Type: Trad, 1800 ft (545 m), 9 pitches, Grade III
FA: summer 1960 (?) P. Wohlt, J. France.
Page Views: 26,589 total · 126/month
Shared By: Aaron Hobson on Jun 19, 2006 · Updates
Admins: Jason Halladay, Mike Hoskins, Anna Brown

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Access Issue: Power drilling is prohibited in the Organ Mountains Wilderness. 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 to 11 pitches to reach the summit. Trying to describe each pitch in details is 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. A 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'll 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 bolt 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 (far right and up of the grassy section) 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 just below a big arch. (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. Fortunately there are at least some placements. The old piton with a ring on it (which needs to 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 way above. The bolts at the top of the pitch may be difficult to see as there is a flake just below them. The area immediately around the bolts is fairly smooth and there's a broken fin of rock just below it. (This is a long pitch and you'll feel like you may have passed the anchors, but you most likely have not)

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 (very obvious), 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 (or just shy of it). A right-facing corner provides one belay option (no more bolts here). (70m puts you basically at the summit, a 60m is a bit shy)


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.