, and decide how long you would like to punish your vehicle as you drive east towards the mountains. IMHO, it's best to park passenger cars and other lower clearance vehicles right off of Baylor Canyon Rd where there is some parking room.
The Summit Register
As mentioned above, the North Rabbit Ear was once a primary climbing objective in the Organ Mountains. Many of the first ascents in the area were accomplished by the German rocket scientists that were captured following WWII and moved to White Sands Missile Range. What's interesting to not about the register that we found on the summit is that it was first placed following a successful climb in 1954. Then in 1969 the register was removed from the peak, taken to town, copied by hand, and placed into a local museum. Following that effort the climber (Ingraham?) re-climbed the NRE and placed the copied register back on the summit, and thus the register on the summit has a comprehensive record of the ascents through the last 50+ years.
Typical BLM camping restrictions apply. There is a pretty cool spot along the route just as the trail enters the Rabbit Ear Canyon. The spot is pretty obvious and has two nice level areas as well as a small windbreak.