Sunday, February 01, 2009

Climbing Ladron Peak

(via the West Face)
Sheer-sided Ladron Peak dominates the horizon in this part of NM, its precipitiously steep range beckoning over wide basins. From Magdalena, we took road 354 to Riley and forded the Rio Salado. 354 continues through a perplexing terrain of dissected drainages and landcover that includes patches of Pinon and Juniper, Cholla, and Creosote. We followed roads from the west through the Ladrones Wilderness Study Area until we couldn't drive any further, followed the old road-come-trail up through pinon. Reed found a Pinus edulis x cembroides (Pinon/Mexican Pinon) hybrid, but although we looked we couldn't find any more that had both 2 and 3 needle bundles. We passed an old stone cabin with a large packrat nest inside; outside it was wreathed in a forest of cholla, perhaps spread/cultivated by the rats. The trail continued up the wash and a Habitat Stamp project had excavated springs and connected tubing to pump the water to a number of tanks.

Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa) grows as a dwarf shrub groundcover on the summit, along with beehive cactus (Echinocereus coccineus?). It looks like the annual wildflowers up here must be amazing.

Ice and snow in the north-facing shadows. Large rainforest-esque lichens.

Mt. Taylor, snowcovered, in the distance.
Habitat Stamp water tank. Rushes grow in the overflow.
A fire had burned up from the West nearly all the way to the summit, although only in patches. Because the slopes are so steep the vegetation was never continuous and it seems the fire must have spread stochastically via burning embers wafted in the conflagration's convection flume.

Many old (200-400 year old) Ponderosa Pine, Gambel Oak, and Alligator Juniper were killed. Many burned trees still had leaves or needles, indicating the fire was probably only two years old (1-2 years' new growth sprouted from the base of burned oaks).
The erosion was considerable in places, although Bear Grass (nolina) survived with scars, and new growth of Ragweed Sagebrush (Artemisia franseroides) blankets the ground where soil erosion was not as severe.
400+ year old alligator juniper spared by the fire.

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