Doña Ana County High Point Trip Report

Organ Needle (8,980 ft)

Date: April 8, 2003
Author: Mike Coltrin

We arrived at the locked gate to the BLM administered preserve on Dripping Springs Road at 7:30 am hoping that the gate would be open. (It is scheduled to open at 8:00 am daily.) It was locked but in just a few minutes an employee of the preserve arrived and opened it for us. We told him we were going to attempt to climb Organ Needle. He told us it wasn't possible to do it from the preserve.

About a mile up the road from the gate is a turnoff to a picnic area. We stopped at the self-pay station to fill out the required information on the pay envelope and enclose the required three dollars. The trailhead was only a few hundred yards down the road at the picnic ground.

We began hiking at 7:50am on a very wide, maintained trail. This trail took us around the west side of a large rock outcrop then up to a marked trail junction roughly a mile from the parking lot. Here we went north east into a small box canyon. The maintained trail ended at a water slide at the end of the box. A scramble route was evident a hundred feet left of the slide. We used this route to climb the sixty feet or so to a rock-strewn alluvial fan. The route then followed the north side of Fillmore Canyon. For the next half mile the route threaded through prickly pear cactus, catclaw bushes and medium sized granite boulders. At times, the route was braided so keeping on route required paying close attention.

The going got better when a bald hillside was reached. We followed a faint row of cairns up this slope and picked up the trail coming from the 4WD approach used by Holzhauser and Surgent. From this point the route became much easier to follow. In case you should loose the row of cairns, pick out an outcropping of yellow rocks near the mouth of a side canyon (Dark Canyon) and head in that direction. You will certainly run into the trail. Just past the yellow rocks, the trail drops into an oak thicket. Don't fight your way up into the thicket. The route is a few feet below where you entered the thicket. From the thicket, climb up the hillside on the far side to the base of the cliffs below point 7778. The route can be braided in places but it doesn't seem to matter which braid you use. You will eventually reach the bald saddle between 7778 and the main mass of the mountain.

Above Juniper Saddle the route is still well worn though sometimes braided. About two hundred vertical feet above the saddle the route crosses the main gully across water-stained rocks and enters a gully to the right of the main canyon. Follow this gully up to near its top then traverse left back to the main canyon. It is now up again. In short order you pass a shallow cave. Continue up the ravine to its head at Dark Saddle.

From the saddle drop down on the east side a bit. We found an interesting trail marker; a concrete filled box with the words "Needle. Go 125 feet turn left then up". Sure enough, there was a well-worn route through the oaks about that far and then an obvious place to begin a scramble. Part way up we recognized the crux move; a right leaning crack. We didn't need to use our rope here either up or down. Not far above this crux was the summit.

Of note: The plaque shown in Scott Surgent's photo has been removed and we never saw any of the orange paint spots mentioned in other reports. We spent five hours on the climb, 40 minutes on the summit and three hours on the descent. The sign at the gate to the preserve says it is opened at 8am every day and locked at 5:00pm from October through March and 7:00pm from April through September.