Type: Trad, Alpine, 6 pitches, Grade III
FA: Dennis Udall, Dirk VanWinkle: 4/1977
Page Views: 10,736 total · 69/month
Shared By: Anthony Stout on May 1, 2006
Admins: Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Drew Chojnowski

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Access Issue: Seasonal raptor closure for some areas in the Sandias Details


Claimed to be one of the best 5.10 routes in the Sandias. Most of the climb is on clean rock, with a few loose sections, as goes the Sandias. See attached topo for more detailed climbing beta.

Pitch 1 (5.10a): Climb up to a ledge to the right of the dihedral. From atop the ledge, clip the bolt, and move left into the dihedral. Follow the dihedral up, eventually following a protectable crack to the left. Follow to a hanging belay.

Pitch 2 (5.10a): Some face climbing to a bolt leads to a right facing dihedral. After finishing the dihedral, climb up and to the left through some ledgy sections, eventually gaining the anchors on a nice belay ledge.

Pitch 3 (5.10c): This is the pitch that makes this climb what it is! Climb up and slightly right, and through the bulge. You can clip a fixed pin below the bulge and add a 0.4 or 0.5 Camalot just before pulling through it. After the bulge, continue up some ledges to a nice hand crack. Follow the hand crack and pull through a roof section. Clip the anchors. There are two crux sections on this pitch, over the overhang and going up through the crack. Some believe the overhang is more difficult, others believe the crack is more difficult. Take your pick!

Pitch 4 (5.9+ or 5.9): I thought this was the worst pitch on the climb, mostly because I really like cracks and not disconnected and run-out face climbing. There are two variations, both of which I have done, and the first is the one I would recommend the most.

V1: (highly recommended): Traverse left from the anchor, clipping a fixed pin underneath a roof [reportedly gone as of May 2013], and continue low and left directly underneath a roof. The feet are great but the hands can be difficult. Felt pretty awkward but solid. At the end of the roof is a crack that can be followed straight up. I placed a nut to pull the move then reached down to remove it after I placed some pro. This helps to eliminate rope drag. Continue up, cliping two fixed pins, and continue through meagerly protected climbing and route finding up. You will angle slightly to the right before moving left again and up to the anchors.

V2: (not recommended): Though the initial climbing is probably more fun this way, you end up with rope drag from hell in combination with run out climbing. Climb straight up from the anchors through some fun 5.9+ climbing. Clip a fixed cam with a fixed nut not so far above that. After the fixed nut traverse left. You will see a fixed pin below your feet but going down to clip it would result in impossible rope drag. You will also see places to place meager pro (much of which I did not use because of fear of rope drag). After climbing high enough I did get some pro in. Move slightly right through a crack then back left to the anchors. If you really enjoy run-outs and heinous rope drag you should consider going this way!

Pitch 5 (5.9): Short, move up and right from the anchors, clipping a pin (the first time I did this route I clipped a pin, did not see it the second time; however, the pro is more than adequate) then gaining a nice ledge. Continue up and right from the ledge to a very large ledge. Build an anchor here.

Pitch 6 (5.7 or optional 5.10b): We did the 5.7 section. Climb up and right of a huge dihedral, continuing right up poor quality rock to the summit. Anchor from a tree. Although we considered the variation, we were not sure exactly where to go.

DESCENT: From the summit, looking down to the northeast face you will see a half dead tree with some slings wrapped around it. Rap from this tree while angling north as much as possible. Once down, traverse north on grassy ledges to get to the first obvious couloir. Scramble up this, using a fixed line about 2/3s up. This gully ends west of the log structure you saw on your way in.


To find the route, go to the center of the Torreon. As you are tramming along the base of the rock, continue looking up until you see a huge roof in the middle of the face. To the right of the roof there is a prominent dihedral with ledge just to the right of it, and a bolt about 15 feet high. This is pitch one of Mountain Momma! There are some bushes in the crack to the left of the ledge you will start on. The bushes are within the crack you will begin climbing on higher up.


- Double set of Camalots from 0.3 to 2 with 1 #3. Micro C3s or equivelent were also helpful in a few sections.
- Set of nuts
- Slings for wandering
George Perkins
The Dungeon, NM
George Perkins   The Dungeon, NM
MM is an excellent climb. The crux 3rd pitch is really wild but has really good pro right at your waist on both hard parts. You could probably pull on your gear through these short 5.10c sections if necessary.

Pitch 4 is not as bad (5.9PG13?), if you traverse left at the start (Var. 1). Typical Sandia face climbing, not as tough as Warpy Moople's p5. The route finding on this pitch is a little confusing, and don't pass up the gear placements you find or you might find yourself a bit runout. (edit 2018: with the fixed pin gone, you can get a small cam about the same place to protect the traverse, but shorties might have trouble placing it. I was tempted to do the straight-up variation of p4, but it's currently filled with birds and bird shit. Pitch 3 is shit-free.)

With a 60m rope you can combine pitches 5&6. (P4 &5 would work, but p5&p6 is better)

The 5.10 finish variation for p6 shown in Sandia Rock is not really clear. To get to it: on p5, after you make the airy move right (30' from the belay), angle left as much as reasonable, over top of the p4 belay, moving left of a prow, and look for a stance to belay. Look to climb through a small roof with a crack splitting it on p6. Aug 7, 2007
Jason Halladay
Los Alamos, NM
Jason Halladay   Los Alamos, NM  
Stellar route for sure!

We pulled off a very large and loose flake right off the belay on P2. The flake was up and right about 6 feet from the bolted belay. It was dangerously loose. I don't think it changes the character of the route as it seems the way to leave the belay is up/leftish on nice finger cracks anyway.

For the hand crack section on P3 I kept bumping up the #3 camalot as I went. Some may want a second #3 rather than bumping up. But the crack is very secure so it's not super necessary.

There is no sling on the pin that protects the traverse out left to start P4. It's a reachy clip to get to it but not bad.

The pin to start P5 is still there (as Anthony mentions in the above description.) Although, good pro options exist around the pin anyway. Also, we linked P5 and P6 all the way to the top with a 60m rope and no serious rope drag (10' of rope to spare). We looked for the alt. 5.10 finish but couldn't find it. I ended up leading up a large corner system that is pretty much directly above the belay atop P4. Not sure if this is the original finish but it was fun and fine. Jun 9, 2008
Mick S
Mick S   Utah
The 5.10 finish is just left of the big dihedral you describe Jason. It is basically directly above the anchor at the end of pitch 4. The topo in the guide shows it further right than it actually is. Look for a thin finger crack to a small roof. The roof has somewhat hollow rock, but otherwise it's a nice way to finish the route. Jun 26, 2008
Bill Lawry
New Mexico
Bill Lawry   New Mexico
In the "DESCENT" section, how is going up that gully that ends west of the log structure? Somewhere, I thought I saw it referred to as "The Bowling Alley."

We did the described rap from the half dead tree. But for less than stellar reasons, we scrambled up to the middle of the saddle that is north of Torreon. We then made a NW'ly ~80 foot rap from a ~one foot diameter tree on the saddle. After the rap and with some drop in elevation, we returned to the approach gully via an exposed but easy traverse (class 2 max?). I'm guessing this way took at least an additional hour to return to the log structure compared to going up the described gully. Please tell me we avoided a death-scramble up the gully. ;-) Aug 4, 2008
LeeAB Brinckerhoff
LeeAB Brinckerhoff   ABQ, NM  
Sorry Bill,
Maybe I forgot to mention to Matt that after the rappel you are supposed to head somewhat right to get into the gulley. There is no bowling going on in the proper gulley unless maybe it is raining really hard or you have someone yelling epitaths at you and throwning stuff down the gulley at you all while questioning your manhood (competely different story). Though you may have avoided the boulder problem with the fixed rope?
I'm not sure of the saddle you ended up in but John K says that there is a good pitch or two of 5.9/5.10 that goes directly up to the log structure on the wall that sits above and slightly left of the top of the Torreon. Aug 5, 2008
Bill Lawry
New Mexico
Bill Lawry   New Mexico
Nah. No worries, Lee. The information we had with us at the time was plenty clear. We just did not make full use of it. Thanks for the info on the intended gully. Aug 5, 2008
David Baltz
Albuquerque, New Mexico
David Baltz   Albuquerque, New Mexico
Historical note: On the FA, Udall thought he was doing Mexican Breakfast Crack and he and VanWinckle started up the line around noon. Dirk followed the unprotected travers on P4 in the dark and the remainder of the climb was done by headlamp.

I much prefer to traverse left just above the crux overhang. Much cleaner and aesthetic. Dec 12, 2009
Charles Vernon
mind & body in Colorado, he…
Charles Vernon   mind & body in Colorado, he…
Regarding the descent from the top of Torreon--there appears to be another tree you can rappel from which results in far less elevation loss and thus far less annoying gully ascending. We saw the tree, w/slings, from near the top of the gully as we scrambled up. To get to it, you would follow the ridge formed by the top of Torreon up to around the 'summit,' where it cliffs out. The rap would put you at a level where you can traverse over into the gully just below the fixed rope. Next time (and there will definitely be a next time), I'll try that.

This route is incredible--comparable for sure to the Black Canyon's 5.10 classics. By the way, the approach beta on the Torreon page is fantastic! We felt like kids doing a scavenger hunt. We would have been hopelessly lost with Rock Climbing NM. Jun 3, 2010
Bill Lawry
New Mexico
Bill Lawry   New Mexico
Thanks so much to Mark T for retrieving my bail gear. Jun 25, 2010
Stu Ritchie
Stu Ritchie   Denver
An awesome route! We climbed the Ghost Dancer Arête in the Black Canyon 2 days before and found Mountain Momma to be superior in quality and position. I would recommend this route to all solid 5.10 climbers. It's a true gem!

Upon topping out, I walked to the true summit and found a well-slung boulder which allowed us to rap high into the notch and traverse into the gully about 50 ft. below the new fixed line. May 31, 2011
Mike Rowley
Boise, Idaho
Mike Rowley   Boise, Idaho
As of 4/21/12 There was dry ground in more exposed areas, but there was still lots of snow in the trees... about waist deep. Also, the Torreon approach directions led me on a wild goose chase. This could be because I am not familiar with the Sandias, or that I could not see the "trails" that were mentioned due to snow. Upon seeing a topo of the area in the NM Rock Climbs book, the approach directions took me in the complete wrong direction. It appears it would be much easier to approach Torreon via La Luz Trail... Oh... Also... Does anyone have a better Topo of the climb? The one here is super blurry when you print it out... Apr 22, 2012
Bill M
Fort Collins, CO
Bill M   Fort Collins, CO
If you climb the 2nd pitch and head straight up, instead of heading toward the top left, you can see a shiny new bolt above an older bolt, and then above a roof there is some fixed stoppers in a crack full of bird shit. The fixed gear is about 15-20 feet to the right of the 5.10 hand crack above the 1st crux on the correct 3rd pitch.

Having never done the route before, we saw the shiny new bolt and got suckered this way. Is this someones new project or just someones folly. The bolt looks really new and bomber, which we found perplexing. Apr 29, 2012
William Penner
The 505
William Penner   The 505

Sounds like you just got off-route on Bitches Brew. That has happened to lots of folks.

W Apr 30, 2012
Mark Dalen
Albuquerque, NM
Mark Dalen   Albuquerque, NM
In supplement to both Dave Baltz's & Kevin Jaramillo's historical notes, it should be mentioned that Mike Roybal & Peter Prandoni did extensive reconnaissance work on Mountain Momma (at least to the top of P3) prior to Udall & VanWinkel's FA. In fact there was a sense at the time that they had more or less poached the route from this team, although to my knowledge no hard feelings ever attached to the deed ... (possibly because it was just so fortuitous?). May 27, 2012
Christina Frain
Boulder, CO
Christina Frain   Boulder, CO
Protection for pitch 4 has changed. The first piton mentioned on variation 1 is no longer there. It popped out this weekend. May 13, 2013
Matthias Lang
Matthias Lang   Albuquerque
Finally got around doing this awesome route.

The beginning of pitch 4 is exciting but not too bad (used a cam right next to the belay to not fall directly on it). I brought some micro gear in the hopes of placing it where the pin used to be but could not find any suitable spot (I also didn't know where it used to be).

Pitch 6 (the 5.7) was worse than I expected (worse than Warpy Moople's last). Twice almost pulled off a trunk sized boulder. The descent was pretty scary too with its loose dirt slopes ending in cliffs.

All in all this is a great route but next time I'll rap after p4 and hike out the 3rd class gully. This is probably faster (for me anyways), definitely safer and you wouldn't miss any of the good climbing. Jun 9, 2013
If you do that, you can also do the first few pitches of either Voodoo Child or Wizard of Air to round out the day. Both routes can be rapped if you skip the upper pitches. Jun 9, 2013
LeeAB Brinckerhoff
LeeAB Brinckerhoff   ABQ, NM  
I have always climbed the large left facing dihedral and that is really not that bad, not really sure what is out to the right of that but the rock is reasonably good in the corner and there are ample opportunities for protection.
When in the corner the 5.10 variation is pretty obvious about 20' out to the left on the face going over a small roof. Though I did not like it as much as the corner. Jun 9, 2013
Matthias Lang
Matthias Lang   Albuquerque
Thanks for the comments!

Eric: Don't think I'm at that level yet. But then again one could do a single pitch of Voodoo Child reducing the commitment.
Which of the two pitches is the better protected one?

Lee: That sound like a good idea as the left looked less loose. Do you know if one can still link the last 2 pitches going left, or does that make the rope drag to bad. Jun 12, 2013
George Perkins
The Dungeon, NM
George Perkins   The Dungeon, NM
If you're thinking of rapping off from pitch 4 (or in case of bailing), bring 2 ropes, and it might be more straight-forward to go down Voodoo Child rather than Mountain Momma. Pitch lengths:
P1: 100’ (anchor currently 5/2018 has no chains or tat. Voodoo Child p1 anchor is about this level.
P2: 140’ (rapping Voodoo p2 would be slightly shorter but still likely needs 2 ropes). Shared anchor has chains.
P3: 110’
P4: I wasn’t paying attention, but I’d put it at about 100’, with the Voodoo p3 anchor slightly closer and more directly underneath the p4 anchor. (Edit 2018).
Haven’t climbed Voodoo in a few years, not sure on whether anchors are equipped for rapping. Jun 12, 2013
LeeAB Brinckerhoff
LeeAB Brinckerhoff   ABQ, NM  
I have always linked the last two pitches, though I may have always had a 70m rope.

As far as rapping from the 4th. I've done MM with John K in 3 pitches, I want to say that we took a 70m and had to do a little simu-climbing to link the first 2, just up onto the ledge before you move left to the main line, not sure which pitch this means that you would come up short on though, if it was the 1, i.e.: getting to the ground it probably would not be that big a deal. Jun 12, 2013
Mick S
Mick S   Utah
The length of the rappels for MM in the current guide are purposely exaggerated to prevent any rappel epics (or accidents). I have witnessed more than one. Maybe you could do it with a single 70 meter, but I doubt it. I would bring 2 ropes if a rappel was a consideration because of bad weather, but personally I would never rap to avoid the last pitch(s). The left-hand options are fine, actually pretty good. Much safer to just top out and avoid stuck ropes or pulling off loose rock.

If you are worried about the exit pitches on MM, you are not ready to lead Voodoo Child. But you could easily TR the second pitch from the nice ledge on MM. Jun 12, 2013
Unfortunately, we dropped our pack with shoes, jackets and a few other goodies from this route on Saturday June 28. We went back first thing Sunday to retrieve it and it was not there. There was a party below us who approached from the La Luz. I can only assume they took our stuff. I would appreciate getting it back. Jun 30, 2014
Did this route yesterday. Pitch 3 has a host of resident bats living throughout the crack system and, therefore, features lot of bat shit. Made the pitch rather unpleasant. Sep 11, 2015
Alec Orenstein
Gallup, NM
Alec Orenstein   Gallup, NM
WARNING: Beta ahead; don't read if you want to keep the sense of adventure high.

Just did this route for the first time yesterday--ten stars, absolutely fantastic climbing in a beautiful setting. Conditions right now (late March 2017) are pretty perfect. A bit of snow on the "aspen-covered ridge" but nothing horrible, and all the gully scrambling was fine.

Also, I dropped a green C4 on the 4th pitch. Should be at the base somewhere. I'd definitely take you out to dinner in ABQ if you picked it up for me!!! Or just keep it, because I shouldn't be dropping gear.

Now onto the beta:

The Torreon approach beta is absolutely fantastic. We took the "lower" (alternate) way to avoid the down-scramble down the limestone ridge. It was super easy to follow, with minimal bushwhacking. Note, that trail heads north at the THIRD switchback, not the second (which makes sense, because heading straight at the second would be heading south). We dropped our packs at the cabin ruins (just a jumble of old, cut logs). The scramble down the gully is a bit loose and involved--took us a while but not really horrible.

First pitch--I found the top of the first pitch a bit heads-up and a little run-out to the bolts. Be prepared. Two of the three belay bolts are sorta old, and the left one's a spinner. I'd donate $$$ to replace.

Second pitch--DO NOT go straight up when you exit the corner system. There is bail webbing/tat and old pins above you when you pull through the roof to exit the shallow corner you've been climbing for the last pitch-and-a-half. This is NOT the anchor, and the rock around there sucks. Instead, definitely head up and LEFT (past a protection bolt) to reach the nice ledge with two bolts (can't see 'em until you're right under 'em). It looks harder than it is--climbing up and left is quite easy.

Third pitch--amazing climbing, and definitely memorable. I thought the roof was harder than the bulge, but my partner disagreed. Both amazing, fun, airy moves! No bat shit in the crack when we did it. Go get it!!

Fourth pitch--the traverse left is not that bad, but I accidentally started it a bit high. The "roof" in the description is at the level of the belay, not above it, and so you almost step down to begin the traverse. Stay low and you will be rewarded. Rest of the pitch is great. I almost went too far right at the top because of the description above, but just keep an eye out for the bolted belay.

We broke up pitches 5 and 6, mostly so we could chill out on the amazing ledge below the last pitch. Would be easy to run them together, but only if you're pressed for time, because that ledge is awesome. I thought the rock on the last pitch (5.7 var) is fine--a bit decomposing but nothing horrible; just your typical alpine top-out. The 5.10 variation looked sweet.

Current descent beta: Go all the way to the top of the formation. There is a slung block under a small pine tree (hard to see the slings, and slings could be replaced soon--we didn't have spare cord, stupidly). Slither under the branches to a good stance to set up the rap. Rap down into the gully below you, and then when you can, sorta tension traverse across the gully to the other side, by a large tree. (This will be obvious on your way down--you're just trying to end the rap without going ALL the way down that gully.) Collect your rope, and then step up onto easy ledges and traverse east-ish (there is a small cairn) to the big gully leading back to the log cabin ruins. First move in the gully is a bit heads-up, but easy. The fixed line move is HARD after a long day!!!

This was our first real Sandias climb. 10c is a very real grade here. Don't underestimate it. But it's amazing, so go do it! Mar 20, 2017