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my father coming up the crux chimney
Lynn Coburn, Charlie Berglund, and I set off for Las Cruces, NM on Thursday, October 22. The three of us planned to attempt the 5.4 Boyer's Chute on 8,050-foot North Rabbit Ear in the Organ Mtns. east of Las Cruces on Friday. For the weekend, Helen Huntley, one of our chapter members who lives in Albuquerque, and Chris Paulson would join us, making Saturday's climb of Baylor Pk. and Sunday's climb of Organ Needle official CMC trips. Lynn, Charlie, and I then planned to climb something again on Monday. Even though Friday's and Monday's outings would not be official CMC trips -- need four people for that -- I will include reports for those days.
Because we found so much conflicting information about the Rabbit Ears' routes, for future reference and archival purposes, I will include lots of detail for Boyer's Chute, which is the easiest way to climb North Rabbit Ear.
NORTH RABBIT EAR -- BOYER'S CHUTE
We began hiking at about 5,150 feet elevation, at 6:45 AM, with stars overhead but dawn just bright enough for us to walk up the rough road without headlamps. The road ascended the alluvial apron on the west side of the Organs until it ended at a mine in limestone bedrock. From there, a use trail led past treacherous uncovered mine workings before creating a welcome path through catclaw, yucca, prickly pear, ocotillo, and other spiny vegetation. Eventually the trail dumped us into Rabbit Ears Canyon, where we followed the streambed east and then southeast up toward the Rabbit Ears. In places, live water trickled over bedrock, lingering runoff from substantial rainfall a few days earlier, thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Rick. (We found no live water here the weekend before, when Tom Zajicek and I traversed this same route for our ascent of Middle Rabbit Ear.)
We reached the west base of North Rabbit Ear at an approximate elevation of 7,200 feet. Boyer's Chute is an amazing gash in the west face. From the various route descriptions we had read, we expected the next 800 feet would be a mixture of 3rd, 4th, and 5th class obstacles, with the crux being a 5.4 chimney. None of us had ever climbed the route before, so we prepared ourselves for surprises.
The first pitch, which gives access to the Chute, is a broad sloping ramp of rock offering multiple routes. Each of us chose slightly different variations. The difficulty was class 3, but exposure was enough to make us think about pulling out a rope. We ended up climbing unprotected, but we vowed to rappel it upon our return. After pushing through pesky mountain mahogany and oak, avoiding cholla and yucca, and clambering over a few boulders above the ramp, we finally stood within Boyer's Chute itself and immediately faced our second pitch, a 4th class chimney with good hand and footholds. We pulled out the rope here, and I trailed it behind me until I reached a solid anchor tree above the chimney. I belayed Lynn and Charlie up, but the route ahead looked iffy, so I resumed trailing the rope over the third pitch, a 4th or low 5th class narrow spot in the Gulch, where the crux is made even more difficult by an inconveniently placed yucca. A large boulder above this spot provided a good anchor.
Following the third pitch, we were able to climb unroped for a few hundred feet, but then we faced a huge chock stone with what looked like an easy though somewhat exposed route to its right. We wondered if we could do the pitch unroped, but because of the exposure, I decided to play it safe and protect it. Well, the route proved to be more difficult than it had looked, and it also proved to be difficult to protect. I set a nut, but I didn't trust it. Above that, I tried to sling a flake, but even if the sling stayed in place, I doubted the flake would hold a lead fall. I was beginning to feel exposed, but I thought I saw a better chance to place protection above me, so I moved up. I tried to set a cam, and it held, sort of, but I didn't trust it. I didn't feel like anything I had set would really hold a lead fall, so I felt like I was free soloing. I didn't like it. Charlie said I should come back down if I couldn't protect the route, but I was at a point where it would have been riskier to descend than to just push on. So very gingerly, certainly not happy about it, I finished the pitch.
(I looked this spot over again upon our descent. I found a route on the left side of the chock stone that offered an excellent crack for cam protection. The climbing would be more difficult there, but I think I could lead it, and I certainly would welcome the cam crack. So next time, I will try going left around the chock stone rather than right.)
After belaying Lynn and Charlie past the chock stone, we continued scrambling up the Chute, negotiating several 3rd class sections. Just below the Crux Chimney, I trailed the rope over an awkward boulder and belayed Lynn and Charlie past that.
At last, we stood in the 5.4 Crux Chimney. As promised, a parallel crack promised excellent protection. The chimney felt very secure as I put my back against one wall and feet against the other, or put one foot on each wall, or one hand on each wall, or some combination of those moves. I set a couple of cams in the parallel crack and then topped out and set up an anchor.
Charlie announced that we were running out of time. It was 1 PMish, and judging from how much time it had taken us to reach the Crux, and considering that we already had four rappels to do, we were going to have to turn back soon. I wanted to lead one more pitch. We had two choices for routes. The info we had read indicated we should probably stay in the Chute, but another line to the right looked like it might take us to a point where we could scramble to the summit. It looked tempting, so I quickly set an anchor, and Lynn belayed me up the low 5th class route on the right. I think I set three cams. I ran out half the rope, topping a rock rib. To our dismay, there was still another two hundred feet of mountain to climb! The immensity of the North Rabbit Ear really impressed itself upon us at that point. I did a quick unroped traverse back into the Gulch, hoping that the route up from there would look easy enough to invite a dash to the summit. Nope. It looked very doable but probably needed to be protected. And chances were, we would have to protect another pitch above that.
Damn! Charlie was correct. We had run out of time. It might take us another hour -- or even longer -- to summit. We already had five rappels facing us to get off; climbing further might add two more rappels. If we didn't get off the last rappel before dark, it would be very difficult to find our way back to the vehicle by headlamp over so much trailless terrain. We had to abort.
For future reference, once up to the spot where we quit, several route options exist. We were on a rock rib between Boyer's Chute and a brushy gully to the south that probably was the upper portion of the Davis route. We could have rapped down into that gully and climbed unroped up the opposite side, and I think we could have gone on to the summit unroped from there. I can't be positive about that though. Trouble was, when we returned that way, I could not tell how difficult it would be to climb from the gully back up to our perch on the rock rib. A second option was to continued straight upwards on the rib, but I could not see over the bulge above us to determine what happened after that. It might have worked great, but we probably still would have faced another roped pitch somewhere. The third choice was traversing unroped over to the Chute, as I already had done, and continue climbing there. If the descriptions we had read were correct, we should expect two more "airy" 4th class pitches there.
The Boyer's Chute is too complicated and too long for a party of three. Even a party of two is going to have to move quickly to negotiate all the pitches and rappels. Climbing in spring, when days are longer than in autumn, could make a big difference. I would like to return to Boyer's Chute next spring and try it again. Any takers?
Anyway, now we had to get out of the Chute and at least get back to the use trail before dark if we wanted a hot meal and a bed! We rapped down to the top of the Crux. The following four rappels went as quickly as rappels can go, but they still took so long that it was about 5:45 PM when we finally took the helmets and harnesses off. A long trudge followed, racing failing light, but we made it back to the use trail, which led us back to the vehicle under the stars and a crescent moon. We reached the vehicle at 7:40 PM.
Use the Topp Hut access, traversing on a use trail into Rabbit Ears Canyon and following the streambed up to the west face of North Rabbit Ear. Check Ingraham for route description.
Cams, sizes 1 - 3, seemed best
BETA PHOTO: Looking up Boyer's Chute to the big chock stone (b...
My father at the first "5th" class portion of clim...
BETA PHOTO: North Rabbit Ear at sunrise on the approach hike. ...
BETA PHOTO: This shot shows the entrance to Boyer's Chute (the...
BETA PHOTO: A little higher now, you can finally see the chute...
Our party of 7 split up here as Aaron and Zack hea...
BETA PHOTO: Looking down from the top of the first chock-stone...
BETA PHOTO: Looking up from the top of the first chock-stone. ...
BETA PHOTO: Looking out of the chute from just below the chimn...
BETA PHOTO: Looking directly up at the chimney pitch, and the ...
BETA PHOTO: We opted to rappel down the South Face Direct rout...
BETA PHOTO: Aaron replacing webbing at the first rap anchor on...
The view of Rabbit Ears Massif from the first rap ...
"It's a bird...it's a plane...!" I have no idea w...
Myself heading down the second (double rope) rappe...
BETA PHOTO: Rap anchors for second rappel off NRE via South Fa...
BETA PHOTO: Looking up at our rappel route (South Face Direct)...
BETA PHOTO: This is a funky perspective (stitched photos), but...
BETA PHOTO: If you do not see this on your way to Boyer's Chut...
BETA PHOTO: Much of the approach in through this rocky dry riv...
BETA PHOTO: This was where we first roped up. As you can see,...
|Comments on Boyer's Chute
|By Aaron Hobson|
From: Las Cruces, NM
Nov 24, 2009
I enjoyed this route immensely. The narrow confines made it feel like ascending up a canyon, and then you pop out on top of a small summit, superb.
Many rappel stations are found along the route at various locations. Above the crux 5.4 chimney is a two-bolt rappel in bad shape. Both bolts are old 1/4", and one of them is broken off. Fortunately a boulder just above them can be slung for that rappel. The lower 5th class crux (described as the third pitch above) is not well protected on the right, but climbs at an easier grade, probably 5.3. The left side of the chock can be climbed via a crack at around 5.8, and is well protected.
I can see why this route used (and maybe still is?) to be so popular, it certainly is an excellent way to summit this gorgeous peak. I replaced he summit register with a new note-pad and have taken the existing one down for transcribing and archiving. I plan to return a copy of the transcribed register to the summit so that parties can read the history. If anyone has ideas about where to archive the register I would love to hear them. It appears that the original register was archived by the "Southwest Mountaineers". I wonder if anyone from this group is around and knows about this archive.
|By Robert Cort|
Jul 24, 2010
Ditto Aaron's comment, this is an enjoyable route! Some comments about the route: 1) as previously stated, climbing on the right around the first chock-stone is much easier than the left, if possible, I suggest skipping the rope at this point and climbing the right side. 2) after the chimney pitch, you might want to keep the rope on for another 40 feet or so, while the climbing is easy, a fall might drop you right back down the chimney. 3) there is one final headwall above the chimney which we roped up for, in hindsight, it was only one move that required protection, and it would have been faster to solo it.
Aaron replaced the bolts above the chimney (two new shiny 3/8"), but we rapped the south face direct route (only two rappels then a relatively straightforward gully descent). I believe this is a more expedient descent route.
|By Robert Cort|
Jul 24, 2010
Note, photos I submitted of our descent are more representative of the South Face Direct route. Maybe they should be moved once a route description for South Face Direct is posted, but they do offer an alternative descent for Boyer's Chute.
|By Karl Kiser|
Sep 18, 2010
There is another route on the left side of Boyer's Chute called the Chute Route. It is a relatively steep route, about 5.7, and follows a natural weakness. If I remember correctly, it is three pitches to the top of the route. There was a rap route down the route in the old days (remember double ropes).
|By Nick Dolecek|
From: Denver, Colorado
Jan 10, 2011
This route is located on the west face of the formation. As one passes the Citadel and continues up the Rabbit Ears drainage you will see a major gash/chimney in the west face. This chimney splits after a few hundred feet. The route follows the left hand chimney through the chockstones and then the final few pitches of meandering climbing.
Soloed this route today, a very fun scramble with a few harder sections. The crux pitch is 35 feet long, and is the longest portion of hard climbing, so only bringing 70 feet of rope may save you some weight and lots of time.
|By Ian Harris|
From: Las Cruces NM
Apr 6, 2013
Crux sections could be considered 5.6. I wouldn't free solo the chimney but that's just me. We used the South Face rappel route and I think it was better than rappelling the whole route, but we also left our packs at the base of the route and getting over there was a pretty serious bushwack.