Climbing The Florida Mountains Of Southwest New Mexico
Summitng South Peak From The West Side Made For A Long Day.
The day started as soon as it was light in the east. I’d gotten the food and water ready the night before and was on the road before sun up. It’s not a long drive to where the cattle guard and gate mark the end of the pavement, and the beginning of a quickly deteriorating two track road. The further I went, the worse it got. The mountains were still quite a ways but rather than beat up my pick up driving through the sharp rocks and boulders, I parked in what appeared to be an old gravel pit, down off the ridge, and began walking. Parking where I did would later prove to be a mistake.
It was a gradual and gentle walk to the base of the Mountains through barrel cactus, dried grass and rocky terrain to where the mountain got steep and the hiking got difficult.
A lot of the climb was hand over hand, up windswept chutes and through loose rock footing. I could see where Ibix, desert goats brought in from deserts in the Middle East, had gone. I tried to use their route but I couldn’t get enough of a foot or fingerhold to make it to the next rocky, little plateau. At the bottom of some of the slick rock chutes I could see where goats had made a run and then hoped their momentum and flailing feet would carry them to the top, before gravity took them crashing to the bottom. Not wanting to end up in a pile of rocks thirty feet down the mountain, I skirted the faces until I found climbs more suited for mortals, and not just playgrounds for mountain goats. At various times, I tried climbing where it was obvious the goats had gone, only to find I had to backtrack and look for someplace more climbable, and not just a runway and slick rock.
Mountains are like many things in life, they trick you into believing you’re almost there and the summit is just over the next rise. Often, when you get there, you find what you thought was the top is nothing more than a false summit, with more of the same beyond. Picture taking was limited to rest breaks, it was too steep and the rocks too loose to get a secure foothold.
Ibix are very elusive creatures. I never saw a goat, and hadn’t expected to. Occasionally, I was lightly showered with small pebbles but it was impossible to say if it was a goat far above or just the wind that caused the rocks to dislodge.
The wind had hardly been a breeze down on the flats but as the height increased, so did the wind. The mountains on the big island of Hawaii are a good example of the phenomenon. The tradewinds might be blowing twenty on the beach but on the summit the wind could be one hundred mph or more. As the wind contacts the mountain, it’s compressed and added to the air above. The more air that’s added, the faster it rises, that was the case with a west wind, on the west side of the Floridas. At one rest stop, on an overhanging point, I wasn’t able to take off my backpack for fear it would be blown over the edge.
After multiple dead ends and traverses across the slope, I could see what I thought was the real summit. An old, gnarled juniper clung precipitously to the rocks. The top of a post, with rusty guy wires holding it semi-vertical, could be seen above and to the left of the tree. The juniper provided a good foothold and the scene below offered some excellent photo opportunities.
On the top, I filled out the sheet that was stuffed in a plastic pill bottle along with the stub of a pencil. Most of the entries were dated and, from the notes that were left, it had been a long time since anyone had visited that spot. The climb had been difficult, but worth the effort.
Looking north was a view of Deming, NM that could only otherwise be possible from an airplane. East was Gym Peak, my climbing challenge on another day. South were mountains in Mexico and southwest were the Tres Hermanas that had seemed so large when on their summits, but now so small in comparison. To the west was the aerostat balloon, almost eyeball height from where I was standing at 7000+ feet. Below to the east, and hundreds of feet lower, I could see a Border Patrol helicopter disappearing around the mountains that taper off to the south of Gym Peak.
Looking east, and down slope, I saw some type of a building, juniper trees and what looked like cottonwoods. New adventures are more likely on new trails, so I chose not to backtrack and headed down the mountain in the direction of the trees.
Tags: Hiking , Southwest , Mountains , Climbing , Trekking
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