Adventure Projects is hiring an Android engineer to join us in Boulder, CO
Mountain Project Logo

Routes in Sugarloaf

Banana Peel T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Brexit T 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
Crescendo T 5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a
Flea Tree T 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Left Eyebrow T 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b R
Left Eyebrow to North Face T 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b R
Many Times (a.k.a. Backside Cracks or Crackle Top) T 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
North Face T 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b R
Old North Face T 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b R
Science Friction (to Left Eyebrow) T 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
Order Wrong? Sort Routes
Type: Trad, 1800 ft, 9 pitches, Grade III
FA: summer 1960 (?) P. Wohlt, J. France.
Page Views: 19,252 total · 131/month
Shared By: Aaron Hobson on Jun 19, 2006
Admins: Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Drew Chojnowski

You & This Route

52 Opinions

Your To-Do List:

Add To-Do · View List

Your Star Rating:

     Clear Rating

Your Difficulty Rating:

-none- Change

Your Ticks:

Add New Tick
Access Issue: Placement of bolts/fixed anchors is prohibited in Wilderness Study Areas Details


The impressive and long North face of Sugarloaf attracts climbers like no other formation in the Organs. This route makes the most of the long continuous North face, climbing anywhere from 9 do 11 pitches to reach the summit. Trying to describe each pitch in details not really in the spirit of the climb, as there are as many variations as pitches. At the same time getting off-route on these hard-to-protect slabs can spell some bad situations. After much soul searching, I decided to include a detailed description, but if you are into adventure climbing, there is an ocean of granite for you to explore.

P1: Start from the base of the north slab apron, the base of the shallow sickle-shaped left-facing corner seen in one of the photos is my favorite spot. If you start lower, you may be forced to simul-climb since your rope won't reach. An really easy pitch takes you past one tree and up to the highest pine tree on this slab, a vigorous pine tree somewhat to the left of the other trees below.

P2: Follow the edge of a flake to the small, protectable roof and step over it on the right. Head up chicken heads. Slightly to the right you reach couple of cracks with some museum style fixed gear in one of them. Above you'll find a vegetated ramp leading left to a pair of bolts. Belay here if you have a 60m rope. With a 70m you can keep going up more chicken heads with some opportunity for pro to another pair of bolts just below a bulge.

P3: Follows a left trending seam with sporadic placements to a shallow bush-filled groove with another anchor above its top.

P4: Follows an obvious groove angling right. Walk along it as it turns into a ledge. Look for two solid pitons where it turns back up. You may place one more nut before the run-out. Past the sea of chicken heads, you will see a left-facing corner high on the right. Just past the top of that corner is your anchor. Locate the less steep traverse about half way up to it and plot your way through the field of chicken heads. Once in the corner, keep in mind that rock is slicker where water runs over it.

P5: Head directly toward the bottom of the left facing corner on the right over more run-out chicken heads. A solitary old spinner on top of the lip few feet up the corner is your only protection. Take to the featured terrain on the right for steep twenty feet before angling right to reach a crack. From here it's easy and protectable all the way to the small, left-leaning spruce tree.

P6: More run-out chicken heads straight up, but the going is super easy. (Alternatively you can go to the right and up a bottom of a right-facing corner making this into a protectable pitch with quite a bit of rope drag.) Clip the Bivy Ledge bolts and continue up a five-foot-wide dike (more like a band of different colored rock which runs up the slabs). Follow this rock band, or go up the broken terrain left of it. Above a small ledge angle build a gear anchor in a left facing corner. (The reason for not using the Bivy Ledge bolts is to reduce rope drag for Pitch 7.)

P7: Continue up along the dike. The holds will get smaller and the angle steeper. (It will stay this steep for the remaining pitches.) Fortunately there are at least some placements. The old piton with a ring on it (which should be replaced with a bolt) is best tied below the ring. The pitch is short and ends where the dike starts petering out. The bolts are easy to find.

P8: The blocky, protectable terrain soon gives way to a field of chicken heads, many of them on a scary-thin flake which covers all of the rock for a time. Keep aiming for a left-sloping break in the roof above. The bolts at the top of the pitch may be difficult to see as there is a bit of a bulge below them. The area immediately around the bolts is fairly smooth, so keep rope drag to a minimum.

P9: Take the right facing corner above the bolts, then climb over it to the left. Look for a head-size, mushroom-shaped chicken head, sling it and climb it. A featured but steep terrain will take you left to a large right-facing structure - a corner with a “nose” sticking out of it. Protect at the base of this and go up alongside. Follow cracks to the summit. A right-facing corner provides one belay option (no more bolts here).


The approach trail is in pretty good shape. The last 300m are hard to follow as the trail becomes a "climbers-trail," but when you get that close you can simply head to the lowest point on the north slabs of Sugarloaf.

The descent requires an exposed traverse down the south spur of the summit. It's 4th class but quite exposed and you won't see the 2-bolt anchor until you are almost at the end of the spur. (There is a pair of bolts early on, but those are top of a climbing route. There is also a pair off to the right later on, also to be avoided. Go for the pair at the end and to the left.)

A double-rope rappel reaches the ground, but an intermediate 2-bolt rap station will allow you to use a single rope. From the saddle, scramble down to the west where another short rappel from a 2-bolt anchor gets you to the ground. Follow the base of the cliff all the way back to start of the climb and regain the climber's trail for the return.

Alternatively you can leave your packs just after the sign where the Sugarloaf Trail splits from the main Indian Hollow Trail. When coming down, stay on the large slab below the last rappel and continue into the gully this slab drains into. This is Sugarloaf Falls, a nice canyon with mostly bulging slabs and some boulders for a bottom that intersects Indian Hollow Trail just after the rocks end. Take the trail down to the packs. You will want your hiking shoes for this alternative, but the friendlier terrain makes it worth it.


A small alpine rack consisting of wires and a few cams (.5-2") is all that is really needed. A few more pieces won't hurt, but on many of the pitches you won't be placing much pro anyway. Expect 40 to 60-foot run-outs, or more if you get off-route. Long runners and smart rope management are a must.
ben bryan
Wichita Falls, TX
ben bryan   Wichita Falls, TX
Awesome route... the hike in took several hours. Jan 4, 2007
Did this route with a guy from VA Tech named Chris who I had never climbed with before or since we did this route we had a major epic getting up and down this rte on a spring break.

I remember hearing stuff exploding over at White Sands and looking at the beautiful sands off to the east.

Cool climb... May 22, 2007
James Stockton
Las Cruces, NM
James Stockton   Las Cruces, NM
Starting from the large parking lot at Aguirre Springs Rec. area the hike in is ~2 miles with general uphill grade. I did it as a trail run a couple of months ago in ~45min out and ~25 min back (with breaks), but lugging gear in puts a reasonable time at about an hour and a half (going in) assuming you know the way.

I don't really know this for certain, but I assume the longer approach times come from cutting off the trail too low. You have to eventually turn left off the trail and cut up/over to the base of the climb, but the closer you are to the same level the easier and faster it is. There's a big cairn at a good turn off point. The last time I saw it there was a large yucca stalk sticking out of the center as well.

For the decent you can follow the rock back around to the base of climb if you left anything there (don't) or just stay in the drainage until you hit a trail (you will). It's the same trail you came in on, just further along from the cut off you should have taken.

Four hours is probably a decent estimate for total time spent going in and out.

It's definitely an awesome climb and well worth the full day it takes. Also, Lowell, great route photo. It's a good addition. Dec 6, 2007
Josh Hamling
  5.6 R
Josh Hamling  
  5.6 R
I climbed it yesterday and stayed right and out of the gully all the way up. My version of pitch three was tricky and harder than 5.6 with a couple of manky old 1/4" bolts and some serious runout but the rock was great. This was the 4th time I've been up the route and staying right made it the best yet. Mar 1, 2009
Dan Carter
Las Cruces, NM
  5.7+ R
Dan Carter   Las Cruces, NM
  5.7+ R
I did the sugarloaf for the first time over the weekend. Great, exciting route. I definitely hit some spots that were harder than 5.6. I think a leader who was at their limit at 5.6 would be quite shocked while on this route. The way we did pitch 5 presented 5.9 esque slab moves. We followed aaron hobsons beta more or less. We went just to the right of the overhang, into a thin crack for a tcu and on into the dihedral crack. A few other spots felt a little dicey too. However, we managed to keep our runouts to only 30-40 feet and finished up in 9 pitches. It is quite a committing route.

There were new anchors at picth 9 (big bivi) and pitch 10. Most of the other anchors had atleast one retro bolt. We stayed straight, instead of vearing to the left, at the top and climbed through good chickenheads, lichen and a dirty crack to the small boulder field at the top. This worked out really well but didn't appear to be a popular way hence the dirtiness.

Some bigger cams, up to BD#3, were nice to set up anchors and place along the way. TCUs and micro nuts were very useful. Oct 18, 2010
Craig Childre
Lubbock, Texas
  5.6 R
Craig Childre   Lubbock, Texas
  5.6 R
What a great route. I recommend scouting the approach and stashing gear the day before. I swapped leads with my partner Toph all the way up this fantastic line, dragging Josh as our 3rd. I was even, and somehow got all the head-game pitches. The run out on the 2nd was cool. We stretched the ropes so I was handed the lead of the 5th (our 4th), where I dropped the topo booklet. We made it to the big bivy spot and then worked right seeking the steeper line. Our 10th pitch, I viewed as the crux, steepest line with decent gear, felt like a solid 5.7. I am pretty sure we got off line past the bivy. The descent, the new double rope rap route seems great so long as you do it right. Single rope rap down the front to a descent stance above big split ledge. (Don't rap past it, no anchor below) Then a double rope rap will land you at the bottom of the slab rap. We were on 70's, but I think 60's should work..50's???? I don't think so.

We also had a pretty heavy rack. Next time we will take the set of small aliens, the C-3's, C4's: .5 .75 , yellow and red link cams. Nov 11, 2010
I was going to post a pitch by pitch description of how we climbed this route, but now I understand why doing so wouldn't be in the "spirit" of the climb. The real adventure comes from it being such a long route, and often times haven't little confidence that you are on route. It really forces you to be at the top of your route-finding game.

I will say this though. It seems like there were rappable anchors every 200-300 feet for almost the entire route. Most of the time they were even big, shiny, new rap bolts. Finding these every pitch or every other pitch is the best indicator that you're on route.

The pitons/fixed-pins on the route were interesting. I found one on our second pitch, two on our fourth pitch, and one on our 7th pitch. The first three looked "new"... they still had paint on them and no rust whatsoever. The last one (hammered into the 5ft wide band of different colored rock) looked as rusty, old, and barely able to hold a fall (like I'm used to). What's the story on these newer pins? Jan 21, 2011
I know that iron is now considered passe; however, there are knife-blade placements that are excellent. They sure worked great 46 years ago. Nov 28, 2011
Jeff Laina
Southern, New Mexico
Jeff Laina   Southern, New Mexico
John Hymer from Alamogordo Soloed this Route in 2 hours and 45 minutes, car to car. Jul 17, 2012
For reals??? If so, that's impressive! Aug 8, 2012
Jeff Laina
Southern, New Mexico
Jeff Laina   Southern, New Mexico
I read this in "Rock Climbing New Mexico" Guidebook Author Dennis R. Jackson published 2006. Aug 9, 2012
Did this route over the weekend. Ended up simul climbing all but 2 pitches in 2h20m. Great route and super fun. The runouts weren't very scary although there were some 50' sections. The approach in wasn't too bad, but on the decent we followed the wash and had a hard time picking the trail back up. Sep 24, 2012
The Gunks
chris_vultaggio   The Gunks
Stefan Griebel, from Boulder, soloed the N Face in 1 hr-45 min car to car on Tuesday, October 27 on his way to the airport. I believe it was his 3rd ascent of the route having soloed it the previous Friday evening and again on Sunday while doing about 2/3 of the Organ Traverse. He also worked in an impressive day of sport climbing that Saturday. Dec 12, 2015
Stefan Griebel
Boulder, Colorado
  5.6 R
Stefan Griebel   Boulder, Colorado
  5.6 R
Here's a GPX of the approach, climb and descent. No more mystery on when to leave the descent gully down low!… Apr 14, 2016
Fairbanks, AK
  5.8 R
RW1   Fairbanks, AK
  5.8 R
How is this route rated 5.6??? The Organ mountain moderators will eventually get someone killed on this route with their very sandbagged ratings, since a lot of people like to free-solo this. Pitch 7-I'd love an explanation how it's a 5.6, when its more like 5.8+.

The first six pitches were great, definitely a little easier than 5.6, but from 7 on, someone's going to be hurt.

Luckily, I can lead 10a trad; this was a nasty surprise I was not expecting. MP admins-fix it before someone is hurt simply because you don't want to change Ingram's original ratings. Jun 4, 2016
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
Sixteen people have submitted ratings, RW, but not you. The hardest rating suggested so far is 5.7+, and the median is 5.6 R. Jun 5, 2016
George Perkins
The Dungeon, NM
  5.7 R
George Perkins   The Dungeon, NM
  5.7 R
[At risk of coming across as a dick, but..] Perhaps you were off route? It's also listed at 5.6 in the guidebook and the SW mountaineers topo. The West Ridge of the Wedge (listed at 5.7 in the books) and the Left Eyebrow (listed at 5.6 in some sources, 5.7 in others) both felt harder to me. Admittedly, I've found most of the ~10 climbs I've done in the Organs to be hard at their respective grades, but I'm not local.

[In an effort to be helpful...] This climb is a magnet for epics, and warrants more respect than most people will give to a 5.6. I'll posit that it is overall a bigger deal than classic 5.8s at nearby areas such as Second Coming in the Sandias and Wasteland at Cochise Stronghold, though I wouldn't call out any individual cruxes as necessarily being "harder". It's significantly harder and more involved than the Thumb Ridge (5.5/5.6) in the Sandias. Leaders should be solid at 5.8, as falling would be bad, and it's hard to be certain you're always on route. Additionally, both climbers should be fairly efficient at multi-pitch, and okay with exposed scrambling and rappelling for the descent. I've heard of at least 3 parties having unplanned bivis and a few more who hiked out in the dark; the commitment grade IV rating published in the older books is probably still relevant for 5.8/5.9 leaders. Unless you're pretty certain you're going to run up this thing, start as early as you can (may need to camp at Aguirre Springs due to gate locked at night, or plan accordingly to walk the road). Allow extra time as many get confused on the approach the first time too.

It's totally worth it, one of the best long climbs 5.7/below in the country. Jun 5, 2016
Jason Halladay
Los Alamos, NM
Jason Halladay   Los Alamos, NM  
RW1 wrote:How is this route rated 5.6??? The Organ mountain moderators will eventually get someone killed on this route with their very sandbagged ratings, since a lot of people like to free-solo this. Pitch 7-I'd love an explanation how it's a 5.6, when its more like 5.8+. I know the old route was 5.6, and whoever bolted the new portion didn't want to annotate the new change because they were disobeying BLM rules, but come on... The first six pitches were great, definitely a little easier than 5.6, but from 7 on, someone's going to be hurt. Luckily, I can lead 10a trad; this was a nasty surprise I was not expecting. MP admins-fix it before someone is hurt simply because you don't want to change Ingram's original ratings.
To be clear, it's not up to the administrators of MountainProject to change ratings from their original rating even if one person, or a handful of people, don't agree with it. Mountain Project is uniquely helpful in that it allows climbers to "vote" on a route's rating by suggesting the rating they feel the route goes at. In this case, 17 people have voted on the rating with 10 of those climbers giving it a 5.6R rating. Seven others gave it a 5.7 or 5.7+. You can help other climbers by adding your "vote" to the rating. Additionally, your comment, while a bit misdirected, will also help serve other climbers curious about the rating of this route.

I feel any sane climber, not familiar with this route, would read the description, comments and suggested ratings before taking up the sharp end on the route. By reading the comments posted here by other climbers, it's clear to me a few other climbers feel this is harder than 5.6 and the protection is not plentiful. Also, those not well-versed in slab climbing are likely to find it more difficult than 5.6 while those who love slab climbing are likely to agree with the 5.6 rating. Jun 6, 2016
Tim Stich
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Tim Stich   Colorado Springs, Colorado
The rating of routes on is averaged, so instead of only saying what you think a route should be rated in the comments, rate it where it's YDS number is. Click on the link that says [details]. Jan 8, 2017
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
RW *did* in fact go back and suggest a rating of 5.8R, as you see under his name in the comments here, or by clicking through on the details. The median remains 5.6R at this time, but it's actually pretty close between 5.6R and 5.7R. Jan 9, 2017
climber pat
Las Cruces, NM
climber pat   Las Cruces, NM
RW1, It is likely that if your rating of a climb is off by 2 number grades, then you are off route. Feb 5, 2017
Marta Reece
Las Cruces, NM
5.7 R
Marta Reece   Las Cruces, NM  
5.7 R
RW was not off route (he was climbing with me, generally following on the runouts). He led Pitch 7, which he rated higher than others have done. After this he forced me off route to find some easier terrain, which I did. Feb 10, 2017
Bill Lawry
New Mexico
Bill Lawry   New Mexico
RW1, You are not the first and won't be the last who can lead 5.10a trad to have gotten schooled on some old-time adventure climbing. I've been there. Welcome to the club. Bill

P.S. It isn't 5.8. And I suspect you'll agree with that after you've climbing the route more than a couple times ... there is a lot of rock up there to figure out! Feb 20, 2017
Drew Chojnowski
Las Cruces, NM
  5.7 R
Drew Chojnowski   Las Cruces, NM  
  5.7 R
The hugely outdated bolt on P5 now has a new one next to it, and the anchor below that now has two good bolts in addition to the old, small, rusty one. Big thanks to whoever did this, since the route is now a bit safer, but keep in mind that bolting in the Organs is not allowed currently. May 8, 2018

More About North Face