Bats in the Belfry
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BETA PHOTO: Bats in the Belfry (5.8), Middle Rock, Tres Piedra...
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Sort of a schizophrenic route, with the bottom being a 3rd/4th class runout slab and top half being a nice 5.8 crack.
Ascend the easy slab, aiming straight up for the incipient crack. This leads to some horizontal seams at the base of the upper sector of the climb; good stances and placements are available here, before you really start to engage the meaty part of the hand/fist crack. The bulgy crux is passed as you are moving into the base of the crack; past this lies more sustained 5.8 crack climbing in a sort-of-awkward but fun dihedral that wants to keep pushing you off-balance.
Described and illustrated by Foley (2005:85) and Jackson (2006:70). Jackson indicates the option to set up an intermediate belay at the base of the crack, but that is completely unnecessary. Foley points out a harder exit up the face to the left, once you're past the crux.
The 1981 guide lists this route as a 5.7. That description of the climb also splits it into two pitches. It also mentions a "bolt, sans hanger" on the slab below the crack. We saw no bolt, but the older description also sort of suggests that the climb originally angled up and right, so we may have started farther right and may not have been near the bolt's vicinity. Despite the old-school guide's softer rating, this is a fairly burly 5.8 (vs. the 'easier' 5.8's at TP like Serpentine Crack), so leaders at your limit, take note. Falls off the crux bulge would be pretty clean, though.
Alternately, I was advised by one elder TP climber that the route illustrated here is actually the one called "Crowbait" in the 1981 guide. That would match well with the description and rating. But then it's not clear where the "Crowbait Detour" would go (how far down and left?). Or where the original Bats in the Belfry route is located (maybe the next headwall crack to the right, the one up and left of the Albuquerque Route anchors?).
Of course, the 1991 "Taos Rock III" guide doesn't clear things up. It instructs us to "Follow wandering low angle slab to obvious crack at top", but the map places 'Bats' pretty far east, in the area of the Albuquerque route.
Follow the standard approach trails from the parking lot, around the left side of Mosaic Rock. The user trails pretty much lead you to the base of this climb on the western end of the south face of Middle Rock.
Jackson suggests two descents: "Walk east to the end of Middle Rock (several dicey moves) or work down into the next grotto north, then back west to the west end of Middle Rock."
We followed some version of the second option. This descent is 3rd class, fast, and pretty easy to find. From the top of this climb, head east over the first dome of rock, then over another rise for ~100 feet to where the ridgeline drops and narrows, and you are at a little saddle. Drop north off a low overhang, head down skier's left, aiming for two car-engine-sized boulders next to a spruce tree growing out of a notch in the edge of the slab, zig right and pass by the spruce, and, viola, you are on the ground. Head west in the gully, traverse some slabs around the west end of Middle Rock, and you're back to your packs at the base of the climb.
Apparently the ridgetop traverse all the way to the eastern end of Middle Rock involves some sketchy moves, but I haven't done it and can't comment.
Standard TP rack to 4 inches, plus I would have liked to have had doubles in hands-and-bigger-sized cams (#2-#3 camalots).
Belay at the top off of gear, with plenty of options for anchor placements.
|Comments on Bats in the Belfry
|By Bill Lawry|
From: New Mexico
Jun 18, 2012
Belaying a bit below and left of the higher crack will keep rope stretch down if the leader falls from the crux.
|By George Perkins|
From: Los Alamos, NM
Nov 24, 2012
I thought this was a great climb, one of the best cracks at TP. The scramble off the top of Middle Rock adds to the experience. The alternate finish to the left, on the chickenheads and jugs, is really fun, though a little harder (5.9 or 5.10-).