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Areas in Lower Domingo Baca Slabs (AKA: The Ribcage)

Left Tower (AKA: The Cleaver Block) 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 1
Out of Darkness Slabs 3 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 3 / 3
Right Tower 0 / 1 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 2 / 2
Snake Skin Slab / Tower 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0
Upper Dome 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 1
Winter Solstice Slab 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 1
Elevation: 7,168 ft
GPS: 35.181, -106.463 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 4,942 total · 41/month
Shared By: Alam on Feb 25, 2008
Admins: Aaron Hobson, Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Drew Chojnowski


This area describes the collection of short trad and mixed routes that are found on the assorted boulders and slabs in the lower Domingo Baca canyon area. These are all easy to moderate routes (but I am sure there are harder offerings here) and range from 50 to 160 feet. The rock is good quality, with finer grain crystals than found at 3-gun springs.

All these routes face south, are at a low elevation in the Sandias, and can be climbed in the middle of the winter on a sunny day. If it is in the high 40s in Albuquerque and the wind is not blowing you can climb here (even though 50 and 60s feel better). Looking at the names you will see that many of these climbs were done in January and February during some of the notoriously dry and warm winters. We usually find our selves climbing here in early spring or late fall, and by linking a lot these climbs can put in a full day. There are no trails connecting any of the formations, and the brush and cactus can be intense if you wander in the wrong directions. Long climbing pants are strongly suggested.

Photos and descriptions can be found in a small mini-guide at

Getting There

From Elena Gallegos Picnic Area, park in the east most lot and follow the natural trail north-east. Once you pass the picnic area, the trail will head north, traversing the base of the Sandias and passing Pino canyon. After about 10-15 minutes, you cross into the wilderness area at the base of the Domingo Baca canyon. Head up trail until you see the formations on the north (left side of the canyon). A good starting point is to hike up to the base of the Out of Darkness Slabs. Approach time is 30-40 minutes (car to slab).

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Classic Climbing Routes at Lower Domingo Baca Slabs (AKA: The Ribcage)

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Simply Replaced
Sport, Alpine
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Simply Replaced Right Tower 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport, Alpine
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Bill M
Fort Collins, CO
Bill M   Fort Collins, CO
Heads up, there is a rattlesnake nest at the base between Summer Solstice Slab and Right Tower. Not that anyone should be surprised. Apr 21, 2011
Ron -

Thanks for the historical details. As I have already said very little in the Sandia's is new - we continue to rediscover or cross routes done a while ago.

Note - this anchor has not been replaced yet. It has been on my list of ones to get to, but I got waylaid by a knee injury. Now we know it is a single bolt placed in 76! As noted in the PDF topo some of the bolts on "simply replaced" came out with a simple tug, while others were more rigorous. Treated this bolt on top with caution!!! I will be replacing it by spring. Oct 26, 2009
It's interesting seeing how many people have been climbing up here these days. The feature you are calling "Left Tower",I loosely referred to as "The Cleaver Block", when I first climbed it in April of '76. I climbed the obvious crack up the right side until the pro got thin, (this was way before cams), then exited right up to the arete.Our boots were Galibier Royal Robbins, and our rack was all Chouinard hexes and stoppers.I lowered my partner off the top, then had him anchor the rope so that I could rappel off the opposite side. On a later ascent we added a bolt anchor at the top.Beware of rattlesnakes in this area, especially in the spring, as there is a snake den in the area! Oct 25, 2009
Ryan Smyth
Albuquerque, NM
Ryan Smyth   Albuquerque, NM
Bring on the trail robin! i'll help you if you want ha ha. The approaches to the upper parts is kind of hellacious as is the downclimbing. we avoided getting any cactus which wasn't easy but i think its a great close place to go in the colder months...or when you get a surprise snow storm. And now that its warmed up watch out for rattlesnakes! i nearly jumped on one the other day and then again today. Luckily they'll warn you when you're too close, but a bite up there would be pretty serious! Mar 28, 2009
Albuquerque, NM
Robin   Albuquerque, NM
Bill and I had talked about the fact that a somewhat hidden entrance to the trail system would keep the hiker traffic out, while allowing climbers to move around the crag. I think that I might only work on the trails for getting around after you get to Out of Darkness.

Either way, my wife and I just bought a house and move at the end of February, so I don't see myself getting up there to work on the trail until after that. Hopefully that will give people a little bit of time to voice their opinions on this subject. Jan 27, 2009
Bill Lawry
New Mexico
Bill Lawry   New Mexico
No objections from me. I sent a little beta to Robin regarding what I know about getting around in The Ribcage. Jan 22, 2009
Anthony Stout
Albuquerque, NM
Anthony Stout   Albuquerque, NM  
My opinion is just one and certainly does not represent any sort of consensus! Just my own two cents. So if there is any objection to what we are discussing, please let it be known.

When/if you do decide to make a climbers trail to the area, I would suggest keeping it pretty low key, but also marking the trail with cairns so that others can find it!

Best of luck! Jan 22, 2009
Albuquerque, NM
Robin   Albuquerque, NM
THANKS!!! I will give it a go some time. My plan would be to make a route that follows your description. I.E. walk up the canyon until you see out of the darkness on your left and then I'll maybe find a good path through that stuff and try to clean it up a bit. If that works I may put some effort into connecting the out of darkness out over to winter solstice etc.

I think mostly I would try to clean up and prune a bit along what is already the "path of least resistance". Thereby reducing the resistance encountered to a tolerable level.

Don't hold your breath everybody, but there is a chance the approach will not suck as much in the future.

And yeah if things just keep growing back I will let it be, but hey, I bet if the approach was better it might have some hope at staying packed out. Jan 21, 2009
Anthony Stout
Albuquerque, NM
Anthony Stout   Albuquerque, NM  
If this is a place that people might visit on a regular basis, I see no problem with a little trail maintenance (or actually, creating a trail in general). It seems it would actually be the best thing to do in order to prevent erosion.

However, if it is only going to be visited once or twice per year, all your work might be for nothing as things will just grow back.

I have no idea how many people go up there. When we went there I felt like we were the first to have visited the place in many years (no real trail, no real footprints, no chalk, etc.) Jan 21, 2009
Albuquerque, NM
Robin   Albuquerque, NM
I spent an afternoon TR soloing on Winter Solstice Slab on January 19th 2009. The weather in Albuquerque was 57 and sunny with no wind. It was PERFECT up on the rock. Warm but not hot. I found the approach to be rough, but not quite as bad as I had thought based on other's comments. That's not to say the bushwhack doesn't suck, but not monumentally. For what it's worth, the bushwhack to out of the darkness slab is pretty short and not really that bad. The approach to the upper crags sucks significantly more. There is evidence of a little pruning here and there, and if you are careful you can get around without too much trouble. That said i did get poked by prickly pears 4 times... Oh and after reading Anthony's note on cactus in the head, I wore my helmet for the bushwhack segment of the approach.

Having all your gear in your pack is a good idea. I had ropes on the outside and was constantly looking back to see if they were still there, or had cactus in them. Miraculously they were fine...

I intend to revisit the crag in the future and as such I was wondering if anyone would be opposed to a me doing a little trail work here and there, at some of the worst parts. I think it would help a lot, but I'm not sure how everyone feels about this so please give me your opinion!! Jan 20, 2009
Bill Lawry
New Mexico
Bill Lawry   New Mexico
As of Dec 30th, Out of Darkness Slab is fully in sunlight some time before 10:00 AM. No need to wait until noon on a calm and sunny winter day!!

11/27/2016 edit to add: If familiar with the area and very comfortable with the climbs, there is a nice rope-solo circuit by stringing together the routes January Sun, Winter Solstice and Last Chance. I say "nice" because it can be done with a 35m rope, a set of stoppers and about seven cams 0.3" to 4". To make the 35m rope work, set up a semi-hanging belay in the middle of Winter Solstice. Note: The spice of Winter Solstice is stronger when rope soloing. Nov 24, 2008
Anthony Stout
Albuquerque, NM
Anthony Stout   Albuquerque, NM  
This area is nice to visit if you have a day to kill, and you can't go anywhere else for various reasons (tweaked elbow and can't climb anything that will make it worse, weather, etc.). The hike into DB canyon is nice and with beautiful scenery. The climbing is fun, but short. But that last bit, the part from the trail to the separate crags, was enough to make me not want to go back more than once! If you like adventurous bushwhacking through the native poky things that infiltrate the lower Sandia's, this is the place for you! I even got poked by a cholla on the top of my head when I was scrambling atop a rock when I was going from out of darkness slabs up to right tower! Long pants are a must here! Mar 3, 2008

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