April 25, 2013

Woke up to a very cool morning and things looked a little unsettled at the top of the mountain. It wasn’t enough to stop us, though, so off we went!

Drove up to the Sandia Crest parking lot and the wind was blowing… really blowing! Wind gusts must have been 40 mph and wind chill felt like it was upper-20s! Hadn’t dressed for those extremes when we left ABQ, so had to pull warmer stuff out of our packs and get layered-up to keep from freezing! Being in a hurry to get into the woods to escape the wind, I tossed my Senior Pass (free parking for old people!) on the dash and we hooked ’em for the North Crest Trail Head. I didn’t really see where my pass landed because I just wanted to get going and get out of the wind. Bad idea… but more on that later.

Click Here to go to the trail map… then click on the individual icons for the trail notes. If icon notes come up empty, try reloading the map.

The Knife Edge is a popular technical climb. Rock climbers come from all over for this climbing experience. Typically, you hike north up the South Piedra Lisa Trail to Rincon Ridge, then take the Rincon Spur Trail over to the lower part of the Knife Edge. Then you risk life and limb climbing up the very, narrow edge to the top, all while doing your best to ignore the near-1,000-foot-vertical drop-offs on both sides waiting silently for you to slip or lose your grip. Wonderful! 😉

However, we, being seniors, have gained a lot of wisdom on our journey through this life. So applying said wisdom, along with a dash of common sense, to the situation, and realizing the top of the Knife Edge could easily be reached by *driving* to the crest and then hiking over to the top of the Knife Edge, we allowed wisdom to prevail. That wisdom is what keeps us alive!! 🙂

Seriously, though, I have utmost respect for those who risk life and limb and wish them safe journey whenever they take on those risks. For those who are interested in the Knife Edge of the Shield technical climb, here is a link with information and videos that will give you a better feel for what these guys and gals are taking on.

I did not take pics of the North Crest Trail or the Overlook Loop that leads to the cliffs because I already have pics up of that from when I lead a hike out the the Del Agua Canyon Overlook last year. The pics for that hike are in this blog entry here: North Crest Trail to Del Agua Canyon Overlook Another note about pics: I took my first pics of the Knife Edge hike once we climbed down and got to the top of the Knife Edge, and then took a few more pics to show the climb back up.

Okay, back to the hike:

Once we got into the woods and out of the wind, we hiked the North Crest Trail up to the cutoff to the Knife Edge of the Shield. We had never taken that cutoff before and had never even noticed it. However, I had a GPS track and waypoint which we used to find the cutoff.

This hike is pretty much downhill all the way, unless you lose the trail (!), so all the elevation loss and negative grades will become elevation gain and positive grades once you start your return hike back to the trail head. Something to consider if you are going to do this hike.

The trail head is very close to 10,700 feet in elevation, which is the highest point in the Sandias. The hike to the Knife Edge cutoff is 1.6 miles with an elevation loss of 500 feet at a -6% grade. After taking the cutoff we hiked another 0.2 miles where we lost the trail. Of course, sometimes you lose the trail before you realize that you’ve lost the trail, which is what we did. It just makes things more interesting that way! Once realized, it was only 0.2 miles mistake but the climb to get back up to the trail was at a 20% grade! Once we relocated the trail, it was just 0.4 miles to the point where we would have a pretty good climb down to get to the top of the Knife Edge.

The climb down was only 0.2 miles and the elevation loss was only 225 feet, but that’s a -21% grade. We made it without mishap and hiked the last 1/4 mile to the top of the Knife Edge where we stopped for lunch. The wind was still pretty gusty so we were only willing to go out so far because of those sheer, 1,000 foot drop-offs. See, there’s that wisdom thing again!

The entire hike out to the top is 2.7  miles with a loss in elevation of 1,361 feet. The average grade was -3.8%, but that is deceiving, If you get tired and winded easily, this may not be the hike for you because you have to climb 1,361 feet to get back to the parking lot and don’t forget that 0.2 mile climb at a 21% grade just to get back up to the trail from the top of the Knife Edge. The round-trip total for this hike was 5.6 miles. My GPS track shows it took us 4.25 hours with actual hiking time of  2.75 hours. Keep in mind, though, we did some exploring on the way back up (see map) and got lost, so your time will be much shorter and your total climbing to get back to the parking lot will be closer to 1,000 feet or so.

Now about that Senior Pass…

My card has the words “Senior Pass” prionted on one end of the card only. In my rush to get out of the wind and the cold, when I tossed it up on the dash, the card slid down and one end went into the groove at the base of the windshield were the defroster air blows out. Want to guess which end went into that groove? Of course, the end with “Senior Pass” printed on it!! So from the outside of the truck, all you could see was a plastic card with nothing printed on it. That meant we returned to a parking ticket with a hefty $75 fine: $50 for the parking violation and $25 for an administrative fee. That seems a bit extreme for a parking ticket, but it is what it is.

We didn’t pay the fine and are awaiting the summons to appear in court, which should be any day now. When we get our day in court, we will beg, grovel and plead for mercy and lay it all off on a “senior moment” attack brought on by our rush to get out of that very cold wind. I hope we look pitiful enough and get a senior judge who likes to hike! Keep your fingers crossed for us. 😉

Here are the pics. Click the first one to start the manual slideshow: