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The top of Texas:
Guadalupe Peak
Elevation:8,749 feet
Location:north-west of Salt Flat, TX
El Capitan from the south
El Capitan and the Guadalupe Range from the south.

Flew into El Paso on a Friday, rented a car and drove out to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The profile of the Guadalupe Range is very distinctive (the range ends abruptly in El Capitan's southern face) and was visible quite a ways away. There were only a few other people staying in the campgrounds on this January weekend. After setting up a tent I hiked the first few hundred yards up the Guadalupe Peak trail to figure out the route's turns and junctures. I planned to start this hike before sunrise the next morning.

Woke up about 5am the next morning, had a quick breakfast of hot oatmeal and coffee, and left the trailhead at 5:47am. With a half moon in the night sky I hiked the beginning of the trail without any other source of light. As I climbed higher up and the trail began to switchback, I turned on my headlamp to distinguish the trail from all the "use-trails" (human caused trails leading off to interesting rock formations, etc). Before long, I had turned off the headlamp again as the morning twilight progressed.

Just as the sun crested the horizon the trail rolled over to the west side of the ridge and I was back into shadow. For the most part, the trail was protected from the western wind, only a few short sections did I really feel the Guadalupe's gusts.

On the Guadalupe Peak Trail at dawn.
Guadalupe Peak Trail at dawn.

Hiking higher and onto the northern side of the ridge I found a few spots of nearly melted ice on the trail, all well trampled and easily skirted around. Off trail existed a few patches of virgin snow.

View of El Capitan from Guadalupe Peak Trail
View of El Capitan from Guadalupe Peak Trail.

I continued past the bridge spanning a steep section of crumbling rock, and the trail headed south and into the morning sunlight. From here to the summit were wonderful views of El Capitan from above. While El Capitan's strong and steep cliffs are impressive from below, I was even more impressed by the view of El Capitan from above. The top of the mountain undulates like a wave, and the vast desert prairie stretches out below.
Summit of Guadalupe Peak looking south
Summit of Guadalupe Peak looking south.

Scattered clouds began to gather as I neared the summit. Still the temperature was in the mid 40's and the wind quite manageable. I looked up and suddenly saw the triangular summit marker just 10 feet above my head. Setting foot on the summit I was rapidly hit with the full force of Guadalupe Peak's winds. Today the wind was gusting at only 40 mph, but still enough to quickly chill my hands and force another layer out of my pack.

Taking what protection could be had behind the summit marker, I signed the register and took a few pictures of the surrounding peaks and plains. Delicately, I fortified the tripod's legs from the wind with large rocks and took a few self-portraits.

After retreating just a few feet from the summit, my extra layers were no longer needed and I broke out the celebratory Snickers bar.

Guadalupe Peak Trail
Guadalupe Peak Trail

Hiking back down I meet only 3 others on the trail. One was backpacking the trail (staying at a campground just a mile from the summit), and one was a fellow highpointer repeating Guadalupe Peak on his way to the Grand Canyon.

Guadalupe Peak Trail
Guadalupe Peak Trail

For the rest of my weekend I visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and hiked the Devils Head, Smith Spring and McKittrick Canyon trails in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park (all highly recommended). I hope to be able to return some day to hike and backpack more of the Guadalupe Mountains.

Agave Cactus
Century Plant (Agave)