Truchas Peaks

New Mexico has a lot of amazing country, and I’m not the type to rank landscapes or try and compare apples to oranges. But there’s no doubt that on my mental list of the state’s most spectacular places, the Truchas Peaks and Trailriders’ Wall have a prominent place. But New Mexico’s second-highest mountain massif is also one of its remoter locations, deep in the Pecos Wilderness. I’ve only made it in there a few times, and it was a pleasure to hike back there in late September with two of my best friends, camp at Pecos Baldy Lake, and watch the sunrise strike the great tundra ridge of Trailriders’ before setting out to hike the Truchas.

Sunrise on Trailriders Wall and the Truchas Peaks, in New Mexico's Pecos Wilderness

The ubiquitous residents of the area say good morning:

The highest summit in the group, South Truchas, is also in my opinion the least spectacular. It’s not at all bad, but the views only improve as you head over to Middle and Medio Truchas, which tower precipitously over the grand cirque of Rio Quemado and the Truchas Lakes.

Hikers heading towards Medio Truchas Peak, Pecos Wilderness, New Mexico

The summits of Middle and Medio Truchas comprise some of the most amazing rock I’ve ever seen in high mountains. Large outcrops of big, white quartz crystals alternate with glittering bands of mica schist, their silver foliations gleaming like tinfoil in the sun. But to photograph adequately the sparkle of these stones was well beyond me; that shot will have to remain a photographic ambition for the future. Happily, the steep scrambly descent on Medio Truchas’ north ridge provided some consolation:

Hiking in the Truchas Peaks, Pecos Wilderness, New Mexico

Scrambling in the Truchas Peaks, Pecos Wilderness, New Mexico

Looking back at Middle Truchas from the Pass into Rio Quemado:

A little more recreational scrambling:

A look across Trailriders’ from East Pecos Baldy (next morning). This is the view I really need to get in some decent evening light; but the only time I’ve made it here for sunset, I was in danger of serious annihilation by lightning and the sweet light was the other way:

Trailriders' Wall and the Truchas Peaks from East Pecos Baldy, Pecos Wilderness, New Mexico

After our long day on the peaks, we staggered back to camp where I ate a hasty dinner and forced my complaining legs to get me back uphill for what looked to be a promising evening. It’s very often the case that the difference between a snapshot and a landscape photograph is a photographer dragging himself away from where he’d rather be, e.g. horizontal in a warm sleeping bag. But it’s usually worth it, and I’d say it was in this case as well, even if the sunset was somewhat fizzly and the wind bitter cold and tripod-shaking strong. The resident herd of bighorns watched in amusement as my rapidly numbing fingers worked in the dimming light. I was actually a bit relieved when the twilight rapidly faded to dull grey, giving me justification to pack it in and head for the tent.

Sunset on the Truchas Peaks and Trailriders Wall, Pecos Wilderness, New Mexico

All in all, a very satisfying outing, though I still feel I haven’t yet done the Truchas justice photographically. It’s good to have excuses to go back!

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2 thoughts on “Truchas Peaks

  1. Wow, this is a fantastic set of images, Jackson. I always knew about this area of the state, but never knew it was quite so dramatic and gorgeous. One of the things I like so much about your blog is that it makes me appreciate New Mexico so much…

    • Thanks Greg! I love the way so many of New Mexico’s best parts aren’t well known, often hidden in plain sight. Even when I talk to locals about a lot of these places, I tend to hear, “Oh yeah, I’ve always wanted to get in there.”

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