Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Taint Pretty, but It's Rocky!
One of the most prominent features in the frontal range is the long strand of cliffs jutting out above the city at about the 6,000' foot level. 1500' above most of Alamogordo. That rocky escarpment forms the front, and two side of the long peninsula known as "The Mesa". The one trail that was used to access that The Mesa, Goat Springs Trail, crossed private land, and is now closed off to the public. The towering cliffs cut off all other ready access from this west side... save for the path cut into the cliffs by RockaChuckey Wash. This drainage flowing down the far southwest side provides a possible egress for the motivated hiker.
The route described here does not begin at the mouth of the drainage, but instead starts out as a very steep ridge hike, utilizing an old straight uphill jeep track to climb 600 feet up to a prominent knob, then off trail up and around the next very prominent cliff face to get you to around 5500' elevation... 1,000 feet of climbing in just .7 mile from the base of the hill. That represents grades of 1200-1700' per mile for most of that first hit, and the little half mile walkover from the road is hardly adequate to get your legs warmed up enough for that effort.
Reaching the end of that jeep track, simply make your way above the knob and follow the ridge directly up towards that next obvious cliff face. I like to move up and around the right (south) at the very base of the cliff, but there is a route straight up and through the cliff... it is loose dirt and rock and very exposed... but it does reach the top. I would not use that path. Clinging to the base of the cliff and move counterclockwise around will get you to the top with far greater safety and even a bit less effort.
Once on top you'll enjoy an exceptional view, particularly of the drainage you want to drop into... to your right as you gaze up the mountain. The cut below you is RockaChucky and your destination. Walk down and around, entering where ever you feel safe. You can stay on the left side ridge above the drainage if you choose, at least for awhile. If you go immediately down you will see the large waterfall obstacle that was one of the reasons we approached the drainage from the ridge. It eliminates the need to confront that barrier.
Now, it is RockaChucky... for awhile. The name is descriptive. Small to medium size tumble of piles, ever shifting with the seasonal floods. There is one small ledge obstacle that will require an effort, but nothing of any major challenge. Eventually, when the path becomes too obscured or too unstable in the drainage, move out and follow it on the right side bench. As you draw towards the top, exit and work your way further out to your right if you want the easiest path to climb out of the drainage.
The headwater basin will be reached at about 2.6 miles into the hike,at 6,200;... and your destination, Little Peak, will be at about mile 3.2 at 6550'. Little Peak is the highest point on a series of ridge peaks at the upper end of the Mesa. Off to the south you will be overlooking Caballero Canyon and Alamo Canyon, along with Roundup Plateau, with Long Ridge and the Steamboat forming the southern backdrop. You will also be overlooking the Pipeline Ridge with it's interesting mini-peak. To the east lies Hershberger Peak, at the far extension of this ridge system you have been climbing.
Once you reach Little Peak, you can return by the same route, do the Mesa Loop, or continue on to Hershberger Peak (another 2.2 miles and 2100' up, plus some up/downs).
This is off trail hiking with some nice variety. It is demanding, and at points can be very unforgiving. Plan accordingly.
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.
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