| four high summits in the Sangre de Cristo‘s of NM
Peaks: Truchas Peak (13,103-ft), Middle Truchas Peak*, West Truchas Peak*, North Truchas Peak (13,024-ft)
Route: North to Middle to West to Middle to Truchas Peak
Date Climbed: July 4, 2009
Roundtrip Mileage: ~20-miles (~14-miles for approach and ~6-miles for summits)
Group: Andy & Sarah Thien, Matt Balkey, Alicia Garcia-Lopez
Having stared at these peaks for years from our vantage point in Los Alamos, Sarah and I have wanted to climb them for some time now. Truchas Peak is the second tallest peak in New Mexico, a mere 60-ft shorter than Wheeler Peak, the state's high point. With a poor weather forecast in Colorado for Independence Day weekend, we decided that it would be a great time to finally give the Truchas peaks a try. We made a last minute call to Matt and Alicia and found that they wanted to join us.
(view of the Truchas peaks from Pajarito Mountain in winter)
Sarah and I had previously hiked the Pecos Baldy and East Pecos Baldy from the Jack's Creek trailhead, so we decided to use the Santa Barbara trailhead for a change of scenery. We did not consider the shorter Quemado approach for fear of vandalism to our vehicles.
The four of us met at the Santa Barbara trailhead on Friday morning, and we enjoyed a leisurely approach hike to No Fish Lake. Aside from some really annoying trail destruction from all the livestock in the area, we enjoyed great views of the basin and amazing wildflowers along the way. Despite it being a holiday weekend, we had no problem finding a great spot to camp only a few hundred yards from the lake.
(a nice day for a hike)
(Chimayosos Peak in the distance)
(Columbine in full bloom)
(amazing flowers along the way)
The following morning, we left our camp just after sunrise to try climbing all four peaks in the Truchas group. From the lakes, the trail climbs numerous switchbacks up to the saddle between Chimayosos Peak and North Truchas Peak. From the saddle, the route leaves the trail and climbs up the steep, grassy terrain on the east face of North Truchas Peak.
(making our way up to the saddle)
(the north face of North Truchas Peak)
(the east face of North Truchas Peak seen from the saddle)
(L-R: Truchas Peak, Middle Truchas Peak*, and West Truchas Peak*)
The ridge connecting North Truchas Peak to Middle Truchas Peak offers lots of enjoyable scrambling and a few mini knife edges along the way. The climbing never exceeded class 3, and our dog had no problem the entire way. The crux of the ridge is descending a somewhat smooth, 40-ft tall face down to the saddle between the two peaks. There were lots of options, and we chose to use a set of diagonal cracks to make our way down. Again, our dog had no problem with this section. From the saddle, there is a mini knife edge about 10-ft wide that offers plenty of scrambling opportunities. Aside from a bighorn sheep that refused to grant us passage, we really enjoyed this section in particular.
(Sarah and Nina standing on a fin just above the saddle - behind her)
(looking back at the crux from the saddle - note the diagonal cracks)
(a bighorn sheep guarding the mini knife edge)
(looking back along the ridge towards North Truchas Peak)
(the bighorn sheep stands his ground - "None shall pass!")
(North Truchas Peak and the connecting ridge as seen from Middle Truchas Peak)
Once we reached the summit of Middle Truchas Peak, all the scrambling was behind us. We made our way over to the summit of West Truchas Peak on the grassy slopes atop steep cliffs. The views were amazing, and we enjoyed spending so much time far above tree line.
(Nina and I pose in front of West Truchas Peak)
(North Truchas Peak (left) and Middle Truchas Peak (right) from West Truchas Peak)
(Middle Truchas Peak (left) and Truchas Peak (right) from West Truchas Peak)
From the summit of West Truchas Peak, we traversed around the southwest shoulder of Middle Truchas Peak and on to the summit of Truchas Peak, the tallest of the group and our fourth summit of the day.
(making our way towards Truchas Peak)
(L-R: West Truchas Peak*, Middle Truchas Peak*, and North Truchas Peak)
(L-R: Pecos Baldy & East Pecos Baldy in the foreground, Santa Fe Baldy in the distance)
We descended from the summit of Truchas Peak along the ridge to the south and eventually made our way down a steep, grassy gully on the west side of the south ridge. This gully took us directly to the trail (#251) which traverses high in the valley to Truchas Lakes, saving us a significant amount of elevation loss. Once past the lakes, we followed the trail up and over the saddle between North Truchas Peak and Chimayosos Peak. From the saddle, we made our way back down the switchbacks to our camp. Aside from getting caught in a crazy downpour and huddling in a grove of pine trees near Truchas Lakes for close to an hour as the Earth was rattled by thunder, we had a really enjoyable day on these rugged, rarely visited peaks of the New Mexico high country.
(Sarah and Nina hurriedly descending the gully into the Truchas Lakes basin)
(moonrise over Chimayosos Peak)
*NOTE: The Middle Truchas Peak is not always named consistently. Here, I have chosen to refer to the peak directly between Truchas Peak and North Truchas Peak as Middle Truchas Peak. I then refer to the peak to the west of Middle Truchas Peak as West Truchas Peak. Some maps denote West Truchas Peak (as I call it here) as Middle Truchas Peak and leave the other peak unnamed.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):