Standing On The Top Of Texas
By Lone_Star on 5/21/2013
Distance: 8.70 Miles Duration: 6 hours, 3 minutes
After year of wanting to climb Guadalupe Peak, I finally made it happen! For me, this was an item on my Bucket List. Doing this trail was a major accomplishment on my list.
My original plan was to climb the peak, descend, ascend Hunter's Peak via the Tejas Trail, camp at Pine Top and spend 4 days backpacking and camping in the backcountry. Consequently, I ascended Guadalupe Peak fully packed out with a 35 lb load. Needless to say, my overly ambitious plan didn't happen, lol. The old adage, "ounces lead to pounds and pounds lead to pain", became very true and something I experienced first hand and forced me to change my plans.
Climbing Guadalupe Peak took a lot of effort and reminded me of my painful slog up Pike's Peak in Colorado back in 2008, only in much hotter conditions and a lot less shade. Fortunately, my trekking poles helped immensely by converting me from an overconfident biped into a humbled, laboring quadruped. By the time I descended Guadalupe Peak, I was spent. My legs were shaking uncontrollably and I was forced to change my plans by camping down below at Pine Springs campground. Actually, camping isn't the right word. It was more like going into shock and passing out from overexertion in my tent at Pine Springs campground, lol.
The trail is easy to follow and a series of switchbacks that seemingly never end. The terrain changes along the way from desert vegetation to pines. There are no distance markers along the way and the "brochure map" they provide you at the Visitor's Center is lacking. It does not have many topographical features and trail distances are not indicated on the map (although some of the popular routes and distances are described in verbiage in the brochure). A very good topographical map made by National Geographic is available for purchase in the Visitor's Center for $20. It is costly, but I still recommend you get one if you're going to hike the less frequented trails in the backcountry. This is wild, rugged, remote country which demands a good map!
Along the way up and down the trail, you are afforded spectacular views of the adjacent canyons, mountains and surrounding area below. You will pass the cutoff to the Guadalupe campground about 4/5th of the way up. If you plan to camp here, you must first obtain a backcountry permit from the Visitor's Center. It is free and it helps the rangers know where everyone is.
The view from the top is incredible and extremely rewarding. On a clear day, you can see 40-50 miles. Knowing that you are standing at the highest point in the great state of Texas is a cool feeling, too. Be sure to sign the register! It can be found in an old ammo container next to the pyramid monument at the summit.
A word about weather. Be advised that weather can change very quickly and winds can gust at high speeds. I talked to one guy that camped overnight at Guadalupe campground and he told me the winds were gusting around 30 mph at night. Rangers later told me that sometimes the wind can gust 60-70 mph or more. Lightning, rain, hail and snow are all possible.
So, if you're camping, be sure to stake your tent down tautly and bring long, solid tent stakes that can penetrate hard, rocky soil. If you bring small, aluminum stakes or thin, shepherd's hook stakes, they will either break or bend miserably when attempting to drive them into the ground.
If you're hiking during high winds, be very careful as the trail is narrow in spots with steep drop-offs of several hundred feet. If you're carrying a heavy pack, the change in your center of gravity can throw your balance off. If you slip or faint, it could easily lead to serious injury or death.
Warning: Climbing the peak is harder that it looks! Even if you make it, the descent is hard, too. Do not attempt this trail if you have health issues or are not in shape. You will put yourself and rescuers in harm's way. People get into trouble all the time in this park. Also, be sure to take a lot of water. You will need more than you realize, especially during the hotter months. The park recommends you take 1 gallon per person per day (Note: If you hike long distances, you will need even more). Some people attempt to ascend the peak woefully unprepared. Do not be one of them.