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Elevation: 7,683 ft
GPS: 32.3474, -106.5441
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Page Views: 57,446 total · 261/month
Shared By: Bill Lawry on Mar 24, 2006
Admins: Jason Halladay, Mike Hoskins, Anna Brown
Warning Access Issue: Power drilling is prohibited in the Organ Mountains Wilderness. DetailsDrop down

Description Suggest change

Sugarloaf is the largest formation in the Organs, and hosts some of the longest rock climbs for miles around. West of the Organ crest proper, it is impossible to miss as the pristine-looking granite dome so prominent when viewed from San Augustin Pass between Cruces and Alamogordo. The impressive length of the routes, difficult-to-reach summit (the easiest way up is 4th class), great views of the Sacramento Mountains and Tularosa Basin, and overall wilderness experience makes Sugarloaf a must-do.

Most routes on Sugarloaf are shady most of the day, and can be very windy at times. It's very secluded- be self-sufficient (although cell reception may be ok), and have enough gear to survive getting benighted, a story which a few climbers tell of their first experience on this formation. The rock quality is overall very good, although expect some loose blocks and test everything, as with any formation in the wilderness.

Approach for Sugarloaf (in large part from John Hymer) Suggest change

The approach to the start of North Face route will be well under two hours if you know the way or are efficient at finding the way. Nearly three hours may be more reasonable the first time. Access to other routes will take longer.

To access Sugarloaf (and other east-side routes in the Organ Mountains), park at the Aguirre Spring Campground approximately 5 miles south of Highway 70 on Aguirre Spring Road. There is potable water near the campground gate which is located miles before the actual campground. The gate hours currently change seasonally (2012). Inquire about gate hours and fees: BLM's Aguirre Springs Campground page

Well along the one-way loop, a pay station is located near a group campsite. Each vehicle pays a fee whether camping or not with he camp-site fee a little more than the day-use fee.

After taking care of the fee and deciding where to park, proceed to the second “group area” approximately 0.4 miles beyond the pay station and then down a spur road to the right. The Sugarloaf trail starts to the south of this “group area.” There are basically trail-head like parking spots and of course camp-site parking spots, depending on whether you are there for the day or spending the night. Not sure if parking for the day in a group area is okay.

From the parking lot for the second "group area", Sugarloaf is obscured by a large hill. The trail traverses the hill to the left. But first, south of the rest rooms, follow a trail up hill that eventually parallels a fence, and pass through a gate in the fence. Follow the trail across the stream bed. It turns to the east after the stream bed (a common mistake is to walk up the stream bed). Traverse the large hill high along its base; crossings of slabs obscure the path here and there so checking this out in daylight may help the first time. Follow this trail for approximately one hour. If you encounter another fence, you are on the lower trail and should turn back to the correct trail.

During years of high precipitation - in addition to the slabs adding challenges to following the approach trail - the trail can be obscured by high grasses making it difficult to follow in the dark on the way up and on the way down.

After approximately one hour, the trail crosses a primitive campsite. It is common to leave water here for the walk out. After a short level walk, the grade becomes steep. Just after the grade change, take a left fork and follow an obscure trail to the base of SL. Watch for snakes!

Summit Descents - 31 May 2023

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The descent from the summit back to the BLM's Aguirre Springs Campground will take around three hours at a steady human pace with no route-finding issues. Can be longer or shorter.

Other sections on this page describe four rappel routes from the summit.  The routes are described based on the length and number of ropes brought by the party.  The first photo below shows a party at the start of the South Ridge Line (SRL).  SRL is the way to get to three of the four rap routes:  Crescendo, West and South, listed in order they are reached going down SRL.  Some parties belay their way down the SRL.

Start of South Ridge Line looking south from the summit. Some groups set a belay here to get to rap routes Crescendo, West, and South.

Head straight out on this rib to reach rap routes Crescendo, West, and South.

Summit w/ One 60m Rope? South Rap

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If you have a single 60m rope, this is the descent for you.

Continue slightly up and then down the South Ridge Line passing up the Crescendo Rap anchors on left and the West Rap anchors on right.  Stay on the ridge line; don't take ramp to skier's right.  Find a third bolted anchor at a good ledge on the left just as the ridge line becomes less distinct - 1st & 2nd photos below. First rap is to an intermediate bolted anchor shared with Crescendo Rap. Second rap is to the saddle / notch south of the summit.  Both raps can be easily combined with double 60m ropes.  At the saddle, scramble down the gully to the west to reach a very short rap from another bolted anchor - 3rd photo below.

South Rap's first rap anchor which IS NOT visible from the summit

Anyone planning to use the normal rappel-from-summit bolts should either bring a crescent wrench or a bolting kit (latter solution would be best). The nut on the righthand/newer bolt was very loose, so we screwed it back on as best we could by hand. Not exactly confidence inspiring. The shiny, modern bolted anchor on the way to the normal anchor looks great but probably isn't useful for normal descent from the long routes... this original anchor should be upgraded.

Last rap anchor for descents via Crescendo Rap & South Rap routes. Either way, scramble down gully to the west of the notch which is left of the notch if looking back towards the summit. The anchors are on the bottom of the gully scramble at a steep drop.

Summit w/ One 70m Rope? Crescendo Rap

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In addition to the South Rap, having a single 70m rope gives you the second option of rapping the route Crescendo. One 60 meter rope is too short.

Start midway across the south ridge line where the Crescendo bolts are about a foot down left off the ridge top - 1st photo below.  First rap is to an intermediate bolted anchor shared with South Rap. Second rap reaches the saddle / notch just south of the summit. The location of the 2nd rap anchor is shown in the 2nd photo below.  At the saddle, scramble down the gully to the west to reach a very short rap from another bolted anchor - 3rd photo below.

Compared to South Rap, the Crescendo Rap does not save on descent time or on the number of rappels.  And getting on the first rap might intimidate a novice.

SS rap ring anchors ~ 1/2 way down summit south ramp. 33m rap to next anchors. Could use some sealant to prevent water entry / freeze.

slightly more west

Last rap anchor for descents via Crescendo Rap & South Rap routes. Either way, scramble down gully to the west of the notch which is left of the notch if looking back towards the summit. The anchors are on the bottom of the gully scramble at a steep drop.

Summit w/ Two 70m Ropes? West Rap

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Besides South Rap and Crescendo Rap, bringing two 70m ropes gives you this option - the West Rap.  It is worth noting up front that this descent completely bypasses the south saddle and the following scramble down west to the very short rappel.

Continue down the south ridge line past the Crescendo anchor on left to locate anchor bolts on the right at a nice ledge. From the bolted anchor, it is more or less 35m to another bolted anchor.  This second bolted anchor has no ledge and may be without links / chains / biners.  A double 70m rope rap from the ledge-less intermediate anchor will reach the ground.

At one time, after the intermediate anchor, there was also a lower intermediate nest of 3 nuts placed in a crack system.  Distances to the nest of nuts or from there to the ground are unknown.  A first-hand report would be great.

Summit w/ Two 70m Ropes Looking To Explore? East Rap

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Besides South Rap, Crescendo Rap, and West Rap, bringing two 70m ropes also gives you the East Rap option.  This descent does not involve the South Ridge Line at all and may help avoid high winds out of the west.  First-hand reports are spotty so explore with caution.  I have not seen a report that double 60m ropes are or are not sufficient. 

East of the summit there was at one time a cairn of 3 large stones which marked where the first rap anchor is ~30 feet below. That first anchor once consisted of a good 3/8 bolt with one pin plus a second pin hanging. After a double 70m rope rap, scramble / traverse right for about 5 minutes to reach the south saddle / notch. Then scramble down the gully west of the saddle to reach the very short rap from another bolted anchor - 1st photo below.

A 2012 report indicated an “unusable” intermediate anchor of very badly rusted leapers and an ancient micro nut that could be reached by rapping on a single 70m rope.  If doing so, be prepared to supplement the anchor.

Last rap anchor for descents via Crescendo Rap & South Rap routes. Either way, scramble down gully to the west of the notch which is left of the notch if looking back towards the summit. The anchors are on the bottom of the gully scramble at a steep drop.

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Classic Climbing Routes at Sugarloaf

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
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