Type: Trad, Alpine, 390 ft, 4 pitches, Grade II
FA: Josh Smith, Ryan Hess, May 2007 (or John Duran?)
Page Views: 1,059 total · 8/month
Shared By: Josh Smith on May 14, 2007
Admins: Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Drew Chojnowski

You & This Route

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


Start exactly the same as Aviary Ort. Head up and right over a flake system for about fifteen feet to the obvious crack system splitting the wall. The crack goes up behind a large pine tree.

The first pitch ends after 100ft at a nice ledge/stance. It's about 5.10a, though after it gets cleaned up a little, it might be easier. Protection is good.

The second pitch goes straight up for about 75 feet to where an offset (small roof) trends off to the right. Don't go straight up; the cracks die out. The crack under the right facing roof takes good pro. A pin was added Aug. 08 to point the way. Above is an obvious right facing dihedral. Belay at the base on a big ledge. Hand size cam useful. 100 ft. Protection is good. 5.10b.

Pitch 3. 5.10+. Goes straight up the dihedral. Both the climbing and the pro are tricky right off the ledge. Look for a V-groove about ten feet off the ledge, below the true start of the dihedral. The bottom of the groove takes an excellent nut. Start up the dihedral proper; there is a fixed nut, then a bolt (Aug. 08)to protect against a ledge fall below. The rest of the dihedral is pretty straight forward, though a bit harder than the first two pitches. 10+, maybe It's got quite a lot of lichen in the upper section of the dihedral. End in the vicinity of a large tree. Protection is adequate.

Pitch 4 goes to the ridge line very near to the Aviary Ort finish. It's possible to do about three different finishes ranging from 5.5 to 5.7. Like Ort, it's a bit loose on top. 90 feet. Protection is adequate.

This will be a good route, but there are a few loose blocks on the first pitch. I've been on it three times, and the area has been too busy to toss them off. If you do the route and can safely throw them down, please do.

We called it Fowl Play because it's near Aviary Ort. We did it with no bolts originally, but added one in August 08, plus two pieces of fixed gear, to make it a bit safer. As always in the Sandias, you might have to look around a bit to find the gear placements and suss the line.


Look up the approach to Aviary Ort. You stack your ropes on the same bit of ground.


Doubles to #2 Camalot. 1 #3. Set of nuts and long runners.


Seems like John Duran described that line to me.

I know he did one or two things out on that face. Jun 5, 2008
Isn't this called "There is a River" first done by Gary Hicks? Sep 12, 2008
Bill Lawry
New Mexico
Bill Lawry   New Mexico
IMHO, Hill's guide is fairly vague on There is a River. I believe Gary Hicks is still around - could ask. On the other hand, who's really to say any modern FA in the Sandia's that goes on 'clean' pro hasn't been done before. Some of those guys did not always keep track of climbs or quibble if someone else got their name in print instead. Sep 12, 2008
John Kear
Albuquerque, NM
John Kear   Albuquerque, NM
Did this route today. I seriously doubt this is Gary Hick's route, There is a River, knowing Gary and the way he rated his climbs there is no way he would have called this 5.9. It is sustained 5.10 for three pitches. If Gary had done the line back in the day we would all know about. It is very good albeit very grungy with lichen. If it gets cleaned up it would be three stars for sure. Gary seemed to get pretty excited about new routes especially if they were good climbing, he talked me into several adventures on his routes years ago, he would have pointed people to this one for sure if it were his.

Anyway, good sustained steep crack climbing with very healthy rock lettuce throughout. Needs some heavy-handed wire brushing. Personally think the best thing to do would be to establish a rappel route after doing 3 pitches. The top out pitch and subsequent ridge run/walk off are not worth the effort. Aug 23, 2011
This sounds like the route that John Duran did at the time that he added the bolted belays on Aviary Ort. I have never done it but am interested to check it out. Jun 9, 2012
Aaron Miller
Santa Fe, NM
  5.10 PG13
Aaron Miller   Santa Fe, NM
  5.10 PG13
Dont start in teh Aviary corner, start about 20 feet right and head straight for the seam splitting the wall. At the top of the 2nd pitch, head right(west) around the corner to find the 3rd pitch dihedral, not a plumb line so you have to travel a bit.

Also, I linked the first two pitches with a 60m and belayed just left of the right facing corner, at a fixed pin with two good small cams. Probably best to finish through the easy corner and head for the big ledge if you have a 70m. Will be a rope stretcher but makes it.

Also, very licheny in Summer 2014. I rarely climbed on rock. Aug 7, 2014
George Perkins
The Dungeon, NM
George Perkins   The Dungeon, NM
Re: "There Is a River" (Hicks/Thomas 1988)
It's rated 5.9 in Hill's book, with a vague description ("crack system on the face right of Aviary Ort, then up through vegetation to the top", not any more specific).
I emailed Gary Hicks and asked about "There Is A River", as my buddy Josh put up "Fowl Play" and I knew he'd be interested if it had been climbed previously.
We learned "There Is A River" climbs a crack just right of Aviary Ort. The 1st pitch goes up a fairly vertical licheny crack. It pretty much joins Aviary Ort where the mantle is after the traverse at the top of the crack on P2 of Aviary Ort. (Here, Hicks and Thomas endured a gnarly rain and lightning storm and rapped off. It was quite a story, but it's Gary's story to tell...) The climb was named after Thomas Sugrue's book of the same name... his story about Edgar Cayce. It's pretty much the same as Jess Sterne's book, The Sleeping Prophet.

Josh thinks this probably means that p1 and part of p2 of these climbs are the same, then "There Is a River" goes left while "Fowl Play" goes right. The upper dihedral on Fowl Play was dangerous 5.10 before the bolt was added and is to the right of Aviary Ort's crux. Jul 20, 2015