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The Thumb

New Mexico > Albuquerque Are… > Sandia Mountains > La Cueva Canyon, Upper

Description

If you look down from the limestone band atop the Sandia crest (hiking down the La Luz trail), into upper La Cueva Canyon, you will see a striking double summited formation dominating your view. Though it looks nothing like a thumb, unless viewed from the north. In the center of the formation a distinct corner system can be seen, which is the route, Aviary Ort Overhangs. All of the routes on the east side will spend only the morning in the sun, so area does not not make a good fall/spring/winter climbing area. But, summertime temps on this face will likely be quite pleasant.

Getting There

Note: These directions will take you to the center of the formation, where Aviary Ort Overhangs is.

Find the crest spur trail on the south side of the Sandia Crest parking lot, and follow it about 1/2 mile. Head down the La Luz trail, down several switch backs, and continuing down past a several talus slopes. After the talus slops, the trail will eventually reenter the trees. Find a faint trail at the next switchback that will head west through the woods. Following the trail, you will eventually come to a point where it is possible to scramble to the bottom of Aviery ort overhangs.

Descent Directions

(Written by Bowe Ellis. See comments.)

From the north summit follow the ridge line to the north until you reach a pronounced drop off. For the down climb option work your way off slightly to the right (northeast) down an easy slab to a prominent pine tree at the top of a steep gully. This route will look improbable. Use the tree to enter the gully for just a few feet then look to the right (north) to spot an easy ramp that cuts back across to the ridge line. If you find the correct route it's no worse than exposed 4th class.

Another option, from the ridge at the top of the steep section, go back uphill just a bit and work down the west side, cutting north and following a ramp to a tree riddled with slings. From here rap to easy ground below. We didn't check the distance but it's almost certainly more than 30 meters.

Standard SE Ridge descent description: by John Kear
From the top continue along the ridge heading south for 150ft. Turn right and down climb to a tree. Follow a nice ledge system down just below the S ridge of the Thumb. Continue scrambling down the S ridge to the col at the S end of the formation. Once you cut down on to the N side of the col walk hard right staying above the talus below. Keeping contouring around until above forested slopes skiers right of the boulder field. Once in the trees there is a rough climbers trail that will quickly bring you back to the La Luz trail 500 Ft below.

Routes from Left to Right

5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 1
Twist-O-Flex
Trad, Alpine 5 pitches
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13
 7
Water Stains
Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b
 3
Halfbreed
Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b
 5
Southeast Ridge (a.k.a., standar…
Trad, Alpine 2 pitches
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 5
North Summit Direct
Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a
 3
Thundercracker
Sport, Alpine
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 38
Aviary Ort Overhangs
Trad, Alpine 3 pitches
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b PG13
 5
Fowl Play
Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
 69
Northwest Ridge
Trad, Alpine 6 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Twist-O-Flex
 1
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad, Alpine 5 pitches
Water Stains
 7
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13 Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
Halfbreed
 3
5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
Southeast Ridge (a.k.a., st…
 5
4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b Trad, Alpine 2 pitches
North Summit Direct
 5
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
Thundercracker
 3
5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a Sport, Alpine
Aviary Ort Overhangs
 38
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad, Alpine 3 pitches
Fowl Play
 5
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b PG13 Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
Northwest Ridge
 69
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad, Alpine 6 pitches

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Thumb in winter
[Hide Photo] Thumb in winter
A view of "The Thumb". From this angle, you can (sort of) see how the formation gets it's name.
[Hide Photo] A view of "The Thumb". From this angle, you can (sort of) see how the formation gets it's name.
The Thumb as seen from Crossroads(5.10a) on Torreon.
[Hide Photo] The Thumb as seen from Crossroads(5.10a) on Torreon.
A different view of the Thumb (from the NW).
[Hide Photo] A different view of the Thumb (from the NW).
Photo of The Thumb from the limestone band that surrounds the summit of the Sandia Crest.
[Hide Photo] Photo of The Thumb from the limestone band that surrounds the summit of the Sandia Crest.
[Hide Photo] untitled
[Hide Photo] untitled
The Thumb from the top of the Pulpit.
[Hide Photo] The Thumb from the top of the Pulpit.
Northwest Ridge route, descending via the talus slope, to the la Luz trail (as seen from the upper la luz).
[Hide Photo] Northwest Ridge route, descending via the talus slope, to the la Luz trail (as seen from the upper la luz).

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Bowe Ellis
Taos, NM
[Hide Comment] The one thing that seems missing is a descent description.

From the north summit follow the ridgeline to the north until you reach a pronounced dropoff. For the downclimb option work your way off slightly to the right (northeast) down an easy slab to a prominent pine tree at the top of a steep gully. This route will look improbable. Use the tree to enter the gully for just a few feet then look to the right (north) to spot an easy ramp that cuts back across to the ridgeline. If you find the correct route it's no worse than exposed 4th class.

Another option, from the ridge at the top of the steep section, go back uphill just a bit and work down the west side, cutting north and following a ramp to a tree riddled with slings. From here rap to easy ground below. We didn't check the distance but it's almost certainly more than 30 meters. If someone knows this distance it would be nice to know. Jun 17, 2008
Chris Wenker
Santa Fe
[Hide Comment] Does the 4th class descent described by Bowe take you down the blocky section of the east face that lies to the north of Aviary Ort Overhangs? (yikes!) I suppose that could be useful if you left your packs at the base of the NW Ridge.
But going over the top of the S summit and down the SE Ridge is casual 4th and mainly 3rd class. Once you're off the Thumb and heading down the east slopes, stay in the trees along the edge of the first clear talus slope, and you'll hit the La Luz trail slightly above the uppermost switchback (not far down-trail from Donald Duck). Jun 8, 2009
MikeZ
Albuquerque, NM
[Hide Comment] Hey! Does anyone know what happened to the notebook that was on the summit? I really enjoyed climbing the Thumb and reminiscing through past trips documented in it. Would love to self document all my past entries if possible. May 25, 2019
Mark Dalen
Albuquerque, NM
[Hide Comment] Chris - the weird thing about Bowe's descent description is that it almost makes sense if you substitute 'south' for 'north' ... as is, the description in fact puts you in heinous terrain above the east face - not cool ... best descent indeed looks 'improbable' to start, dropping down to a tree & then a rubbly gully winding SW to S, with one exposed lieback kind of move to gain a clean ramp heading down to the notch ... my trick is to eyeball the left side of this ramp, near the bottom you can see a flake below (east) that is easy to drop down on & just kind of monkey hang the final move down to the talus ... I agree some kind of descent beta including photos would be very helpful ... maybe I'll get on it one of these days ... Jun 21, 2019
Mark Dalen
Albuquerque, NM
[Hide Comment] As soon as I finished the above I realized that Bill Lawry actually posted some good beta photos/descriptions under ...
mountainproject.com/route/1…

photo of the start of the descent is particularly useful ... Jun 21, 2019
Bill Lawry
Albuquerque, NM
[Hide Comment] I was also confused by Bowe’s description ... though a change of a word or two might change that. Yesterday, we made some guesses as to where that sling riddled tree may be. But we struck out.

That said, the last couple years or so, there has been a sling riddled boulder up on the ridge proper. We went that way once and rapped from it. But to me the boulder is not inspiring.

If a free solo down climb of the ‘normal’ SE-easterly descent is out of the question, I would recommend leaving a sling and biner on the mid-way tree so last person goes down the initial steep part on TR. Jun 23, 2019