Sierra Blanca Peak (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sierra_Blanca_Peak) is the highest, southern-most point in the continental US. At 11,981 ft it unfortunately is not even in the top 10 of highest peaks in NM, but it is the most prominent, especially obvious when looking at it from White Sands.
Sierra Blanca Peak is in the Mescalero Apache Reservation and is off-limits without permit. We'll be trying our best to get as close as possible. One of my favorite movie quotes applies:
Ubi non accusator, ibi non judex. (Translation: Where there are no cops, there is no speed limit). Another relevant one: it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
The first part of this hike, we'll be going up the Lower and Upper Deep Freeze ski slopes (http://www.skiapache.com/the-mountain/trail-map/) of Ski Apache. They are extremely steep and rocky, but otherwise well-graded. After the ski area, there is a very, very light trail (that I always have trouble finding) so be prepared for light bouldering and off-trail hiking.
If you are not meeting us at K-Mart, please meet us at the Alto/Eagle Creek Shell at the bottom of Ski Run Road (NM 532). It's the last place everyone gets reliable cell phone service. From there, we'll head up to Ski Apache and either park at the Scenic Trail trailhead or the Ski Apache parking lot, whichever is open.
Our plan is to go up and back down the direct route through the ski resort. We may, depending on the weather, on the way back take a less steep route that passes by Lookout Mountain and comes down the Crest Trail and Scenic Trail. We'll play it by ear.
Since we're driving all the way to Ruidoso, I'd like to do some simple afternoon hikes after lunch. I'm thinking Grindstone Mesa. We'll decide the morning we meet when we are figuring out carpool.
If you are a guest of the United States (i.e. non-citizen), there is a US Customs & Border Patrol checkpoint demarcating passage to/from what the ACLU calls a "Constitution-Free Zone" (http://www.aclu.org/national-security_technology-and-liberty/are-you-living-constitution-free-zone). If this bothers you, donating to the ACLU (https://www.aclu.org/donate/join-renew-give) and harassing your congress critters (http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml); otherwise please bring appropriate documentation of your entry into the US (passports, visas, etc—you know better what you need than we do). Group hikes are not the place to make a stand for your civil liberties.
DISTANCE is ~5 mi round-trip
ELEVATION GAIN is ~2200 ft gained from Ski Apache.
FEES: None. Of course, if you carpool, please compensate your driver for gas!
DURATION: Finish by late morning/early afternoon. Depending on how people feel, I also wanted to do some afternoon hikes after lunch in Ruidoso…
PET FRIENDLY? Yes. Bring a muzzle (you shouldn't need be told to bring a proper leash), and if you'd like to unleash, ask others before you do so. If you follow people who know where the "trail" is, you're pet will be fine. If you leave the group and charge up the mountain, the bouldering is going to give your pet a lot of trouble. You are responsible for your pets!
SKILL LEVEL is *NOT* beginner friendly. No whiners! This hike is very high elevation, please be aware of the lack of oxygen!
TERRAIN is high-elevation alpine forest, followed by completely exposed mountain tundra.
WEATHER will most definitely include rain, hopefully no lightning. Please bring rain gear!
AFTERWARDS we plan on getting lunch in Ruidoso somewhere.
MEET for carpool at:
Las Cruces: 5:00 am, K-Mart parking lot on North Main/US 70 and Del Rey, near Shell. GPS:[masked]°N,[masked]°W (http://www.meetup.com/las-cruces-hiking/events/130079572/geo:32.35083,-106.76538) (see on Google Maps (http://maps.google.com/?q=32.35083,-106.76538&z=18), OpenStreetMap (http://www.openstreetmap.org/?mlat=32.35083&mlon=-106.76538&zoom=18), USGS topo map (http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=32.35083,-106.76538&marker0=32.35083,-106.76538&z=18)). Ruidoso: 7:00 am, Eagle Creek Shell at the intersection of Mechem Drive (NM 48) and Ski Run Road (NM 532). The burritos are good here, and it's also the last place you can reliably get a cell phone signal. GPS:[masked]°N,[masked]°W (http://www.meetup.com/las-cruces-hiking/events/130079572/geo:33.39836,-105.68086) (see on Google Maps (http://maps.google.com/?q=33.39836,-105.68086&z=18), OpenStreetMap (http://www.openstreetmap.org/?mlat=33.39836&mlon=-105.68086&zoom=18), USGS topo map (http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=33.39836,-105.68086&marker0=33.39836,-105.68086&z=18)) MORE information:
GPS track (http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=bdueranycksctkpg) (partial; lightning forced us to take to the Gondola down)