For many of you, the winter of 2011 has been brutal & frigid; the scene of record breaking snowfall. However...there is a place where the sun shines yet! In the Guadalupe Mountains NE of Carlsbad New Mexico we were lucky enough to find balmy temperatures, exquisite limestone, and better yet, no crowds. In fact, during our two week stay we saw no more than four other climbers. With over 120 fully bolted sport climbs, Last Chance Canyon ranks amongst my favorite venues from our trip. The diversity of routes in Last Chance is amazing. There are 15 different walls staggered throughout a winding canyon. At all times of the day one can climb in sun or shade, on steeps, or techy faces littered with pockets, edges, and aesthetic water streaks. Route quality spans the grade spectrum as well. Five star 5.10's stand side by side with endurance based 12's and 13's equal in quality. For those of you less internet savvy, one can enlarge these photos by simply 'clicking' on them.
This area reminded me of a Desert version of Ten Sleep Canyon in Wyoming. Only, there are far less routes to choose from. From the canyon rim a fifteen minute jaunt takes you down a blunt ridge, where several trails branch out to the different crags. We thought the descent wasn't more than 500 feet though the website describes it as 1000 ft. Another distinguishing factor here is wind! If you have a car/van to sleep in, we would highly recommend it. One night our van was so wracked by ferocious gusts that we lost half a nights sleep. That said, we were parked closer to the trailhead, which is probably the most exposed. Several excellent camping sites are found closer to the pinyon pines and do provide some buffer. Tent camping would be a most unpleasant adventure here. The wind blows, and so does the dust. Fortunately, the canyon provides significant relief from the wind. With Carlsbad temp's in the mid 60's we were able to climb in the shade and sun.
Carlsbad lies a little over an hour away, depending on if one has 4x4, runs into a stampede of cattle, or is around the ripe age of 20. We found the cheapest showers available at Brantley Lake State Park. Admission to Brantley was 5$ a vehicle. They also have superb picnic areas and high dispersion water spigots. One can fill water at the Guadalupe Ranger station just East of Queen, but, we found the water to have a little too much dirt in it. Evidently, during a recent construction project the 'men' had accidentally broken the water main; which hadn't been sketched in the original schematic. Queen is roughly an hour from Carlsbad, and from here, four miles of heinous forest roads take one out to the trailhead at the end of FR 525a. Thankfully, we have quite a bit of clearance on the vansion. Those four miles would normally take us 20-25 minutes once we became familiar with the more notorious sections. Ultimately, it wasn't really that bad. And, our decision to brave the road was well worth the adventure. Drive slow and cautious, and you too will probably make it to Last Chance.
In the summertime, cattle wander all over the place, grazing, and otherwise loitering about the canyon. Though we didn't run into any cattle, we saw many organic artifacts, reminding us to watch our footing. Deer roam in abundance in the Guadalupe National Forest and so do their corresponding prey. In fact, during our stay (and only a few miles away), a cougar had taken down a 1200 pound ranch horse. The boys, having caught wind of this responded with obvious anxiety; looking often over their shoulders for the killer mountain lion. Experts say that the taking of cattle and horses by cougars is a definite precursor to more open aggression towards humans. Needless to say, none of us went to far by our lonesome during our stay after hearing the latest news.
Trail running around looked real nice...but, with mega cougars on the loose, none of us ventured out to lure the mountain kitties.
|Tiffany reaching for the sky.|
|Jeremy...almost always psyched.|
The sunsets here in New Mexico were awe inspiring. After a perfect day of climbing we would often get together with the boys for some Farkle. One night we made them a mexican feast. Since they both live in Jeremy's Subaru Outback, and have no campstove, it was a special gift to see these two enjoying a hot meal! Sharing our travels with other road trippers from Washington was extra special. Not that Tiff and I ever get bored of one another, but, it was great to have other people to socialize with. Also, it provided some extra bodies for pictures. And without them, we wouldn't have any of the climbing shots that adorn this blog.
|Jeremy making short work of Black Plague 13b. Mono's...|