Guadalupe Peak

March 17, 2017


Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX

The state of Texas covers a huge area of land in the far southern central United States but much of the area is nothing but flat barren landscape, with the exception in the far western part where several mountain ranges rise abruptly above the Chihuahuan Desert floor. Among them the Guadalupe Mountains are the most promising and within this group, its namesake peak, Guadalupe Peak is well famed as being the highest point in Texas. This is not a “sexy” peak as the standard route is nothing fancier than just a hike on a well-maintained trail with only a mere 1200 m elevation gain, but for the sake of reason it’s the highest peak in Texas there’ll be guaranteed continuous inflow of out-of-state visitors and that include peak-baggers like myself who drove more than 3500 km from Canada.

The first thing that comes to my mind about the state of Texas is probably that famous movie “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” being one of my favourate in high school and pretty sure I’ve watched the 2003 version for at least a few times spanning over quite some years. For that reason this state had been on my “list” for many years, although I wasn’t very serious about it. The stars eventually lined up on the 9th day of this past spring break vacation when my alarm went off at around 5 am in the morning. I woke up in my car somewhere along SR 62 (about 30 miles past El Paso) and just like what I remembered from that movie the surrounding was barren like hell and there seemed like nobody around except for the occasional huge trucks flying by. The state road was in an excellent shape and the speed limit was no less than the I-10 which was to my surprise. Resuming the eastwards drive I came to a border patrol station and had to stop and answer some questions. After seeing my (Canadian) passport they let me go, and another hour or so later I made to Pine Springs which is also the entrance of the national park.

Guadalupe Peak and El Capitan ascent route. GPX DL

There was no food/gas service whatsoever after passing El Paso which was very surprising especially considering I was in a national park. I did have enough gas but I did not purchase my breakfast in the previous day, but thankfully I did come prepared with a couple Mountain House packages of dehydrated food so spent about 20 minutes cooking and eating. The sun was already beating down mercilessly so not wasting much time I quickly geared up and started the plod. The first business was walking to the upper parking lot (full) via a connector trail and then the main Guadalupe Peak trail was pretty difficult to miss. Hordes and hordes of hikers were already ahead of me but in no time I started to pass them one by one. There was virtually no sheltered place in the lower mountain but on the other hand that meant the views would be constantly accompanying which is the norm of a desert hike.

Morning alpenglow on El Capitan and Guadalupe Peak – my objectives for the day.

This is the start of the trail.

As you can see, there’s no shelter at all. It was very hot…

Gaining elevation quickly at least.

The trail traverses beneath these cliffs.

Catching up a group.

From the same point, looking back.

Passing another group.

A look at other Guadalupe Mountains.

Upwards and onwards the grade eased a bit once crossing over to the north side of a rib and it was here that I finally got some much-needed shelter. A water break was much overdue but soon enough the groups behind started to catch up so not wanting to get stuck in the traffics again I had to keep going. The forest and the shelters were pretty short-lived and then the trail ascended into a small depression zone which eventually brought me to a fairly large plateau area. And then the trail traversed to the right before cutting back left to a critical saddle. Lots of trail work including bridges and concrete blocks were done in this section.

A view of the upper mountain.

Upwards and onwards. This is as typical as it gets…

Arriving at some flat plateau area.

Beyond this point it was a long grunt up some endless switchbacks following the upper E. Ridge. With the strong sun behind all I wanted was to get it over so didn’t take me long. And then around a corner I got my first view of the striking El Capitan which would be my next objective. I took some mental notes for the best place to leave the trail and start that bushwhacking descent and I have to say the first sight of it was much better than what’s described in my reference trip report. The slope did not look bushy at all to me. That was surely a good thing but let’s focus on one at at a time so Guadalupe Peak first and El Capitan next.

Crossing over to the final upper east ridge now.

Looking back at the bump that the trail bypasses.

Looking down at El Capitan, my next objective.

Way up high above the Chihuahuan Desert floor.

The final 100 meters or so to the summit of Guadalupe Peak was still on a very well defined trail but there’s some loose pebbles on the path which might not be comfortable for someone without experience on that kind of thing. For me it was a just a joke and before realizing I was already standing on the highest point of Texas soaking in the 360-degree view of the surrounding deserts and mountains.

The final push.

Partial Summit Panorama from Guadalupe Peak. Click to view large size.

Partial Summit Panorama from Guadalupe Peak. Click to view large size.

Shumard Peak to the north.

Salt plains by Dell City near the state border between Texas and New Mexico

El Capitan

This is looking east into the vast Texas state

The Chihuahuan Desert floor

Mt. Hunter

Another look at El Capitan

The summit of Guadalupe Peak. Highest in Texas

Me on the summit of Guadalupe Peak

Another photo of me on the summit of Guadalupe Peak.

While resting on the summit I could not stop looking at El Capitan which I have to say, is a bigger lure for peak-baggers who loves exploring, so not wanting to waste much time I soon started the descent, and then down into the aforementioned slope I went. And then the day continued with an ascent of El Capitan.

While Guadalupe Peak might not be the most impressive ascent I’ve done to date, it’s never a disappointing thing to bag another state highpoint. This was my 5th American state highpoints or the 6th if counting the Canadian provinces’, after Mt. Columbia (Alberta), Mt. Hood (Oregon), Mt. Rainier (Washington), Mt. Washington (New Hampshire) and then Humphreys Peak (Arizona). I have no idea whether or not I’ll ever finish this list as some states’ highpoints are just not inspiring enough for me to make the drive (or air travel for that matter) but I have to say this is a very unique way to experience the United States of America and I’m definitely looking forward to the next one.