The Incredible Ascent of East Pecos Baldy
After hiking Santa Fe Baldy I must admit that my search for the next week’s adventure was based largely on the question of what was the next highest thing I could climb up. If I was eager to get up a mountain after hiking Lake Peak, I was nearly in a frenzy to get the top of another peak following the hike to Santa Fe Baldy. Luckily I stumbled upon the trail to East Pecos Baldy early in my search and after consulting with Callahan, we made plans to hike it the following weekend.
Though East Pecos Baldy is only a few miles from Santa Fe Baldy as the crow flies, access is from the north-south canyon that leads into the Pecos Wilderness and not from the Santa Fe Ski Basin. Neither of us had been as the end of the this road and we began to get pretty excited as we ascended the last switchbacks to the trailhead at Jacks Creek Campground; here we found an abundance of fall color changes and some wonderful views right from the parking area.
Anticipating the 14 miles roundtrip to the lake below the summit – and adding an additional mile and half to get to the summit – we arrived just as light was peaking into the canyon to be certain we’d have more than enough time to do the miles and ascend the 3,700 feet up to the 12,529 peak. The trail into the wilderness began with a steady series of switchbacks up through a multi-colored forest until we reached a fairly level ridge, chock full of yellow aspens beginning to glow in the morning sun. This was only the beginning however since our emergence into a broad meadow brought us into view of even more aspen – and some stunning views of the high peaks.
We thoroughly enjoyed the crossing through mature aspen stands and more meadow but we were even more excited when we finally moved into fir and spruce, crossing Jack’s Creek and ascending through the burn area towards the peak. After a final short stretch through stunted subalpine fir we emerged in the lake basin with clear views up to the peak.
We first skirted the lake enjoying the glistening blue waters before beginning the rapid ascent up to the saddle below the peak. Once there we gained vistas the the west over the Santa Fe Baldy group and to the north/northeast to the Truchas Peaks as well as some mind-blowing vistas all the way down the canyon we’d come up. Of course the views continued to improve as we made our final ascent up the craggy southwest face of East Pecos Baldy, but nothing prepared us for the immensity of the vistas from the peak itself. We’d been more than impressed with the 360 from Santa Fe Baldy the week before, but East Pecos Baldy offered even more: Even our descent was incredible as the sun had moved, revealing even more yellow aspens on the mesas to the south and east. This hike was easily in my all-time Top 10 and one I’d love to do again.