Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cookes Peak

It was cool fall morning when I did this hike a few years back. Our group of Las Cruces Sierra Clubbers and other hikers gathered together as an Apache man sang a beautiful song under the blue skies that framed "Standing Rock" or Cookes Peak . We then started cross country heading southwest from the corral at the end of the county road, and soon picked up the old Boy Scout trail( so I was told) in OK Canyon.This trail was pretty easy to follow as it ascends the canyon passing the occasional walnut tree, it crosses a ridge, and then descends(slightly)into the oak woodland of a side canyon.Where the trail begins to go up steeply,it became harder to follow. As it got closer to the final pitch up to the peak,it disappeared and we made our way as best we could through the pinons,junipers and mountain mahogany until we reached the bare rock of the summit tower.There's a crack in the rock to follow here that we went on all fours to climb.Once we could stand again it was an easy walk to the top,although there's is a small gap in the stone that has to be hopped over. It has long drop-offs on either side,so it's best to look straight head. This last part was a little nerve-rattling,even more so than when I climbed the highpoint of the Organ Mountains.The mountain top is not entirely bare as it might appear: they were few bush- like box elders and oaks.We took in the sights and then descended by the same route.Round trip distance was around 11 miles.Elevation gain was over 3,000 feet.Note:There is a road that branches off to the southwest from the road to the old Cookes Peak ghost town site which now seems to be the preferred starting point for climbing the peak.It may save some on the mileage and elevation gain,if you can drive to it.Check out Greg Magee's Day Hikes and Nature Walks in the Las Cruces-El Paso Area for a description of this route.

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