Can Be Tamed
Like a seasoned cowboy who can tame a real Mustang with lasso and gear, an experienced climber with ropes and proper equipment can scale the Giddy Up Wall and summit Mustang Peak. And like a horse whisperer who can tame a wild beast with only his voice and body language, an experienced hiker can conquer the intimidating looking Mustang Peak without any fancy extras. In fact, [contrary to the way the very vertical looking terrain might having your heart skipping beats], the ‘worst’ in terms of the climbing aspect is handful of very basic, low-exposure Class 3 climbs on both the ascent and descent.
Notes of caution before getting into the hike details:
1. If you are not comfortable with basic Class 3 / upper Class 2 climbs, then I don’t recommend this hike.
2. Use of a GPS app/device like Route Scout is strongly recommended.
Most will easily be able to identify the correct peak and even follow the general route based on this Description; however, due to the many vertical/cliffy sections, I strongly recommend downloading a GPS track of the route [or at the very least using a GPS device to track your own route so that you can retrace your steps if needed]. Attempting this hike without use of a GPS device puts you at risk for reaching the summit, only to keep cliffing out on the way down, which can be a scary experience for some. Using a GPS app/device like Route Scout will greatly minimize if not eliminate the chance of finding yourself in this kind of situation.
3. Do not begin your ascent too soon.
Unless you’re trying to experiment with finding a new route up and don’t mind cliffing out in the process, then you’ll want to take note of the following to ensure that you do not begin your ascent too soon: From the trailhead, look ahead and to your right [Northeast], and you will see two prominent peaks and two prominent ridges. The prominent peak in the foreground is UN 6199, and the one behind it is your objective, Mustang Peak. The key thing to remember is: DO NOT begin your ascent until you pass by BOTH the ridge leading up to UN 6199, as well as the large gully leading up to the saddle area between UN 6199 and Mustang Peak. While the topography contours make it look like a walk through the park in terms of being able to get from UN 6199, [or the saddle area between UN 6199 and Mustang Peak] up to Mustang Peak, trust me when I say that both satellite imagery and real life will beg to differ! While there’s always a possibility of finding a doable route in this very cliffy area, be forewarned that this section is extremely vertical and your chances of cliffing out [and having to backtrack] are much greater.
Hike: From the trailhead simply head Northeast and after about 1/2 mile, you will come to a saddle area and a gate. There are some very well-beaten cattle trails leading up to this gate as well as on the other side of it; however, the off-trail terrain in this area is very generous, so I wouldn’t be overly concerned about finding / trying to stay on one of the cattle trails. After going through the gate, you’ll gradually start to angle your path upward; but as I cautioned above in item #3, you do not want to begin your ascent until after you’ve passed both the ridge leading up to UN 6199, as well as the large gully leading up to the saddle area between UN 6199 and Mustang Peak.
About 0.05 miles after you pass the large gully that leads up to the saddle area between UN 6199 and Mustang Peak, you’ll want to start ascending toward a smaller gulley, which is located to the Northwest relative to the summit of Mustang Peak and to the West, relative to Mustang Peak’s prominent, Northern ridge. For those who decide not to download a GPS track, this part could be potentially confusing in that, [what appears to be just one gulley if looking at topography map] actually has a few ‘branches’ leading upwards. While some of the other branches also looked doable, I can only speak definitively to the route that I took. Midway up, there is a large, cliffy rock outcropping separating two branches of a gulley, and the route I took follows the gulley on the left of this rock outcropping.
Despite looking extremely steep, cliffy, and brushy [in the gulley] from a distance, those seasoned in off-trail peak bagging should find the ascent to be surprisingly easy [and very fun!]. The brush in the gulley is never too thick [or thorny], and the few thicker areas seem to come at all the right places [i.e. in the steeper sections where having some non-thorny brush to grab hold of and help pull yourself up proves to be more of a help than a hindrance]. In terms of thorny vegetation, the primary offender is the prickly pear, followed by shin-daggers; but both are extremely mild and there is typically a large margin for error between the thorny vegetation. There are a handful of places with loose footing, but nothing overly difficult for being off-trail; and despite the very steep appearance of the terrain leading up toward the summit, the footing, [as well as the grip / reliability of the rocks and boulders], is generally very good to excellent. Aside from a handful of easy, very low-exposure Class 3 climbs, [which looked as though they could easily be circumvented], most of the climbs are Class 2/2+. Although with that being said, there isn’t nearly as much climbing / use of the hands as one might think if standing at the base of this peak and looking up.
If approaching / ascending as described above, there aren’t even any false summits. Once you reach what looks like the horizon line, you’re practically on the highpoint. The summit area is not very big and the highpoint area is obvious. There is a summit cairn and three registers. Since it was raining and my hands/gloves were soaking wet, I opened only what appeared to be the most recent register; and, [since it seemed to be stuffed with many loose pages vs. a single notebook], I fished out only what appeared to be most recent so I could sign. The *previous sign-in, [*assuming I’d grabbed the most recent] was from December 18th, 2016. In terms of summit views, a rain cloud had engulfed the peak about the same time that I reached the summit, resulting in almost zero visibility; however, given the extraordinary views from the other three nearby peaks I’ve done in this range, [Mustang Mountains Highpoint, UN 6199, & North West Dome], I’m guessing the views from Mustang Peak are pretty awesome as well.
The descent is very similar to the ascent in almost all regards: on the bright side, this means there is nothing overly difficult/challenging in terms of the brush, the footing, or the climbs; on the down side this means traversing through an area with many cliffy / vertical sections [i.e. high cliff-out potential]… and, [unlike with the ascent where it’s not the end of the world if you fail to reach the summit / choose to turn back], failure to have a successful descent and reach your vehicle in one piece would be not be an acceptable outcome for most of us. As I’ve started before, using a GPS app/device [where you can follow a route that’s been done before] is strongly recommended.
You’ll begin by heading Eastward along the summit ridgeline of Mustang Peak. Approximately 0.10 miles East of the summit is a relatively gradual area that heads downward, almost due North. There are some faint animal routes in this area, [leading downward to the North], and they have likely been blazed by the resident deer, based on the droppings. There is a small cairn around the area where these routes meet with the ridgeline, but locating the cairn is not critical. Simply head downward, following the routes.
If you’re not following a GPS track, you’ll REALLY want to pay attention to the animal routes. Initially things are very easy, but there are some sections that looked as though they could prove tricky / ending up cliffing out. The resident animals have done a really good job in terms of blazing routes that get around these sections with relative ease. Shortly into your descent, you’ll see a gulley below you. You’ll want to aim for it and eventually drop into it. The gulley can be brushy in places, but like with ascent, the brush is usually more of a help than a hindrance. After your initial drop into the gulley; simply look for animal routes and scan the terrain to determine what suits you best in terms of whether or not to stay in the gulley or contour out to get around brush and/or rocks. Until you have dropped below the more vertical sections, staying in / very near the gulley is ideal [to avoid cliffing out]; but before long, you will have a clear line of sight to the bottom and the terrain will get much more gradual. At this point, cliffing out is almost impossible as long as you head downward.
Once you’ve completed your descent and dropped by/into the unnamed drainage at the base of Mustang Peak to the North, [this drainage separates Mustang Peak & UN 6199 from UN 5606 & North West Dome], simply go left [Southwest]. After about 1/2 mile, you will reach the saddle area with the gate that you went through toward the beginning. From that point, it’s another 1/2 mile back to the trailhead. Following your original tracks in this area is not at all critical. You’re pretty much ‘walled off’ to the South by Mustang Peak & UN 6199, and ‘walled off’ to the North by UN 5606 & North West Dome, making it almost impossible to get lost. Therefore, [as long as you continue heading Westward], you’ll soon see the road you drove in on, as well as the large tank by the trailhead.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.