Tidbits: Highest mountain in Texas
Summitted, May 6, 2006
Time Zone: GMT -7 hours
When to go:
In theory, anytime. The mountain is rarely covered with snow but the heat can be dangerous and unbearable, especially from mid-June through mid-September. When I climbed in early May, the weather was in the high 80's at the base, and low 70's at the summit.
There is only one primary route to the summit, which starts in the western end of the Pine Springs Campground at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
No guide, permit, or trail reservations are required. Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a relatively low use area. Peak times would be weekends during spring and fall.
Standard light hiking gear and plenty of water. There is NO WATER along the trail.
Proceed East from El Paso on Highway 62/180 for about 100 miles. On the road you will pass a border patrol checkpoint (no you didn't leave the US) and EVERY car will be checked and you will be questioned due to the large number of smugglers bringing illegal immigrants into the country in this barren area. There are virtually no gas stations or places to stop along the way.
At about the 100 mile mark you will pass Route 54, the entrance to Guadalupe Mountains National Park will be a few miles further up Highway 62/180 on your left. The visitor's center is manned during daylight hours and there are restrooms and water available. You will need to go to the Pine Springs Campground, which is about 1/2 mile further down the entrance road. Park at the end of the lot. You will need to self-register and pay a $3 entrance fee (you put the self-issue permit on your car dashboard). The trail starts next to the registration kiosk. There is also water (your last chance) and rest rooms available in this area as well.
I started my climb in the morning on Saturday, May 6, 2006. When I arrived at about 9:00am there were about half a dozen other cars in the parking lot (keep in mind it was a weekend during peak climbing season). The weather was great. About 72 degrees, with the temperatures rising rapidly and would reach about 88 degrees by the time I returned 6 hours later.
The path is well marked and rises at a steady rate with moderate steepness, although it is definitely a class-1 trail all the way to the top. There are some nice cactus formations along the way and the trail is fairly well maintained with minimal scree. You should also be alert for rattlesnakes (common, so stay on the trail and watch where you place your feet) and mountain lions (uncommon). You should note that there are several false summits, before reaching the true summit which is about 4 1/2 miles from the trailhead, so pace yourself accordingly. The vertical gain is about 3,000'. Views are outstanding in every direction.
The temperature at the summit was about 68 degrees. Total time to ascend was just under 3 hours. I passed a few "local" folks on the trail and they made a point, in typical friendly Texas fashion, of emphatically stating "welcome to Texas, we're happy to have you here!" as we passed on the trail.