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Marble Canyon - North - North Spur, NM

no permit
213 3 0
Guide 3 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List NM > Southeast
5 of 5 by 1
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,620 feet
Elevation Gain 1,510 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,550 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4-6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 12.25
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
30  2013-12-19 Jim_H
Author imike
author avatar Guides 253
Routes 0
Photos 6,930
Trips 2,467 map ( 21,513 miles )
Age 69 Male Gender
Location Cloudcroft, NM
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Mar, Oct, Nov → Any
Seasons   Late Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  5:48am - 6:07pm
0 Alternative
Slab Up!
by imike

These Marble Canyon Drainages just continue to provide great entertainment. Each drainage cut is distinctively different. While the two main south branches offer some of the greatest vistas and outright drama, these northern cuts manage to hold their own. The main branch of the north cut is slow to start, forcing you to push on up until the fun begins. This spur off of that branch does not wait so long to provide you with both interesting surrounding rock formations and a pleasant blend of rock scrambling and tilted slab walking. If one characteristic stands out for this canyon it is the bedrock slabs that provide a clear walkway for much of the miles up the cut. These are tilted slabs... often so steep as to have you touching the slab in front of your face as you lean into the grade. Blend that slab feature with a few bits of minor bouldering and you have a canyon with just a moderate level of difficulty, shorter mileages, and a closed in... away from it all feel.

The canyon effectively terminates at a multi-tiered waterfall formation a bit over 6100' in elevation. You get to work your way up and over some blockages, around some overhang falls, then up the final steep slabs... under a fallen rock tunnel, to a grotto'd chimney fall. This final enclosure narrows to just a few feet, leaving a very climbable chimney feature if you care to work your way on out of the canyon and up to Trail 119 for a looping hike, but the scenery will stay much nicer if instead you simply return the way you came. Those slabs are just as much fun on the way back down.

If you intend to climb out, you should have 30' of rope to allow you to pull your pack up behind you after you enjoy the short chimney.

With this great upper feature, this is a perfect short day outing up and back... soak in the sun on the numerous rock slabs and enjoy the sense of being off and away...

This is all off trail... so, rocks are not stabilized. Be aware and be careful.

This spur: walk up into Marble Canyon taking the north branch, left cut(just past the old rock quarry on your left) and then turn left again up into the first canyon drainage. This will be a bit over a mile in from the canyon mouth. Stay in the main drainage. There is another large canyon section coming into this one, again from the north, but you want to stay with the obvious larger area for this hike...

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2010-03-02 imike
    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.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Marble Canyon - North - North Spur
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Later start back up into Marble North... today to enjoy Slab Canyon. First time for Darrel, and Luster could not remember his prior hike up this cut. Three years ago this was one of our more popular routes; today reminded me of just why... exceptional bit of bedrock hiking. Just steep enough to hurt... with some nice top out scrambling. Today we drifted over to the upper Grotto in Spur to see if there might be access; that canyon makes for great descending. alas... too difficult for group routing, so I lead us down the old route: Ridge Canyon. Bottom of Ridge we enjoyed the last section of Spur down into the main Marble North. Great Loop! Add in a few nice rock samples and everyone had a great day! We need to go back in with lopping shears to re-open the routes... maybe schedule more group hikes there in the Spring?
    Marble Canyon - North - North Spur
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Only five hikers signed up for this day. Scheduled to do Slide, but early morning rain made the easier Spur a better choice... and it was good! Easy to forget how great this Cut is... bedrock walking and big rock scrambles make for a solid footing day. Breezes and good cloud cover offset the warmer temps to give us a perfect outing... first time up this route for all the hikers.

    Turning around at the upper Grotto makes this route an exceptional shorter hike... of course climbing the upper fall is also great... but then you have to do an exit that will always feel "less than". Better to enjoy the redo down the canyon!
    Marble Canyon - North - North Spur
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    So many little things can pass... for the most part unnoticed, adding up to very substantial things before day's end.

    Up an out the door early... did no hike prep at the house; planned on staging out of the truck. 4:30am with a Meetup hike scheduled for 6am. No problem.

    ...except... truck battery stone cold dead...

    No big deal... stuff the pack full (in the dark so not exactly stuffed with the right stuff)... strapped it on to the bike and pedaled over to the trailhead. On the uphills note that not riding for the last two years means getting way out of biking condition; note to self: start bike training!

    Still dark when I reached the trailhead but finally a morning with a breeze! As the start time nears the hikers show, including one new hiker. My pack review revealed only a gallon of fluid instead of the intended 1.5 gallons. Two bananas/one apple...2 oz peanuts. Okay... I wish I had half gallon OJ; I'm fine with no food.

    Early into the hike the newbie noted that she had not been hiking in awhile...?

    This canyon is nice but not all that easy. In shape and moving fast I can go up in two hours and down in one. I was thinking we'd pace to do it in 4-5 hours...?

    Nine hours later... and still not yet out of the canyon, my thoughts began reflecting on all the little pieces; those small junctures of events that eventually tipped the scales over into a nearly bad, bad day... and a few that sort of re-balanced the day to a lower level of drama.

    I ended up giving away over a quart of my fluids... no big deal normally... yet today it meant dropping from the 1.5 gallon intake level to .75 gallon. .. there was still over an hour exit hiking to do in the middle of the afternoon (113 degrees when I got home?) when all fluid was gone and the one hiker was showing signs of acute heat prostration! Pace down to nothing... topping every 10 yds to recover from easy downhill walking. Balance: Ross went ahead and drove 4x4 up canyon eliminating that last hour!

    So... many issues raised, foremost: how to make sure everyone comes prepared? I continue to get repped for having hikes that are way too difficult. It is really an issue of folks just not being ready for our routes. If they do the training and come prepared, then these are fun hikes.

    I had fun today... but... if that last hour had turned into full blown evacuation...? Could have been another story!

    It will be interesting to hear their perspective... after the acute memory of the day fades. Their fall was not all that bad... stuff heals.

    I think they'll be back for more. :?

    Ps: 5pm... forgot another of the penalties for those little issues: under hydration and lack of potassium= major leg cramping for me! Fortunately, 1/2 gallon low sodium V8 in fridge correcting both issues. Wishing I'd done the v8 instead of 1/2 gallon chocolate milk I did earlier! Better late8 than never... ;)
    Marble Canyon - North - North Spur
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    No else came out, so I went solo and started a little after 1030. I missed the turn off for the north fork, but was unsure. It became obvious once I reached flowing water in the slot section above the sandy wash. I back tracked and found the right wash. Having tracks helped.

    It was really nice out, so after the chimney climb I continued up a little before heading for some cliffs and climbing them. Up to the A, and on to Ortega to round out the day at 3100', and the year over 100,000 meters and 330,000'. Not very windy, despite the forecast, and it was nice and warm for 2 days before the Winter Solstice.
    Marble Canyon - North - North Spur
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Supposed to be a Monday Marble Exploratory... but...

    I did the "explore" part on Saturday; good thing... that upper section was not nice.

    Kim cancelled first thing this morning; bad head ache! Jim showed up. John showed up. Summer and her dog showed up! Summer: new to area... no idea what the canyon hiking would be like. Hopefully, this was not too much too soon.

    It was nice... better than I recalled it being. Jim and John both scaled the upper slot falls... John used the preset rope to climb back down... then Jim removed the rope and headed off for higher points. I don't have to traverse across next week to reclaim the rope!

    The canyon was better going down than it had been coming up... just a nice cut!

    Check full photosets over on Google+: ... 1724746593
    Marble Canyon - North - North Spur
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Up the canyon-very nice- climbed the falls , not comfortable down climbing or using the rope, so I went up to the A Trail, on to the small "cat walk section", turned back, sunned at the fissure and down to the car. Beautiful weather. Meet-up hike, so a nice slow pace. Perfect in the shade of the canyon. What is wrong with me? I should have been freezing!!
    Marble Canyon - North - North Spur
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Marble Canyon/ N3: Ridge Canyon/ N5 Waterfall/ N2 Upper/ T119 / Scenic Drive…

    I was scheduled for a training day… start early… go long.

    The other two hikers backed out. I stayed up too late. Seemed to be ideal to put this too hard day off for a few more weeks. After very brief consideration I’d made the mental adjustment from training/hard work over to playing/slow pace.

    N3... Ridge Canyon.

    I’d missed my Monday Marble Canyon hit… substituted a group hike up Ortega South by request. I could catch back up by checking out this odd cut in the North Marble drainage. I figured it would be a big nothing; getting it off the list would give me an easy outing and allow me to check this little canyon off the list.

    Further… since folks have signed up for my next Monday Marble up N2 I could loop over and drop a rope over the edge of the terminal waterfall. That would set us up to finally scale that obstacle.

    Sounded like a plan…

    As an augment to make up for some of the missing miles… I decide to pretend I was back in better shape and walk over to the hike… and walk home. That would add 5-6 miles to the day.

    Late start, but eventually packed and off. I’d blended up blueberries, apples and banana… nice quart of fresh energy. I grabbed a couple of thermos bottles of chocolate milk. 75 oz fluid for this shorter, cold day. Sounded about right.

    Before I’d made it to the canyon I’d already had to stop and hack off the sleeves of my sweat shirt… just too hot! (50 degree high for the day!)

    Once in Marble Canyon it felt good from the getgo…

    Rewarded with Mountain Goats in the clefts above the Quarry! Unfortunately, my camera could not really capture the moment… need better zoom!

    I worked up and around into the north cuts. I recalled that all three (N1, N2, N3) kicked off about the same spot; N2 being the main drain, the other two draining smaller areas? Oddly, I passed what appeared to be yet another cut that flowed off the same ridge as N3... Were there two ridge canyons?

    N3, my canyon of the day, headed off where I thought it should… and interestingly steeply… it held in that vein. Effectively, this was either a tilted slab or small falls, with a bit of overgrowth. I went slow, cleared the route, and totally enjoyed every moment of this miniature cut. It just might become one of my favorites for a solo morning out. Steep!!

    Near the top I drifted over and out… and sure enough there was a second “ditch” running down the ridge further south. The lower cut must have been the mouth of this second ridge canyon. It does not appear to have the potential of the little gem I enjoyed, but I guess it has to go on to the Monday schedule to be fully checked out… N4!

    While I was wandering around I drifted over to overlook N5... And found its huge waterfall, dividing the canyon into upper and lower sections like N2. I did not spot any way up or down… 80-100’ ?… but that would be for another day.

    Heading up and across to the north I made my way to upper N2... Finding an old two radio, commercial quality… Forest Service?…along the way.

    …and dropped into the canyon bottom above its waterfall. I hiked down to the edge of the drop… looked over… and realized:

    I need more rope!

    My memory of this grotto falls: 16’ to 20’? I was carrying a lighter rope. I’d doubled it… with interval knots… reducing it to 50’? Fighting a stiff up canyon wind, I finally got it over the falls… and from what I can tell, if did not reach the bottom! I guess we’ll find out on Monday. 50’!!! I can’t see how it could be that high.

    The Monday exploratory hike was to scale this falls… then check out this upper portion of canyon I’d never hiked. Three people signed up for this outing? I’m not sure why. The lower section is great… the upper? So… instead of heading back down Ridge Canyon, I decided to see what was at the top of N2.

    Nasty… Prickly… Overgrown…

    No good reason to hike that portion of the canyon… except to confirm what is there. Now I know. Monday, if we make it up the Falls (50’!!), we’ll divert down and skip the upper mess that is N2.

    Ran out of fluids around noon… fortunately potholes in the bedrock had recently been filled with melted snow! Augmented with 40 ounces.

    So… 12.8 miles… 2500’ of difficult ascent. 9.5 hours out… turns out it was a training day after all!
    Marble Canyon - North - North Spur
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I'd been up this one years ago... but it was on a bad day for my Acraphobia... I turned around too soon... did not really check it out fully. Today: Fully!

    Up... to the top... and then some.

    The lower and middle sections are delightful; turn around in time and have a nice day. the Upper section... well, that was another story. Lots of blood donated!

    I looped around back down some of the north cliffs on my way home... may have found a possible Spur route that would allow an early exit up to "A" trail... that would be nice!

    Slow going... hyper steep... great training day.

    I hit the library... tried for a slideshow presentation: if these work I will not have to upload so many pics!

    Slideshow: ... 8819214456
    Marble Canyon - North - North Spur
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    This was a posted group hike, but with no one else showing up, I deviated from the plan... and headed off up to the old Marble Quarry to check out that inviting cleft in the canyon side. The old roadway is mostly washed away, but it allows reasonably easy access up and into the monster slabs of rock. Once into the pile, the scrambling is easy to make your way on to the top of the cuts... little remains of the process. There are some old cables buried among the blocks... some cable anchors still sticking out of the sides of the cliff... and one old splitting drill wedged down into a boulder, along with its splitting wedge. A few rotting timbers... and lots of obvious drill holes.

    For years I've been glancing up into this area, wondering if I could access the steep drainage on the east end of the quarry... giving me a route to loop over and up to the "A" trail (T119). It might make for a nice morning loop. I figured it would connect me on the ridge about 600' above the trailhead level...?

    today was the day to find out.

    Turned out, there was not much to the access... I walked right over and into the drainage, scrambled up an easy waterfall, and then began enjoying a stroll up yet another bedrock sidewalk! This was not an access to a ridge... instead a discovery of yet another hidden canyon.

    Time and again it appeared to draw to an end... but not. Each twist and cliff turned out to be yet another dry waterfall with more bedrock walk above to enjoy. Nothing dramatic, but nice... very nice.

    finally, the canyon bottom was not much lower than the surrounding sides... it was getting very much like hiking a ridge, but then glancing up I noticed a familiar feature: another quarry! This one was the old gold mine off of T119! This canyon started and ended with quarries on both ends! How fitting: Quarry Canyon!

    Instead of intersecting near the 5200' level and one mile up... I was closer to 1.5 miles up the trail and closer to 6000'? I guess I'll have to check out the specifics and do a writeup about this very nice route.

    A very good outing!
    Marble Canyon - North - North Spur
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    It was both a good and a bad day...

    Early on something felt not right. I had taken two days off to rest up, and then a third day off for no good reason... so, I was expecting near over the top energy today. Instead, I was dragging. I finally checked my pulse and found it to be close to 30 beats higher than expected! I checked my 60 second cardio recovery rate and found it to be only 13 beats! Normally, I score over 40 beats... So, something was way wrong metabolically. Oh, well... after some thought it came to me that it might be from not going to bed until after 4:30am... and even then not really sleeping well. too much rest may have screwed up my system.

    Fortunately, I was on one of the easier exploratory hikes. I knew it would basin out at a maximum of 6800' and likely would choke out before I made it that high. Mileage was also short. I settled into a dull pace, and just kept climbing.

    Pleasantly, the canyon was much nicer than anticipated. It is so odd to be into these sister drainages and continue to have each one translate out so differently. This one got into the bedrock slabs early on and moved up through highly tilted strata... very nice hiking. There were very few blockages to play around on... and if my energy had been at a normal level I don't think it would take all that long to make it up the mile or so of this spur canyon.

    It topped out nicely... what appeared to be a 100'+ waterfall from up on the adjacent ridge proved to be multiple levels, connected by steep slabs, first a great overhanging falls, then some stairstep falls, then more slab and finally terminating in a grotto waterfall accessed by walking under a huge boulder piece. That top gorge narrowed to just a few feet wide and the enclosure walls were interestingly accented with hanging plants up the solid rock walls. The final falls were 20'+ of narrow chimney. The rock was really good and it would have been an easy climb up and out, but I had forgotten to bring along any rope to pull my pack up behind me, and there was the persistent thought of the "smartness" of doing a 20' vertical, solo... especially feeling as off as I was. I had managed to add lightheadedness to the symptoms there in that last hour. I knew the scenery would be better returning the way I came, so I'm saving the chimney for the next time up... I'll take a rope and maybe someone to hike with.

    This canyon cut goes on the must do list for those hiking this range...

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To canyon trip
    In Alamogordo, follow 10th Street to it's far eastern end and park at the small city park next to the Fire Station. Head south and east over to the mouth of Marble Canyon...
    page created by imike on Mar 02 2010 5:03 pm
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