Hike up Sandias La Luz trail - part 5
The La Luz trail is the "challenge" trail in the Sandias' mountains. There are a couple of other slightly more difficult trails, but not much more difficult. What makes this trail difficult mostly is the elevation at the top.
The trail ends at either 10,300ft or 10,600 depending on whether one goes to the TRAM (10,300), or the north summit (10,600). One branch of the (new) trail goes north to the summit, and one branch goes south to the TRAM.
There are lots of mountains taller than 10,600 feet, however, when I did this hike, I was coming from sea level, and it takes about 3 weeks average for the red blood cell count to increase, and for the capillaries to increase and for the lung volume to increase from the previous state at the lower elevation.
I hiked right at the 3 week timeframe, however the house is at elevation 5423 feet, so the hike ends about one mile above the elevation that my body has acclimated to at that time.
Consequently, when I was at about 10,000 feet and above, I was having quite a bit of difficulty breathing and hiking uphill. So that last mile was tough. In fact those last two miles were pretty tough. Plus I was just getting over a sinus infection that I had for several weeks, and my body was in a weakened state.
The hike is 8 miles, and it's all uphill, and it's about 3,500 feet up from the trailhead, and both of those things are really no big deal. But the part about being 5,300 above where we're acclimated to is the main thing.
In Tucson, where I do most of my hiking, most of the hiking is below 7,000 feet elevation, and there's not much at 8,000 feet, and there's virtually no hiking above 9,200 feet, because that's the top of the mountain.
The day that I decided to take on this hike, it was partly cloudy, and nice and cool. At about 8,500 feet, it got so cold that I had to put on my wind breaker on top of my sweathshirt.
I probably should have also put on my wool sweater, but I didn't and although I was warm enough, when I got back I had the chills until I took a hot shower. Lesson learned, put on wool if you're going high enough in elevation to where the cold wind blows to hike.
There were lots of interesting views up and down the trail.
At the point where you can branch off to the left or right to the tram, starts the last mile of trail, where the trail follows a narrow shelf, that if you fall off of the shelf trail, you fall a long way. Apparently 4 people have died from falls on that trail this year. I'm sort of surprised that the forest service hasn't done something about that section of trail.
I think that they should, and I think it's neglegence that they haven't. But that's just an opinion based on not knowing what the funding is for the forest service. I think I'd get some volunteers if I couldn't get funding.
I mean, really, what is 4 peoples' life worth? Apparently nothing if you guage the spending on the trail maintenance against 4 peoples' deaths. It's very hard to understand why nothing has been done.
When walking along that last section I was beginning to black out a couple times before I sat down to catch my breath. Also, there were a couple places where the trail was washing out.
I think quite a bit more could be done to improve safety. There is a section in the rockfall section that probably can't be improved much, especially in ice and snow, but they could do something about the last mile before the TRAM.
It was a good hike, and the views were really quite good as I had hoped. I think if a person was to follow the crest trail further on in either direction, that there are more good views, but I didn't have time or energy to find out. Some other time maybe. But it was some good exercise and a good day to be alive. I feel like I accomplished something special hiking this trail.
A lot of 20-somethings have hiked this trail, and have said that it was a 3 to 4 hour hike. In fact there are people who have lived in Albuquerque their whole lives, who are in their 20's who have RUN up the La Luz trail in 1 hour and 20 minutes for all 8 miles. But if you are in your 60's don't believe that applies to you. It took me 7.5 hours, and I'm very satisfied with that effort.
I think that I could probably cut that down on my tenth attempt down to perhaps 6 or 6.5 hours, depending on how hard I worked at improving my time, and how acclimated to the elevation I became. Maybe if I went on a backpacking trip on the crest trail for a couple weeks, perhaps I could even do the hike up La Luz in 5.5 hours if I was fully acclimated to 10,000 feet, or even 9,000 feet.
But if you are used to sea level or even Albuquerque at 5,000 feet, dont expect to be able to hike it in 4 hours, especially if you are not in top condition and in your 20's.
This is a tough trail, don't sell it short, and be prepared if you plan to attempt this hike. To add insult to injury, after hiking up for the trail you have to PAY $15.00 to ride down on the TRAM. Why isn't this free for hikers riding down? Seems like the chamber of commerce could fix that and also improve the trail, but what do I know?
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Last Update: November 13, 2016
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