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Routes in Gemstone East

Emerald City T 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a
Opal T 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b PG13
Revenge of the Elderly T 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Sapphire T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Surf Naked T 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Type: Trad, Alpine, 275 ft, 4 pitches
FA: Brian Holcomb, Dave Riley, 5/1987
Page Views: 4,302 total · 36/month
Shared By: Chris Wenker on Apr 7, 2008
Admins: Aaron Hobson, Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Drew Chojnowski

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This is a longer, somewhat wandering, route on the Gemstone East crag. It generally has a northern aspect, but it does get sunlight; it could be icy in the deep east-facing features if one were to try a winter ascent.

This route is described and pictured in Jackson's (2006) New Mexico guide as well as in Schein's (2003) Sandia guide book; it is also described and illustrated in the 3rd edition of Hill's "Hikers and Climbers Guide," although it is not in the 2nd edition (don't know about the 1st ed.). The route appears to have recently been 'pruned' with a garden trimmer.

Pitch 1. Friction up the slab past three bolts, with delicate moves past the top bolt to a ledge with a tree at the far left end. Probably good to set a piece above the bolt line before you traverse to the tree, to protect the second. Belay at the tree, which sports a bunch of tat slings; a crack in the slab next to the tree can serve for an anchor backup.

Pitch 2. A short pitch up and right over easier, blocky ground toward the massive left-facing dihedral. Follow the left-leaning dihedral up a short distance to a 'cave' in the wall of the dihedral. Hint: I hit the dihedral too high, and missed the cave at first because I wasn't looking down to the right. Crawl through the short tunnel at the back of the 'cave' to a solid belay stance where you can stand up, emerging from the rock like a prairie dog. Belay either from a gear anchor at the entrance to the cave, or leave a directional piece at the entrance and belay from the tattered slings at the back of the tunnel. These slings are the established second rap point for this route's descent.

Pitch 3. Out of the crawl-through, and then slightly right up a broken lower-angle face to the base of a crux chimney that narrows at the top. Interesting stemming to the top of the chimney leads to another short face that culminates in a prominent arched roof with a clean arc-shaped crack marking its base. To belay, I built a gear anchor in this crack at the left side of the alcove. At one time there was a sling over a horn in a little recess about 15 feet to the left of this point, suggesting a possible rap anchor.

Pitch 4. Exit from around the left side of the alcove, climbing for a short distance to the left, then reach a broken slab that heads up to the right. A left-leaning shallow, broad chimney with twin cracks then leads to the final friction face. Traverse this slightly runout, delicate slab, up and then right, ending at the three-bolt, two-chain anchor (the third bolt at this station is just a spinner buttonhead).


Start at the toe of a broad slab, about 50 feet below and climber's left of Opal and Emerald City (easily accessed by downclimbing a class 2-ish gulley below Surf Naked, or by a climbers' trail that contours in from the base of the Gemstone West crag).

Descent: Several options are available, depending on which guide book you consult, but all involve rappelling. For many of the Gemstone East routes that are listed on, rapping RotE is presented as the preferred option. Conversely, Schein (2003) recommends rappelling Emerald City. We rapped RotE, so I cannot comment on the Emerald City option.

To rap RotE: the top rap anchor features two bolts with chains. Using two ropes, a ~150 foot rap takes you to the slung block at the cave/tunnel at the top of the climb's second pitch. This second rap anchor featured 5 weathered slings, two aluminum rings, and a cheap quick-link as of April, 2008; it looked ok but slings may need updating periodically, so plan accordingly. From the cave/tunnel anchor, a ~105 foot drop will apparently set you down at the base of Surf Naked, but to get to the base of RotE, where your packs are presumedly cached, it'll probably be more like a 135 foot rappel. Hint: The orientation of the rings and quicklink on the slings at the cave/tunnel anchor made it appear that one should drop off the notch to the east and then down the face. Should you do that, you'll probably have to prussik back up and free the pinched ropes from the slot in the edge (I know, a rookie mistake). It's better to drop directly down the face from this anchor, and then find a way to descend the left-facing dihedral farther down; your pull from the bottom will probably be cleaner that way.

Notes: The sling that used to be over the horn left of the third anchor may indicate an available rap station, in a pinch. That, in conjunction with the slings on the tree at the first belay station, suggests that rapping the entire route in four drops with a single rope may also be possible.


Standard rack of singles in cams and nuts. I used a #4 camalot, but that is not essential; smaller cams are more useful (e.g., Metolius #1-3 sized). Three bolts are featured on the first pitch.


Lee H
  5.8+ PG13
Lee H   Albuqueruqe,NM
  5.8+ PG13
I did this in 2010, and chickened out on my lead of the 4th pitch and just did the 4th class version. Loucks' guide gives this version (the 4th class walk up and downclimbing to the anchor) of RoTE a 5.7. I led the slab finish (finally) on 8/15/2015, and managed to get it. The Loucks' guide calls the slab a 5.8+ variation. The slab seems about as hard as "Out of the Darkness", but the best (reliable) piece of pro is a nut far left of the slab which will smack you into the wall just before hitting the ledge. So don't fall.

Also, there's a nice new shiny bolt next to a rusty buttonhead on P1. Don't get too excited, because the next bolt is a not so rusty buttonhead, followed by a bomber rusty 1/4". Don't worry though, the next rusty button head is backed up with another buttonhead...awesome ( publications.americanalpine… ). I didn't feel like trusting it and downclimbed and traversed over to the "Walk Don't Run" (5.4)and made it to the tree feeling much better than if I was trusting crappy buttonheads. Aug 16, 2015
Mike M
Sandia Park, NM
Mike M   Sandia Park, NM
My 2nd time on ROTE - 4/18/2010 spring run off and slimy conditions added some new challenges. There are many large ledges on the upper parts of this route so pick your protection carefully and think twice before extending your slings (but also figure rope drag into your decisions.)

I missed the 3rd belay at the "arch" and ended up linking the last two pitches - I do not recommend this approach. The runout and lots of drag made final moves to the anchor quite difficult and scary (to me). I managed to get a purple Metolius TCU in the seam about 6-10' below the anchor. Not perfect, wouldn't have held a clean fall, but probably would've held the cheese grater slide one would expect falling here.

Last summer there was blue cord anchored around a large boulder above P2 - FYI this anchor is gone as far as I can tell. We descended with one 60m in four raps: (1) We followed gravity to a nice flat'ish spot above and east of the tunnel. We left two slings and a fat quick link here. Would've preferred longer slings for the horn we slung. (2) To the tunnel. (3) To the tree. (4) To the ground. Apr 20, 2010
Bill Lawry
New Mexico
Bill Lawry   New Mexico
Sam, Thanks for putting in the rope/web anchor at the tunnel. Very very convenient when climbing up and rapping down.

For the face moves to the top bolted anchor, there is an iffy small-nut placement in the seam to protect the moves. However, a No. 3 Trango BallNutz fits better. The placement is a little unorthodox: not in a parallel-sided crack; and the 'ball' faces out against a nodual. Still, it appears that it might actually hold a lead fall. May 10, 2009
"This second rap anchor featured 5 weathered slings, two aluminum rings, and a cheap quick-link as of April, 2008; it looked ok but slings may need updating periodically, so plan accordingly."

On April 2, 2009 we replaced the slings (except for one red) with a good section of 10.2 rope in a webbing sheath. Apr 6, 2009
P1 and P2 can be combined as noted by George. The cave (and tight rope drag) can be avoided by exiting the dihedral about 10 feet before the cave (there is a little alcove here) to the RIGHT to gain the belay ledge. This requires a 60 M rope. Apr 21, 2008
Bill Lawry
New Mexico
Bill Lawry   New Mexico
Marked a copy of the beta photo with a variation to the upper half of Revenge. Found something like this in Mike Hill's guide. For some reason, I find it enjoyable enough to tolerate the rope drag. Apr 7, 2008
Albuquerque, NM
Robin   Albuquerque, NM
We did this last summer. You end up crawling out of the Belay and heading up for what is described as the final two pitches. I linked these two pitches and had no rope drag problems, but I was using double ropes so you wouldn't expect much.

Edited to add: We did this whole route in two pitches by skipping the tree all together and going directly from the bolts to the dihedral. I didn't lead this pitch but I didn't hear too much about rope drag so it must have been ok. (again double ropes...)

Fun, although the last few moves to the anchor took me about 20 minutes.

(In all honesty I followed the thin seam up until I could reach out and clip the anchor with a quickdraw, and then stepped over) After watching my follower cruise the slab section, I'd suggest going that way unless you lack the courage (like me). Apr 7, 2008
George Perkins
The Dungeon, NM
George Perkins   The Dungeon, NM
You can combine pitches 1 + 2 with a 60m rope. No real good reason to do this though, as the tree anchor is good and the ledge is spacious.
You can combine pitches 3 + 4 with a 60m rope (maybe 50m?). This might cause some rope drag (on the delicate slab crux at the end), but means less time constructing anchors at a cramped intermediate belay.

Pitch 1 is probably more likely to be wet than any other portion of any climb in the Gemstone area . If there is any snow remaining on north-facing slopes, it is probably wet..

The descent down Emerald City requires 2 ropes, and works ok. You go with 2 ropes to a 2-bolt anchor at the top of p1 for Emerald City; angle to the west. Two ropes from there to the ground. Can't say if it's better than rapping RotE; I've only gone down Emerald City (3 times?), and it's worked.

"Revenge..." is a good early season warmup and is one of the best routes at its grade in the Sandias, although my personal preference is for the climbs up high that aren't so low-angle. Apr 7, 2008