Baylor Peak and The Organ Mountains

The Organ Mountains show up as a blurb of green on a map in the southwest corner of New Mexico right outside La Cruces.  From the summit of North Franklin Mountain they sit in the background as an ominous dark shadow.  My first thought was that I would visit and have my hand at night time mountain photography because it is SO dark in this area, but who am I and what do I do?  I’m always going to choose to climb.

The Organs are volcanic in nature and the name is derived from the fact that a major section resembles, you guessed it, the pipes of an organ.

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This range has two established trails; the Baylor Pass trail and the Bar Canyon trail.  The Organs have a reputation for being inaccessible, steep, and rugged.  In addition they are desolate, eerie, creepy, beautiful, and a new favorite.  There are four access points and I chose to start the Baylor Pass hike from Aguirre Springs recreation area (on the east side 32.37180N 106.56163W).  There is a beautiful campground, no people, and so many opportunities for climb-climbing.  I want to return with a partner and climb Rabbit Ears, Organ Needle, Organ Peak, and Baldy Peak.

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When I arrived at the trailhead I was pretty burned out from a huge week in the Guadalupe and the Franklin Mountains and it was already noon.  I made the decision not to run the peak but instead lugged all my camera gear to the summit.  Initially I had no intention of even attempting to summit but once I got to the top of Baylor Pass my curiosity took over and ran the show.

Baylor Peak (7,721’)

6.2 miles/2,400 feet of gain

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look at those topo lines!

Starting up the trailhead there are a few very reassuring signs.  If you don’t get eaten by a mountain lion or bitten by a rattlesnake, you’ll probably fall or get lost, so don’t travel alone. Sometimes I wish I had a partner who was willing to travel and run around like an idiot with me but then I remember how much I enjoy the freedom of being alone. 



The Baylor Pass trail is well established and smooth up to the top of Baylor Pass (32.3814N 106.57915W).  I am not sure where they came from but there was a family of cows that scared the s right out of me.

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my grandfather was a knight, his name was Sir Loin

Since I was in no rush at all, I took it all in and tried to muster up the patience required to take decent photos.

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This lizard flexed hard by showing me how many pushups he could do.  I was impressed since I’m up to five in a row.

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From the top of Baylor Pass I could see what I thought to be Baylor Peak.  My mind said, “well it’s just right there.”  There was a very faint path leading north to the “summit.”  It didn’t take much convincing to go for it.

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the illusion of Baylor Peak

The trail was not established and difficult to follow.  It became very steep and loose with intermittent sections of easy scrambling.  Every stabbing plant was out in full force and every stinging bug was looking for blood but I didn’t hear any rattle snakes and that is what kept me going.  Like Hansel and Gretel dropped bread, I dropped pins for myself on my topo map app and built cairns because getting off route would have been a pretty serious issue.

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It was not long before I realized what I could see was the false summit and the actual summit was higher and farther away.  I also grabbed a hold of a dead stick covered in small prickers.  That felt really good.

At least the views were nice as I de-thorned my hand.

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From the false summit I remained on top of the ridge until the summit.  There are a few sections to scramble and careful attention must be paid to the plants as they will stab and demoralize you.

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some scrambling

I was so excited to summit and partake in the late afternoon bug orgy.  Good thing I was completely immune to being covered in gnats, flies, and mosquitoes by this point.  I just let them eat me.

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there is a register!

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I am way better at climbing than descending, especially since my ankle injury.  I put my head down and navigated the steep loose sections without incident.  I did get off route once and had to climb back up to the last cairn I had built.  As I said before, getting off route is not an option.

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This is a beautiful area with plenty of challenging terrain.  I loved this impromptu climb.  If you are ever in the area check out the Organs!

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”Don’t be scared to walk alone.  Don’t be scared to like it.”


Baylor Peak and The Organ Mountains — 4 Comments

  1. That does look like a fun area to rock climb! I really like the Rabbit Ears and what I believe to be Baldy Peak.

    I’m pretty sure that is an ornate tree lizard (Urosaurus ornatus).

  2. Thanks for these awesome photos. I just climbed the Baylor Pass trail today. The organs are amazing and I’m hoping that Ryan Zinke (U.S. secretary of interior) is thwarted in his intention to reduce the size of this monument. Must nurse my wounds now.

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