Type: Trad, Alpine, 600 ft, 5 pitches, Grade III
FA: Reed Cundiff and David Hammack, 10/1/60
Page Views: 917 total · 8/month
Shared By: Chris Wenker on Jul 20, 2009
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


A loose route that links chimneys and shallow gully systems up the southeast face. Interesting for its historical precedent maybe more than the quality of the rock or the actual climbing. This was apparently the first route up Yataghan (Kline 1970:26, 42). Pitches described here are mostly split out according to Hill's guide (1993:140-14), which actually has a good narrative description, although his photo topo isn't too helpful.

P1: ~5.6, 75 feet. Poor rock. Climb a deep chimney to a nice ledge on the left.
P2: ~5.7-, 125 feet. Poor rock. Continue up the chimney, trend right past the top to a belay on a sloping broken ledge. One fixed pin.
P3: ~5.7+, 140 feet. Poor to fair rock. Proceed up the shallow gully above, past a big hollow flake on the right. At the top of the gully, traverse left and climb to a ledge with a prominent fir tree. Rope drag can be a killer.
P4: ~5.7-, 110 feet. Poor to fair rock. Hill's guide outlines a right and left option; we took the one to the right. Head slightly right from the ledge, up a blocky shallow dihedral; traverse left at the top, pass a bolt (see photo), and belay at the right side of the Lunch Ledge. The left option also looks fun.
P5: ~5.7+/5.8-, 170 feet. Excellent rock; great exposure. Kline describes this as three pitches, and Hill says two (which it probably was, back when they used shorter ropes). Easily done in one with a 60m line. Up slightly right, then left toward the little tree, and fire for the top. Two fixed pins. Many people probably better know this last section as the final pitch of The Happy Gnome, but Cundiff and Hammack got it first.


As on the normal Yataghan approach, proceed to the gully between the Frog and the Yataghan, where the huge chockstone forms a nice bear cave underneath (this is the chockstone that must be rapelled during the descent). You must ascend the gully above this chockstone to get to the base of the climb, and getting up there might require a short technical pitch around the chockstone (schedule accordingly). Once above the chockstone, walk about 100 feet up the gully to the base of the first pitch, up the prominent red chimney on the left.

Descend the standard walk-off and final rap, as described on the main page. Alternately, Kline says that, from the Lunch Ledge, "one may descend by a traverse across the South-west Face on wide ledges and then rappel when the ledges peter out."


Single set of nuts. Double cams in fingers to thin hands, and single cams above that to a #4 C4. Gear needed for all belays, or sling trees on top two pitches. A few fixed pins, and some historic bolts, along the way.


Chris Wenker
Santa Fe
Chris Wenker   Santa Fe
I left the overall rating as it is listed in Hill's guidebook, although the last pitch (the one shared with The Happy Gnome) is called 5.8 here on MP.

Someone should plan for a 50th anniversary climb of this route! Jul 20, 2009
John Kear
Albuquerque, NM
John Kear   Albuquerque, NM
Did this route in the winter of 94', we wore our vibram sole boots figuring that's how the first ascent was done so we should do the same. I don't remember much about the route other than some fairly tough chimney climbing and loose rock/poor pro. Oh and having to remove a fair amount of cactus from my wife's backside after she sat in a barrel cactus while belaying on the summit. Definitely a historical ascent in the Sandias for the Hammack Cundiff team. Aug 15, 2009
Well, if we survive the Needle on Tuesday (Sept 8) maybe we'll be back out next year. Sep 6, 2009
If you're only here on a visit and you're going to do the walk down here, do The Happy Gnome.

One way to do Yatagan, ride the tram, do the climb, continue on down to car. Beats the hump back up if you don't mind the downhill. Sep 7, 2009
Dave and I chose this route since it has one of the most distinct silhouettes from Albuquerque in the afternoon sun. We had examined what is now know as Torreon but figured it was beyond our skill level and gear.

The ring piton on the last pitch is probably ours from the first ascent to the top. We went straight up from the right side of Luncheon Ledge so we didn't do the Black Death variation. The route we did on the SE face is way to the left of the "beta" photograph since at least two of our belay positions were on the arete (Luncheon Ledge was the third belay on the arete) and we had some moves just to the left of the arete with most to the right (climber's right). We had some half pitches in the gully which were really chossy. The hardest pitch on the first climb to Luncheon Ledge was just to the right of the arete (10' or so) and harder than anything we did on Aviary Ort (I think we named this as route 3 on N face of thumb). We figured a way around it which got us about 40 to 50' to the right of the arete. Put in a bolt for protection and the next time we did it, someone had taken off with the hanger. The move was only 5.7 but it was unprotected. The photograph of the bolts is probably that runo
The standard rope then was a 120' (37 m)cable laid 7/16" (11.1 mm)white nylon. Cable laid Gold Line was just coming in and Perlon didn't show up until mid-60's while 150 ft ropes didn't get common until late 60's followed by the 50 m. Sep 28, 2009
Chris Wenker
Santa Fe
Chris Wenker   Santa Fe
Thanks for the comments Reed; it's great to hear from one of the original artists.

The overall route as described here is pretty faithful to the way both Kline (1970) and Hill (1993) have it written up in their guidebooks. But it is very interesting to learn that the actual FA took a different line. The way you describe it sounds like it's somewhere between Hill's "East Face Variation" and "Blood on the Blade," or a combination of the two. Thanks for confirming that you went up from the righthand side of Lunch Ledge (the line on Kline's photo is apparently misplotted); that's a stellar summit pitch!

The bolts in the photo may not be from the original ascent line that you described, because they are on a longish leftward ascending traverse on the ~5.7- pitch that approachs Lunch Ledge from way off to the right. Although that one is missing a hanger.....

(So where did Kline and Hill get their route description.....?). Sep 30, 2009

As I wrote earlier, we went way to the right to avoid what may have been 5.9 (we just called it "harder than we chose to do again") and then traversed left around a bulge. I put in a self-drilling threaded expansion bolt(it expanded as you screwed in the bolt) and that is what the bolt missing a hanger looks like. I don't think we did that summit pitch off Luncheon Ledge until the third try since it was getting dark the first and second attempts. We always hiked up the La Luz Trail. Thanks, I thought it was a good lead for the time. Oct 2, 2009
George Perkins
The Dungeon, NM
George Perkins   The Dungeon, NM
Reed, the ring pin on the last pitch is stamped with your initials (RC), so it is probably yours (and has been there 55 years). May 11, 2015