Climbing Cooke’s Peak — Part 1

This web page was revised on October 6, 2016

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Let me tell you at the outset that I am not an avid mountaineer. I am not any kind of a mountaineer. I don't even want to be a mountaineer: I have no interest in being spewed out of a glacier in some future century. Or in the next decade, the way glaciers are melting!

Cooke’s Peak, the "Matterhorn of the Southwest," viewed from the Mimbres Valley. — Bob Ingraham Photo

Now that that’s clear, let me tell you about my mountaineering experiences. Well, my experiences on one mountain — Cooke’s Peak in Southwestern New Mexico.

The “Matterhorn of the Southwest”

Any decent map of New Mexico will include Cooke’s Peak, also known as Cook’s Peak. Some people — not many — call it the “Matterhorn of the Southwest”. You'll find it about 27 km (17 miles) north of Deming. On some maps and in some books it’s called Cooke’s Peak, which is both historically and grammatically accurate: it was named for Captain Phillip St. George Cooke, who led the Mormon Battalion through southern New Mexico in 1846 while scouting an overland wagon route for the U.S. Army. Some maps and some books use the spelling “Cooks Peak,” which is clearly a misspelling of Cooke’s surname, and which clearly needs a possessive apostrophe! (The possessive apostrophe is sometimes used in both versions of the name, but usually not, which is proof to my mind that good English is rapidly being destroyed by people who supposedly speak English.)

Cooke’s Peak is no world-class mountain. At “only” 2,563 metres (8,408 feet), it hasn’t appeared in any lists of prominent mountains that I’ve seen. Despite its formidable appearance, only moderate stamina and a few hours are required to reach the summit. Yet, when I was in my late teens, it was my Everest.

I grew up with Cooke’s Peak. It’s 40 miles as the crow flies from my home town of Silver City to Cooke’s Peak, but there weren’t many places in Silver City and in the surrounding area where you couldn’t see it stabbing deep into the deep blue desert sky forty miles to the southeast. From an early age I pictured myself conquering its summit; when I got old enough, I knew I would climb it. And I did!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4