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The Pulpit
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Cave Route, The 
Southeast Ridge 
Water Stains 

The Cave Route 

YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ British: MVS 4b

   
Type:  Trad, Alpine, 4 pitches, 360', Grade II
Consensus:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: Bill Isenhower, Mike Roybal, Clark Gray, 1970
Page Views: 2,421
Submitted By: Monomaniac on May 14, 2007
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BETA PHOTO: Topo of the Cave Route, 5.7+

Description 

This route ascends the West Face of the Pulpit, and passes a cave in the cliff at mid-height. I didn't find the cave to be too exciting, but apparently that is the main attraction to the Pulpit. This route would almost qualify as a waste of time, if not for the excellent 3rd pitch, which is very interesting on great rock, with just the right amount of gear.

This route is most frequently described as having 4 pitches, although we climbed it in two pitches (with a 60m rope) with little difficulty.

Begin directly below the cave, at the far right end of a small ledge with several trees.

P1: 5.7 or 5.8+ There are two options here. The original route climbs a 5.7 chimney. A newer variation climbs up a right-facing dihedral to sketchy face climbing at 5.8+. Numerous haphazard rap stations remain as a testament to the lunacy of this variation. Unfortunately I followed the variation, so I can't accurately describe the 5.7 version.

P2: 5.8+ or 5.7, From either variation, climb up to a large ledge where the two options merge. Follow mellow, low-angled rock in a large cleft into the cave. Explore the cave, then downclimb 10 feet. Traverse right around a rib to a spacious ledge and two brand new bolts.

P3: 5.7+, The crux lead. Above the belay is a series of three right-facing dihedrals. The two right-most (southern-most) extend down to the belay ledge, while the furthest north only appears 15 feet above the ledge. Begin up the middle dihedral, (or the left-most of the two that start off the ledge), with a few powerful moves over the slight bulge. Continue easily until its possible to traverse left to the next dihedral. Follow this to its end, then traverse further left, past a bolt that is nearing its 40th birthday, along a slightly runout face to easier terrain. Head straight up to a good ledge below a huge, leaning, right-facing dihedral.

P4: 5.6, cruise up the dihedral to a belay tree below the summit.

Descent: Continue E to the summit. There are 3 possible rap anchors, depending on your level of daring. The safest is right at the summit, but may require two ropes. If you have one 60m rope and are brave, downclimb NE over exposed rocks and shrubbery to a tree with rap anchors. Rap down the gully. One 60m rope will not reach to the next anchor, so TIE A KNOT in the end of your rope. An easy 30 foot down climb to the NE leads to the next anchor, where a 60 foot rap reaches the ground. Scramble down the base of the cliff for ~100 feet to the base of the Cave Route.


Location 

See photo topo.


Protection 

Gear to 3 inches, many small pieces.



Photos of The Cave Route Slideshow Add Photo
Start of the 5.7 cave route climb.
Start of the 5.7 cave route climb.
View from cave
View from cave
Approaching the mid-way anchor.  The Cave is behind the climber (hidden).  The dark area in this photo that looks like a cave entrance is not actually the cave.
Approaching the mid-way anchor. The Cave is behin...
Beginning pitch 3, just above the 5.7+ crux of the route.
Beginning pitch 3, just above the 5.7+ crux of the...
Here is where we set the belay for the top of Pitch 1. Looks a bit far to the climber's right - but it worked just fine for us to subsequently visit the cave.  Just be sure to set bomber directionals to get over, up, and back to the top of Pitch 2.
BETA PHOTO: Here is where we set the belay for the top of Pitc...
The ancient bolt on pitch 3.  Bomber!
The ancient bolt on pitch 3. Bomber!
Richard traversing past the new bolt on pitch 3 - a real lifesaver!
Richard traversing past the new bolt on pitch 3 - ...
Comments on The Cave Route Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated May 21, 2012
By Clark Gray
Jan 25, 2008

If after you complete the traverse to the dihedral on the second to last pitch instead of going up the dihedral you continue left and up, there is a wonderful large lunch ledge with one of the best views in the Sandias. From here there is a nice short vertical face climb that leads to the easy ridge that ends at the top.

By Jason Hundhausen
From: Bozeman, MT
Mar 2, 2008
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b

Good climb; I agree with mono that the cave is "meh," but worth glancing into as you cruise by on your way to the second belay. Beginning the third pitch, go up the middle right-facing dihedral to the right of the bolted anchor, not the rightmost dihedral which is >>5.7 and has a bunch of loose, crumbly rock (pulled out a bowling ball sized boulder from the crack).

By Scott Beguin
From: Los Alamos, NM
Mar 10, 2008
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b

This climb can be done in two pitches with a 60 meter cord. Take long runners and/or double ropes.

By Bill Lawry
From: New Mexico
Jun 18, 2008

Copied Monomaniac's photo from The Pulpit page (thanks for posting it!) and marked it with our belay point at the top of Pitch 1 - we wanted to visit the cave.

By Nick Manke
From: Edgewood, NM
Sep 17, 2008

Fun climb. Rock quality is pretty good for most of route- just check before you commit because some of it is loose. I'd recommend hiking in from top and continuing down to the bottom after the climb but plan for a near all day trip due to the position of the climb. Agreed that the cave is not that impressive. Gearwise, I don't recall using anything above a 2. The rap however, seemed almost more dangerous than the climb ha ha

By mtnrobb
Dec 3, 2008

Agree - easily accomplished in 2 nice pitches with a 60M.

By Cody Eilar
From: Albuquerque, New Mexico
May 29, 2011

So we hiked to the summit today after the 2 pitch climb and rapped off a big boulder with a chain and bunch of webbing. Turns out that the rest of the down climb really sucks after the initial rap. There is a ton of loose rock and a bunch of weeds to deal with as we made our way back to the la luz. We're we supposed to go around the other side, i.e. north instead of south? I'd rather just rap down the same way I came up using 2 60m ropes if I did this climb again unless there is a better down climb on the other side.

By John Kear
From: Albuquerque, NM
May 29, 2011

Yes you want to go down the northside of the formation after rapping off the backside. This will return you to the base of the route much more easily. You might have to do another rappel. Generally better than rappelling the route and doable with one rope.

By Cody Eilar
From: Albuquerque, New Mexico
May 31, 2011

Ahh, that would explain it. Next time I'll go down the right way!

By Christina Frain
From: Cedar Crest, NM
May 20, 2012

Yesterday I did the "brave" descent from the top.

...If you have one 60m rope and are brave, downclimb NE over exposed rocks and shrubbery to a tree with rap anchors. Rap down the gully. One 60m rope will not reach to the next anchor, so TIE A KNOT in the end of your rope. An easy 30 foot down climb to the NE leads to the next anchor, where a 60 foot rap reaches the ground. Scramble down the base of the cliff for ~100 feet to the base of the Cave Route...

The rap webbing around the first tree was in good condition and plentiful.

BEWARE of the second, lower tree. The rap rings were on a single piece of cordalette. The cordalette was in good condition but not redundant. I added another piece but learned later that it was removed. Be prepared to back-up the cordalette.

By Jeremy Aslaksen
From: Albuquerque, NM
May 21, 2012

You can also not rap and downclimb the 5.4 (5.5?) ridge that will lead you back down to the trail.

Jeremy