Santa Fe Baldy • Highpoint: Santa Fe County
• Sangre de Cristo Mountains
• Pecos Wilderness

Date Climbed
October 9, 2004

Elevation
12,622 feet

Distance
14 miles

Time
8 hours

Gain
3,400 feet

Conditions
Crisp and beautiful

Prominence
1,982 feet

Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version


Our first view of the grand peak


Beth ambles up to
Puerto Nambe meadow


The peak as we get closer


Beth works up the last
to the summit


This hiker came equipped
with 4-wheel drive!


The final ridge from the summit


The victorious summit team

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  Summitpost

As of Labor Day 2004, I had completed 30 of New Mexico's 33 county highpoints. My wife Beth and I were visiting Silver City in southwest New Mexico and we formulated a plan to visit Santa Fe with the intent of hiking Santa Fe Baldy in the very near future. In the meantime I would make a weekend trip to the Los Alamos area and hike two of the remaining three highpoints I needed to complete the state. That trip was successful, in which I climbed Caballo Mountain and Redondo Peak. This left me with just Santa Fe Baldy (Santa Fe County) remaining to complete my project. The plan was deliberate: I wanted to save the prettiest hike for last (not that the other two were not pretty, of course), and I wanted to be accompanied by my wife. She was enticed, as was I, by the prospect of soothing our sore bodies afterwards in a hot bath at the "10,000 Waves" Japanese Spa just outside of town. The plan was set and we left Phoenix Friday afternoon the day before, arriving in Albuquerque around 7 p.m. local time.

We happened to plan our trip during the big balloon festival in Albuquerque. As a result, all the rental car companies overcharged us because they could. Two weeks ago I had a two-day rental of a mid-sized car for a grand total of $58. This time it was $175. We piled into our pricey car and followed northbound Interstate-25, but got 10 miles before coming to a halt on the highway. We were near the balloon festivities and surmised the traffic letting out there was maybe causing the stoppage. But we weren't moving at all. By this time it was dark, and while parked on the highway we got treated to a fireworks show from the festival.

So there we were, sitting in traffic on the interstate, watching fireworks. We could see cars up ahead turning around on the median, but finally we got moving, 40 minutes later. Turns out there had been a bad wreck in the southbound lanes, which didn't explain why the northbound lanes were completely stopped. We finally arrived in Santa Fe about 9 p.m., behind schedule. Poor Beth had a major headache. We checked into our hotel, ate a great Mexican dinner and went food shopping, then finally crashed about 10:30 p.m. We awoke early the next morning hoping the previous night's delays would not impact us too severely.

We were moving by 7 a.m. and had to run a couple quick errands before going on the hike. I'd lost my sunglasses on the plane so I needed to get a new pair. Then I realized I left my jacket in the hotel room, so we drove back to get it. Then, I drove us up a few miles and had a nagging feeling I'd forgotten something else. The Camera! I asked Beth to check the packs, and luckily, there it was. No problem. Still, that feeling. My boots! Beth, thinking I was losing my mind, checked and they weren't there. Barnacles! Feeling like a moron, I drove back to our hotel room, where my boots sat quietly on the chair where I'd placed them the night before.

So, finally organized, we drove the twenty miles to the Santa Fe Ski Area, enjoying the colorful fall colors, and arrived at the trailhead about 8:30 a.m. in cool, clear weather. We got ready and were on the move by 8:40. The Windsor Trail (#254) is well-marked and well tended, its starting elevation being 10,260 feet. We started up and quickly lost our wind. Beth had been battling a bug all week and was not 100%. We both trudged up this first portion, a half-mile stretch in which we gained 600 feet, a fairly steep push for the start of a hike. Shortly, we came to the top of the ridge and the boundary fence of the Pecos Wilderness, where we took a breather.

The next few miles involves a long gentle descent of about 600 feet over a couple miles. The trail cuts east along the north face of the ridge amid thick spruce and aspen (which were bright yellow with fall colors). Patches of ice and hail from some storms in recent days spanned the route. Views were minimal and blocked by the heavy forest cover. We came to the junction with the Nambe Lake Trail after about 2.25 miles, then descended some more to a small meadow opening where we could see our peak for the first time along the hike.

The trail reaches its lowest point at 10,260 feet near some creekbeds, which were flowing. We crossed these, then started up steep switchbacks that finally topped out in a beautiful meadow called Puerto Nambe. This point was about 4.5 miles in from the start and 11,000 feet elevation. The weather was awesome, and we had unobstructed views of Santa Fe Baldy to the north and the snow-covered Lake and Penitente Peaks to the south. We took a break here, buffetted by occasional brisk winds.

Rested, we turned left from the Windsor Trail onto Skyline Trail (#251) and started the slog toward the pass at 11,600 feet just east of Santa Fe Baldy's summit. The tree cover lessened along this trail, and we had better and better views of our objective as we steadily moved higher toward the pass, which we reached after about an hour, where we again found a good excuse to take a break.

The final segment to the summit covers a mile and requires 1,000 feet of gain. We left the Skyline Trail at a large cairn and followed a path up toward the summit. The path wends its way through rocky outcrops and is consistently steep, but never too bad and by no means technical. Beth hiked a few hundred feet ahead of me as I was lagging toward the end.

Toward the top near where the trail makes a slight bend north to the summit, I was surprised by panting noises ... a nice doggy had materialized right behind me out of thin air. She was a pretty german shepard and her owner was just a few feet behind. In fact, she hiked with me for about a minute, hopping ahead, pawing at the snow and taking a big bite of it, then bouncing back. I chatted with her owner as we hiked up to the top. Beth had beaten me by a few minutes and was already sitting in the lee of the small rock shelter. A handful of hikers were just starting their descent as I walked up.

We made the top at 1 p.m., a four hour ascent. The weather was holding steady, temperatures in the high 40s. As long as the wind didn't blow, we were fine, but when it did, it had a real bite to it. Beth and I talked with the dog's owner, a transplanted Montanan named Peter who'd just moved to New Mexico a few days earlier. The dog's name, we found out, was Miss Lighty. We stayed at the top for 20 minutes and pointed out nearby peaks. From the summit I could make out a number of New Mexico's high peaks: Redondo Peak and Caballo Mountain immediately to the west, Wheeler Peak to the far north, South Truchas Peak to the northeast, Elk Mountain to the east, Sandia Crest and the Manzano Range to the south, and way off to the southwest, Mount Taylor. The sky was clear above us and to the west, but to the east, the clouds were developing and looking mean. We felt safe, but got moving as we started to get chilled. We bid Peter adieu and started our descent at about 1:30 p.m.

Our descent went fast and we had quickly covered 2.5 miles to get back to the trail junction at Puerto Nambe, where we took an extended break. A few hikers passed us going up, and Peter and Miss Lighty passed us coming down. One guy, about 50s-ish, asked me if I knew where Spirit Lake was. I got out my map and showed him, and he said something like it might be wise to bring a map next time. Then he got moving. Then, a few minutes later, we got moving too. We passed this guy, oblivious to us due to his wearing headphones. We made good time and took another extended break at the Nambe Lake Trail junction, 2.25 miles from the trailhead. At this time this guy passed us again, made some comment that it seemed farther than it looked, and started following the trail to Nambe Lake.

Both Beth and I got this bad feeling that he took a wrong turn, that he meant to be hiking out to the Windsor Trailhead (like us). He seemed pretty out of it. In time we got moving and hiked up the final few hundred feet (and 1.75 miles) to top out at the Wilderness Boundary, where we rested briefly before descending the final 600 feet (and a half-mile) back to our car. We exited at 5 p.m., an 8 hour, 15 minute day in which we covered 14 miles round trip and a gross overall gain of close to 3,600 feet. We debated whether to contact a ranger about our lackadaisical hiker friend, but could not find anyone. On the hiker's plus side, we saw numerous people hiking in as we were leaving, so he probably had plenty of company.

After relaxing and cleaning out our packs, we drove about 10 miles to the 10,000 Waves Japanese Spa located just outside of town. For less that $50 we got a one-hour hot spa to ourselves, open to the air but enclosed for privacy, plus a few cool drinks to enjoy. The hot waters soothed the sore muscles and afterwards, we weren't nearly as sore as we would have been normally. We then celebrated at an Olive Garden Restaurant in town before crashing for 9+ hours of deep REM sleep we so richly deserved.

(c) 2004, 2011 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.