Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Guadalupe Peak and El Capitan

Eric on Guad Peak

Having worked at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in three previous winter seasons, I figure that I have hiked up Guadalupe Peak four or five times in the past. Today was a day for another ascent to the highest point in Texas. This time, however, I had another goal in mind for my hike: an ascent of the nearby, iconic El Capitan.
El Capitan from Above

I drove to the park in the morning and was the first person to sign in and hike from the Pine Springs Trailhead for the day. The hike started off quite steep, steeper than I remembered from the past.
Hiking up Guad Peak

Guadalupe Peak Trail

Still, I huffed and puffed my way up the mountain with amazing views across Pine Springs Canyon to Hunter Peak.
Hunter Peak

Along the way I found a few wildflowers, including paintbrush

and scarlet gilia.
Scarlet Gilia


I also saw some animal life in the form of a pair of mule deer.
Mule Deer

Before I knew it I was standing on top of Texas. I signed the register on the summit and relaxed for a bit.

My adventure for the day was just beginning though. From the summit of Guadalupe Peak I hiked back down the trail a bit to a steep scree-filled slope where I dropped off the trail and over to the saddle between Guadalupe Peak and El Capitan. From a dry wash I started to ascend again, gaining a ridge with some serious exposure on the south side. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on that ridge on one of the windy days in the Guadalupes.

Eventually I made my way to what I believe is a false summit of El Capitan. There was a register in a cigar box inside of an ammo can there. I signed the register, but unconvinced that I had reached the true summit I headed down to a small saddle before ascending once again. On what I believed to be the true summit of El Capitan I found two glass jars containing summit registers.
Eric at El Capitan Summit

Register Jars

I signed the one with more signatures in it. It had been placed on the summit back in 1989 and still had maybe 30 signatures in it.
El Capitan Register

It is amazing to think that this iconic peak sees so little foot traffic. After relaxing a bit and enjoying the view I slowly made my along the ridge that connects the two possible summits of ElCapitan. I saw a rock squirrel at an elevation of about 7,800 feet, as high as they are known to go.
Rock Squirrel

When I arrived at the wash between Guad Peak and El Cap, I rested in the shade of an alligator juniper,
Nap Time!

before slowly picking my way through the cactus and sotol to the Guadalupe Peak Trail.

Once on the trail again the going was easy back to my car and a cold Powerade that I purchased from a vending machine at the trailhead. It was a great day in the Chihuahuan desert!

1 comment:

Colson Johnson said...

Saw your note in the summit register today on the summit of El Capitan.