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Routes in The Thumb

Aviary Ort Overhangs T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Fowl Play T 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b PG13
Halfbreed T 5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b
North Summit Direct T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Northwest Ridge T 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Southeast Ridge (a.k.a., standard descent) T 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b
Thundercracker S 5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a
Twist-O-Flex T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Water Stains T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13
Type: Trad, Alpine, 3 pitches, Grade II
FA: R.Cundiff, D.Hammack, '61 (or Doug Bridgers, Rico Meleski, 1975)
Page Views: 7,832 total, 54/month
Shared By: Anthony Stout on Jan 26, 2006
Admins: Aaron Hobson, Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Drew Chojnowski

You & This Route

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The guidebook "Sandia Rock" lists this one as "One of the best of its grade in the Sandias". I will have to agree with this! This is a summer route, if it's 95 in Albuquerque, chances are, temps will be perfect to even slightly chilly on this route. It sees about one hour of sun per day.

To get there, start on the La-Luz trail. The Thumb is an obvious formation, just keep on the trail until it is right in front of you. You will pass a scree/boulder field that the trail goes through. When you get to the first switchback that turns right, look ahead at the trail through the trees. Follow this climbers trail to the base of an obvious crack system within a huge right-facing dihedral. It requires a little scrambling to get there.

Pitch 1: Follow the dihedral (some loose rock, but hey, this is the Sandias!) up and through a slightly awkward slot (5.9) (I found that a #5 or #6 Camalot would fit great here, though I did not have one. Monomaniac suggests that a #4 Camalot fits as well) After moving through the slot, traverse right on face holds to a solid stainless steel two bolt anchor.

Pitch 2: Follow a nice-looking, right-arching dihedral. When you get to the point where the dihedral converts to roof, traverse right on poor gear, and clip a pin down at your feet. Move past a tricky roof at your right (5.9, crux). There are other variations that have also been described to me, but this is the way I went. Continue, dealing with the rope drag, to a ledge with another 2-bolt anchor. Note that it is “possible to get a 0 TCU and a 6 or 7 stopper above the fixed pin. This may be a wise alternative if you're concerned at all for the welfare of your second. Clipping the fixed pin would put the second in a precarious spot.” (Monomaniac). Many slings and good rope management are suggested for this pitch, as the rope drag can be terrible.

Pitch 3: Cruise up a straight-in corner through some vegetation, working right over questionable, loose rock to the summit of The Thumb.

It is possible to rap after the 2nd pitch (with two 50m or longer ropes), and if you did, you wouldn't miss anything. However, the last pitch is really easy, the rock is solid and the gear is good, so there's no need to avoid it. The rap can be spicy, and for us required quite a bit of swinging, then tying off my rappel, and climbing some precarious 5.10 moves to get back to the second belay anchor. I might suggest tying off your tag line to the anchor when your second comes up, but if you do, you must also be concerned with getting the rope caught around something.


Pro: I took a double set up to #2, with one #3 and #4 Camelot. Optional would be a #5 or #6 that can be left on the belay of the first pitch. I would also recommend many slings (at least 12-13) for the second pitch to avoid rope drag issues.

Anchors: Bolts for the first and second pitches. Gear for the summit pitch.

Descent: See directions for The Thumb formation.
Mark Dalen
Albuquerque, NM
Mark Dalen   Albuquerque, NM
I did this in the fall of 1978. No one at that time would have considered rapping after 2 pitches. Since that option is on the table let me mention 2 factors to consider for the last pitch:

1) Communication is nil
2) Rock is awfully loose after the lichen filled dihedral

There is a hair raising story that goes with these 2 notes ... but leave that for another day. Aviary Ort in my mind stands as that rare Sandias climb that is neither over nor underrated.... Aug 16, 2014
Scott Beguin
Santa Fe, NM
Scott Beguin   Santa Fe, NM
This was a really fun and solid route. We took doubles and alpine runners which warded off any rope drag. The new #5 camalot helps the confidence on the pitch one exit. The fixed pin on pitch 2 protects the crux fine. Look around, there are a few different ways to move through the crux. Pitch three is definitely worth doing, as it was solid and had fun exposed moves with good gear. We topped out and walked off with board lasted climbing shoes down large boulders on the scree slope. Jul 9, 2012
Bill M
Fort Collins, CO
Bill M   Fort Collins, CO
A little chicken-head hold broke off right after the traverse on the second pitch making the roof a little bit harder. Jul 7, 2012
Bob Graham
Bob Graham  
This is a really good route, we did all 3 pitches, the last pitch is not bad and it is fun to top out the Thumb. A lot of rope drag on the 2nd pitch I probably would bring a couple extra extendable slings next time about 14. Jun 24, 2012
Matthias Lang
Matthias Lang   Albuquerque
A couple of notes:
I agree with Monomaniac, the 1st pitch crux is pretty tame for a 5.9 OW.
2nd pitch crux is short, but probably not 5.9 and you will be above the last (hopefully) solid piece (piton).
The third pitch is really not worth doing unless you want to top out. There are however older bolts on top that make a rap from the top possible.

We were planning on doing the standard descent via south ridge but the part from the notch to the south summit didn't look that easy and is very exposed (is it really just 4th class?). Not wanting to rope up we ended up doing the rap from the end of the third pitch.

I also noticed a new rap station between the old bolts on top and the bolts of the second anchor, but getting there from the standard 3rd pitch would be awkward.

P.S.: Found a cam at the base of the climb. If you want it back PM me with brand and size. Jun 10, 2012
The only other possibility to Aviary Ort as the climb we did in 1961 is the dihedral about 75' to the left (E) and the top section of that overhangs far to much for us to have done with the skills and gear we had back then. I think our main protection was soft iron horizontal pins in cracks to the left and right of the dihedral and Army and Dave Hammack ring angles in the dihedral. Our total rack was probably half a dozen angles and 10 or so Cassin, Holubar, and Stubai soft iron horizontals. Dave told me that his son Davito has recently done the climb with one of Dave's grandsons. Sep 16, 2009
Morrison, CO
Monomaniac   Morrison, CO  
If you're correct (and I don't see any reason to think that you aren't), that would have been one of the hardest multi-pitch routes in the country at the time. Nice work!

..and its great to have you here on! Welcome! Sep 15, 2009
Dave Hammack and I did three routes on the N. face of the Thumb in 1960 through 1962. We looked at the photos of Aviary Ort on this page on 9 September 2009 and are certain (at least I am) that we did this route in 1961 or 1962 since it is the only right facing dihedral on the face. The second pitch was definitely the diciest lead I ever did. Soft iron pins worked really well in the dihedral crack. I remember a lot of lichen. We never felt like repeating the climb. The two other routes went left and right into the gap between the two pinnacles and were fairly easy. Sep 15, 2009
Shirtless Mike
Denver, CO
Shirtless Mike   Denver, CO  
Great climb, second pitch was one of the best I have done in the Sandia's so far.

The 5.9 slot was by far the crux for me. I first tried to face climb around it, then chimney it, and finally like a true sport climber just laid it back. There is a nice stance below the slot to downclimb to and figure out your options. The #4 camalot protected it fine, however if you want above your head pro, take something larger.

I skipped the pin as well on the second pitch, and placed small pro from a good stance under the roof, a small C3, and a small nut. Coming around the roof didn't feel bad at all, easy 5.9 or so, but slightly powerful on good holds.

I disliked the third pitch, but I think I went the wrong way increasing the amount of shrubbery I had to deal with.

4 stars if I forget about the third pitch. Jul 30, 2007
Jason Halladay
Los Alamos, NM
Jason Halladay   Los Alamos, NM  
A very enjoyable and sustained route that stays shaded and cool even in mid summer because the dihedral is so large.
The #4 BD cam was nice for the slot section and again early in the second pitch. I found the move right around the roof on the second pitch to be very strenuous and delicate. Did I miss something somewhere? Felt a bit tough for the 5.9 rating. Jul 2, 2007
Morrison, CO
Monomaniac   Morrison, CO  
Finally did this one on Sunday. To answer my own question, it would be possible to rap after the 2nd pitch (with two 50m or longer ropes), and if you did, you wouldn't miss anything. However, the last pitch is really easy, the rock is solid and the gear is good, so there's no need to avoid it. If I were to do the route again, I would rather top out and hike down then carry a second rope all the way to the base of the Thumb.

A few notes:
The P1 and P2 belay anchors have been replaced with bomber SS bolts.

At the crux of P2 (the traverse right under the roof), its possible to get a 0 TCU and a 6 or 7 stopper above the fixed pin. This may be a wise alternative if you're concerned at all for the welfare of your second. Clipping the fixed pin would put the second in a precarious spot. To put it another way, if I were climbing with my brother, I would clip the pin. In this case, I was climbing with my girlfriend, and since I wanted her to continue being my girlfriend, and continue climbing with me, I chose not to clip the pin.

When I see "5.9 Slot" on a topo, my 'cojones' generally start to retract into my chest cavity, with thoughts of the Steck-Salathe, the Harding Slot, Hollow Flake, etc. However, there's virtually no Chimney/OW climbing on this route. There's a 5 foot section of OW below the P1 belay, but its really mellow for "5.9OW". Mostly this section is ascended via good crimps.

Props to whomever suckered me into lugging my #5 camalot all the way down to the Thumb. I used a #4 Camalot, but the big daddy wasn't necessary.

I thought this was really good, but not as good as Emerald City, which is IMHO, the best 5.9 in the Sandias. May 14, 2007
Morrison, CO
Monomaniac   Morrison, CO  
I've heard people say that its best to rap after teh 2nd pitch. Any comments on this? Do you need two 50m ropes to rap from the top of the second pitch? Can it be rapped with one 60m rope? Or is the top-out not too bad?


Mark May 4, 2007