Type: Trad, Alpine, 500 ft, 4 pitches, Grade III
FA: Gary Hicks, Florian Walchak - 6/13/76
Page Views: 951 total · 7/month
Shared By: Bill Lawry on Sep 24, 2007
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


This is the first of three Gary Hicks' routes I've done based strictly on Hill's guide - the others being Hail Peak's West Face Direct and Ego Boost's Diagonal. In all cases the detailed descriptions were quite accurate.

Poker has four 5th class pitches as described in Mike Hill's guide. Quality of rock is good to excellent. Again, the route description in Mike Hill's guide is good although the 1st pitch warrants further explanation.

Pitch 1 - Knowing the described 1st pitch was long, we scrambled up a bit before setting a belay and roping up. Later, protecting the traverse using a single rope led to tremendous rope drag near the top. Second time on the route we used doubles and belayed midway through P1: much better. We set the mid-P1 belay after returning rightward to above the slot where there is pro at the top of an easy ramp plus more about six feet up and around the corner. For P1, Sarah Councell reports starting "... climbers L of the pictured start, climbed a right-leaning ramp to a smooth steep face to a ledge- very nice."

Pitch 2 thru 4 - In my opinion, pitch 2 is the highest quality pitch and goes at 5.8. Pitch 3 will also get the attention of the 5.8 / 5.9 leader for a few moves; Sarah Councell indicates this pitch 3 is the "crux of the climb- passing the overhang is a 9+ move." It is tempting to run out Pitch 3 when the difficulty eases but suitable anchors become non-existant. Pitch 4 is easy 5th class followed by 150 feet of what for me was unusually enjoyable 3rd class climbing involving ~30 yards traverse to the climber's right; or choose a more direct line up some fifth class rock.


See the Hail Peak page for approach details and possible summit descents.

The route is located on the west face of Hail Peak. See the below photo. We took the Echo Canyon to West Face approach on the Hail Peak page, hanging bigger packs before exiting the forest at the bottom of Echo Canyon. From Mike Hill's guide, the suggested descent is from the summit by down climbing the North Ramp Route.
Poker on Hail Peak: possible var to P1 (have not done it) to avoid awkward traverse higher up.


Double ropes may help for the first pitch or break the pitch into two. Or see the below photo showing possible var to P1 - not done yet. Bring a standard rack plus three large cams: two 4 inch and one 5 inch. Both sizes are useful on P1 and P2. On P2, save a 4 inch cam for the upper half of the open book.
Poker on Hail Peak: possible var to P1 (have not done it) to avoid awkward traverse higher up.


Sarah Councell
Albuquerque, NM
Sarah Councell   Albuquerque, NM
This was a really enjoyable route- classic Sandias with a bushwhacky approach, some loose rock (but mostly very good) and spectacular views.
Some insight from our party's climb:
As for the approach, when coming down from the Echo Canyon trail you will hit a gully/ drainage just north of Hail. In following the approach beta, stay low as you traverse south and you will see a drainage in the canyon bottom - that is where you will find the mentioned boulders- some cairns then a trail take you up to the peak.
As for the NE Ramp descent, we easily found the described rap tree off the summit ridge, did a 90' rap down to trees skiers left/ center and scrambled down from there... until unpassable then went far skiers right until unpassaable... then a short rap from center although you may be able to scramble from skiers left. Only 1 rope needed for climb.
Pitch 1: We started climbers L of the pictured start, climbed a right-leaning ramp to a smooth steep face to a ledge- very nice.
Pitch 3: Crux of the climb- passing the overhang is a 9+ move.
Bring lots of water! 3 L May 28, 2012
Bill Lawry
New Mexico
Bill Lawry   New Mexico
Thanks for including your notes about the climb, Sarah. I've incorporated them on this page and on the Hail Peak page.

I agree that the moves to exit the business of P3 are stout. And I now think you are right about the rating of that one. At the time I first wrote the description, I had little experience leading outdoor 5.9 traditional routes and figured I was just clumsy about it. May 29, 2012