| Guadalupe Peak
(Note: I intended to post this trip report to 14ersworld.com about 2½ years ago and never got around to it. Thanks to Boudreaux for getting me to think about finally posting this report. Hopefully, this is a case of better late than never.)
David (13), Randy (15), and Eddie (a lot older) Mack went on a one-week trip to Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Big Bend National Park. On this trip, we planned to climb several mountains in these parks, including the highest mountain in Texas: Guadalupe Peak (8,749’). While that doesn’t sound very high to climbers in Colorado, the elevation gain from the trailhead to the summit is a little over 3,000 feet in 4¼ miles. In addition, there is no water available on any of the climbs (this is a desert), so it’s important to carry more water than you expect to need. GMNP is also one of the windiest regions in Texas. Not quite Mt. Washington, but still very windy.
Sunday, January 31, 2010. We left our home in Austin early in the morning and drove 500+ miles west to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, arriving at 3:50 p.m. MST after taking a tour at the nearby Carlsbad Cavern National Park. Yes, GMNP is far enough west that it’s in the Mountain Time Zone.
We selected site #18 at the campground and set up our four-man tent. Randy cooked migas for dinner. We had forgotten the frying pan but improvised by using our largest pot instead. It wouldn’t be a proper trip without forgetting at least one item, right? The stars were quite numerous and beautiful this evening. One small cloud was visible over Guadalupe Peak when we headed into the tent for the night.
Monday, February 1, 2010. We got up at 6:10 a.m. It was very windy already and extremely bright due to a full moon. We cooked oatmeal and hot cocoa for breakfast and then walked to the campground parking lot that serves as the trailhead for the Guadalupe Peak Trail as well as the Tejas Trail (which we would take on tomorrow’s climb of Bush Mountain).
Sunrise over the plains
We started hiking up the trail to Guadalupe Peak at 7:05. The first mile and a half is the steepest part, but not bad at all.
David, dressed for the cold and wind, not too far above the trailhead. Hunter Peak (8,368’) is in the background.
The view to the southeast from the same point as the previous photo.
Interestingly, in places, the trail was muddy (!) -- not at all normal for the Texas desert.
Randy on the muddy trail; notice the snow beside the trail.
David (left) and Randy taking a break where we were sheltered from the wind.
After the first mile and a half, the trail is on a north-facing slope where it’s just enough cooler and wetter that pinion pine, southwestern white pine, and Douglas fir can survive. This is where the trail was covered in up to a half dozen inches of snow from a storm that hit west Texas and southeastern New Mexico on Thursday, January 28, 2010.
Randy leads the way through the snow.
On one steep section, we had to kick in steps carefully to make sure we didn’t slide down the hill. Climbing in the snow in the Texas desert seemed surreal. A guy on his way down went by and didn’t yield right-of-way to the uphill climbers.
This is one of the snowier sections of trail.
After about three miles, we reached a false summit where we could see Guadalupe Peak to our west. The true summit is just over a mile away, and the ponderosa pines are getting smaller and farther apart.
Guadalupe Peak to our west, from near the false summit.
As we climbed above the trees and El Capitan (8,085’) came into view to the south, we saw seven or eight deer on the mountainside to the west.
El Capitan (8,085’)
We continued climbing and reached the summit of Guadalupe Peak (8,749’) at 9:50 a.m. Here, the winds were a steady 35 mph, with gusts even higher. Don’t let the sunshine in the photos fool you; it’s quite cold here! We are even wearing our Frogg Toggs as windbreakers.
The snowy, windswept summit of Guadalupe Peak.
Eddie and David on the summit. The box at David’s feet contains the summit register. El Paso is about 85 miles away, directly behind us to the WSW.
The monument commemorates overland stage and air travel and obviously violates LNT principles, but it was installed by American Airlines in 1958, some 20 years before this became a national park. I’ve always wondered if the obelisk on “2001 - A Space Odyssey” was inspired by this monument.
A closer look at the monument.
Just in case you get lost...
American Airlines no doubt considers this to be the front of the monument.
There were several interesting items in the summit register box, such as tickets from a show in New York City and a Boy Scout patch from Mexico. Due to the strong winds on the summit, we descended to get out of the worst of the wind before eating our lunch alongside the trail. We returned to the trailhead at 1:05 p.m., having seen only one other group on our descent.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):