Being back in New Mexico this past weekend for the Christmas holiday was a great opportunity to get out on some of the local trails in the Albuquerque area. On the Saturday after Christmas I stopped into Heart &Sole Running Store,a great local shop in Albuquerque,to see if anyone there could recommend any trails. Robbie and the staff at Heart &Sole hooked me up with a map of the Sandia Mountains as well as recommendations on some good trails to check out depending on the snow depth in areas and the amount of climbing I was looking for.
Sunday morning I headed out towards some trailheads in the southern tip of the Elena Gallegos recreation area at the base of the Sandias. The weather was of course colder than what I am use to living in San Francisco,so I planned on staying on the lower elevation trails,focusing on mileage vs climbing. Well.. I apparently started out on Embudito Trail (not what I had planned) as I started climbing shortly into the run. With a quick check of the trail map my new goal evolved to making a run for the summit of South Peak assuming I could get through any deep snow. I was pretty excited about the change of plans
I started out on Embudito Trail at roughly 6000′in elevation and by roughly 20 minutes into the run the trail changed from dirt to packed snow. The foliage also began to change once I reached about 7000’,transitioning from the high desert landscape abundant in the area,to more of a high Rockies forest. I had an absolute blast making my way up the mountain,hard-packed snow under my feet,and surrounded by beautiful forest scenery.
I lost track of time,but was cruising at a “touristy pace,” taking time for pictures and to enjoy where I was at the moment. About halfway into the climb I reached a ‘Y’in the trail where Embudito intersects with Trail 192 and the Three Gun Springs Trail. I continued on Trail 192 and from the intersection on the snow began getting deeper and I could tell that I was really starting to move up in elevation. At about 1:40 in I finally reached South Crest Trail and made a left to make a final push up towards South Peak. The wind was pretty strong and it was pretty cold at the top for a “fickle Californian who lacks winter running clothes.”
The summit of South Peak sits at 9782′which was my first time back at elevation since running up in Tahoe throughout the summer. It felt great to be back up;the mountains are a special place. Once on top I took a good 10+ minutes to take in the 360-degree views,snap some photos,and shoot some quick video (embedded below).
I had set my bottle down shortly before the summit as I needed both hands to scramble/climb up some large boulders that were near a steep ledge leading to the top. When I returned back down to my bottle 10-15 minutes later the two inches of water left were half frozen as was the nozzle.. hahh,live and learn.
Heading back down was a blast. There were a few times where I slid a bit on some steep snow,and also several times when I punched through snow up to my knee,but for the most part the descent was fast but controlled. I also had a couple moments of “did I really run up this”as the descent felt pretty steep in certain sections;I love that feeling.
After the run my family had a great recovery planned which involved microbrews at Marble Brewery followed by some killer New Mexican food at Cervantes. Three enchiladas covered half in red chili and half in green chili. Perfect day.
Thanks Mom for letting me borrow your car for a couple hours,aunts and family for the post-run meal,and Heart &Sole Running Store for the great trail beta. I will definitely be back to New Mexico in May to get my butt kicked at the Jemez Mountain 50 miler up in Los Alamos,but also am already day dreaming about getting back to do more exploring of the great mountain trails that New Mexico has to offer.
A map similar to the route I ran can be found HERE (deduct the first mile as I started at the trailhead)