Sin Nombre, a locals' backcountry skiing favorite

Sin Nombre, a locals' backcountry skiing favorite

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 36.54005°N / 105.43077°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: May 8, 2009
Activities Activities: Hiking, Skiing
Seasons Season: Spring


Sin Nombre (No Name) is what many local backcountry skiers call UN 12819, which is located in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness and is the ninth highest ranked peak in New Mexico. It has good north facing slopes with several interesting steep chutes, and thus it is a favorite among local backcountry skiers. Today, a fun crew of five plus dog had an extremely enjoyable spring day skiing off the summit of Sin Nombre down its north slope and chutes. Then we had an easy ski exit down the Williams Lake trail all the way to the bottom of the Kachina chairlift (at Taos Ski Valley), just a few hundred yards from our parked cars. Our total roundtrip distance was ~6.5 miles with a total elevation climbed/skied of ~2650'. Our car-to-car time was 5 hours.

Note: The author of the webpage for UN 12819 assigns the name "Bighorn Peak" to this mountain. Several comments were posted debating this (I recommend checking it out).
Sin NombreSin Nombre (UN 12819).

Approach and climb

We all met up at the Williams Lake trailhead hiker parking lot (~10160') around 7am and started skinning around 7:20am. Despite the warm overnight temperatures, the snow was firm enough for easy skinning. We made it to the small rise just south of Williams Lake around 8:30am and took a short break. Then we headed SW through the trees and came out on the open snow-covered talus fields. Some piles of rock were showing but it was easy finding a continuous skinning path. We stayed on a southerly course and skinned up a shallow gully with well-spaced trees until we got to the bottom of the open NW facing slopes of Sin Nombre. It was now about 9:30am, and we soon stopped to strap our skis onto our packs for the bootpack up toward the ridge.
Skinning the Williams Lake trailSkinning the Williams Lake trail.
The crew skinningSkinning through the snow-covered talus fields above Williams Lake.
The crew skinningShortly before the start of the bootpack.

We started up the bootpack around 9:45am and were already occasionally postholing. Each of us tried to find the best path. We used a few-day old bootpack in places, but we were postholing in those steps too. Finally, we were able to get close to some rock ribs and bootpack up snow near the exposed rock. This worked much better and we finally made it to the ridgeline around 10:20am. We wanted to ski off the true summit, so we continued east along the ridgeline, climbing another few hundred feet on snow and rock. We were on the 12819' summit of Sin Nombre at 10:30am, making for a 3 hour ascent from the trailhead.
Jen on a rock ribJen on a rock rib to avoid postholing.
The crew bootpackingBootpacking below the ridge.
Miles hikingMiles hiking toward the summit.
Dave and Jen approaching the summitDave and Jen approaching the summit.

We spent about half an hour having a snack, enjoying the views, getting a summit photo, and were ready to ski just after 11:00am.
Vallecito from UN 12819Vallecito Mountain from Sin Nombre.
The crew on UN 12819Group summit shot with Lake Fork Peak in the background.

Ski descent

I was excited to be able to ski off the true summit, which is typically difficult to get on this peak. There was a thin strip of snow that allowed us to ski from the summit across an exposed rocky rib onto the open north face. Then we tore it up on nice spring corn that was just a little past prime for the day. I would have been concerned about wet slide danger had we been just a little later.
About to skiThe crew just below the exposed rocky section. Wheeler is in the background.

Dave skiingDave.

Miles grinMiles grinning after skiing the first pitch.

Miles skiingMiles skiing above the chutes.

Scott skiing UN 12819Scott enjoying the corn.

Jen skiing Sin Nombre s north slopeJen with some nice GS turns.

Amy in the chuteAmy in one of the north chutes.

We decided to keep heading down the natural large avalanche path for some nice turns, aiming eventually to skirt around the west side of Williams Lake. The snow got stickier as we descended. We crossed an open area and then headed into the trees, shortly popping out near the southwest side of Williams Lake.
TracksTracks lower down.

Our tracksOur tracks on Sin Nombre.

We had to herringbone and sidestep a little bit to reach the rise just south of Williams Lake, but then it was an easy ski all the way back to within a few hundred yards of the parking lot. I thought about booting up one of the west facing avalanche chutes above the Williams Lake trail but decided against it because of the fear of a postholing nightmare. We got back to the car around 12:20pm, making for a 5 hour car-to-car day.
Amy still getting turnsAmy still getting nice turns in the sloppy snow on the Williams Lake trail exit.

Tim s Chute"Tim's Chute" would have to wait for another day.

External links

Northern New Mexico Avalanche Exchange
Taos Ski Valley


Post a Comment
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Nice Axe!

Nice Axe! - May 8, 2009 7:32 pm - Voted 10/10

Much better

After last week's ass kicker on Jicarilla, this was a much appreciated day!! I love this area. Thanks to Scott for leading the boot pack.

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UN 12819Trip Reports