Just beyond the foothills, this area is somewhat unlike the steep walls of the upper Sandia Mountains. Starting in Albuquerque, a beautiful hike next to a stream takes you to some quality low angle slab and crack climbing.
Get on Tramway and head north for a while. Find the Juan Tabo Picnic Area exit (Forest Road 333) and turn right after the second cattle guard (FR 333B). Follow this road to the La Cueva picnic area. Take the LaCueva trail (#83) east for about 1/4 mile to a point where the trail forks. The south (right) fork leads into the canyon. GPS coordinates are to the parking area.
Sapphire is a variation to pitch 2 of Emerald City, to its right. It's perhaps slightly easier, less classic, and more runout than Emerald City, but is on good rock and is certainly worth doing if 5.9 La Cueva slabs are your thing.The first pitch is shared with Emerald City, and pulls through the right side of a square roof, then gains easier slabs as you aim to pass just right of a small tree. A piton-protected tricky thin crux (rated 5.8+) comprises the last moves on th...[more]Browse More Classics in NM
Road to Lower La Cueva Canyon Trail Head was gated & locked this morning (10/27/12). We parked at the Tram parking lot and took the Tram - La Luz cross over trail to get into Lower La Cueva Canyon. Adds 35 or so minutes to approach but LLC was deserted.
I've looked through the Sandia Ranger District website for information, but I can't find any details so I'm not sure how long the trail head will be closed. If you're planning on climbing in Lower La Cueva Canyon you might call the Sandia FS (505.281.3304 & check on the closure. If you don't want to use the Tram access you could try the housing area to the N. It looked like there might be access through there, but I wasn't sure about the private property issues.
Update: Vehicular Access to Lower La Cueva Canyon Trail Head Closed Until May 2013.
I just called the Sandia Ranger District to check on the status of the apparent closure of the road leading to the Lower La Cueva Canyon Trail Head. It appears that the road will remain closed until May of 2013. The primary closure is the picnic area (current budgets don't allow appropriate maintenance). The person I spoke with, Mary, said that it is OK to park at the gate and walk in to the Lower La Cueva Canyon Trail, and it is OK to walk in on the La Luz / Tram crossover trail from open parking areas at the La Luz Trail Head or the Tram parking area. Parking at the Tram lot can require payment (although not always), but Mary suggested that a Recreational Pass for the Sandias should allow you to park at the Forest Service Information Area where the crossover trail heads North.
If you're planning on climbing in Lower La Cueva Canyon parking at the Tram adds 1.45 miles to your approach. Walking up the La Cueva Picnicground road from the locked gate adds 1.35 miles.