Juan Tabo Canyon has its headwaters in the huge west-facing amphitheater south of North Sandia Peak. The north side of the canyon is prominently defined by the massive wall of the Shield. The southern margin of the canyon is formed by the ridge that connects The Needle with The Prow.
Depending on which crag you are targeting, or, sometimes, even which side of the crag you are heading for, the approaches to the climbs in Juan Tabo Canyon may involve either hiking down from the Crest or up from below. For example, the lower crags like UNM Spire and the Prow are commonly approached from below, using the Piedra Lisa Trail to access either the Fletcher or Movie Trails, respectively. Climbs on the eastern side of the Shield are commonly approached from above, from the North Crest Trail, but they may also be reached from below via the Fletcher Trail. Routes on the western end of the Shield may be better approached by the Piedra Lisa and Rincon Spur Trails. Similarly, the Needle may be approached by either dropping down from the North Crest Trail or by coming up from below, going up the Movie Trail or Waterfall Canyon.
Descents off of the Shield may be as straightforward as hiking back to the North Crest Trail, if you approached it from above. Conversely, if you approached the Shield from below, it may be more complicated. One can descend the Knife Edge, although that involves low-fifth-class downclimbing and traversing through the ‘W.’ Alternately, some reports indicate that hiking from the top of the Shield up to the Crest and then taking either Chimney Canyon or the La Luz Trail back to the bottom works.
The eastern portion of the canyon, the part that lies above about 7100 feet elevation and contains all the crags of interest, is contained in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness, with all the attendant USFS restrictions. In addition, this area of the canyon is subject to annual access closures during the spring and summer, "for the protection of certain rare species of birds," according to the official closure announcement. The closed area includes: the Shield (except the Knife Edge), UNM Spire, the Prow, and the Fletcher and Movie Trails. The official 2009 closure, including a map of the affected area, is here.
Longest route in the Sandias. Around 1300 vertical feet of climbing after a brutal 2+ hour approach. Plan for 10-15 hours car to car depending on your speed. Take a machete for your approach.[Pitch-by-pitch descriptions below by G.Perkins; numbers coincide with Sandia Rock but I'd recommend linking or shortening pitches as I suggest below]P1: Beginning at the very bottom of the ridge, climb easy cracks to reach a good ledge where the arete steepens. You can also get here by c...[more]Browse More Classics in NM