Type: Trad, Alpine, 450 ft, 4 pitches, Grade II
FA: Reed Cundiff, David Hammack, 1960
Page Views: 1,328 total · 12/month
Shared By: Chris Wenker on Sep 28, 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


This route ascends the east face of the Thumb, taking a direttissima line to the north summit, following a prominent open-book weakness. Hill’s guidebook (1993:161, 164) calls this line “5.7 or 5.8. Four (?) pitches”. Also see Kline (1970:32). We climbed the route in four pitches of 30-40 m each, and found solid 5.8 cruxes on each pitch. One could probably get up in 3 pitches with a 60 m rope, though.
Start on the right face of the open book, following a stellar splitter crack system. Fun climbing takes you past some old fixed gear, including a pair of bolts at about 15-20 m (we didn’t take a close look at these, because they were off to the left in the gully, so we couldn’t tell if they were any good). At about 33 m, find another pair of newish bolts, and a fixed pin, at an awkward stance; belay here if you wish.
Continue up the back of the open book, past more fixed gear, through a short, fun, roof undercling. About halfway up the face (~70 m up), the “East Face Direct” route probably diverges off to the left (Hill 1993:161). Instead, follow the slightly rotten pillar to the right, up to the base of the huge gray dihedral above. The start of the chimney in this dihedral looks pretty loose, so, if need be, diverge slightly onto the right face for more solid, but airy and runout, climbing. After a while the chimney cleans up and narrows to an off-fist crack through a bulge; follow this line to a short blocky slope that leads to the summit ridge.


Approach as for Aviary Ort Overhangs. When that climbers' trail starts to head slightly right, cut left off the trail and climb low rock ledges uphill. The route starts at a huge pine/spruce tree with a sling. An unrecorded bolted route with sport anchors ascends the short detached pillar about 30 feet right of the base of this climb.
Descend the standard 4th class route off the SE ridge.


Half set of nuts. Cams from thin fingers to #4 C4; we had doubles of fingers to hands, which was plenty adequate for our short pitches, and would probably work OK even if you ran the rope out more than we did.
Various pieces of old fixed gear pepper the lower half of the route. There is a good bolted anchor 33 m off the ground, but gear anchors will be necessary for every pitch above that point.


John Kear
Albuquerque, NM
John Kear   Albuquerque, NM
Wow, there seems to be a little discrepancy on the star ratings. Three stars means a great route (ie unbelievable climbing, perfect stone, very esthetic). I have a warm place in my heart for north summit direct, i've climbed it three times, but it is not three stars, IMO one at best. Sep 29, 2009
Chris Wenker
Santa Fe
Chris Wenker   Santa Fe
John Kear wrote: "Three stars means a great route (ie unbelievable climbing, perfect stone, very esthetic)."

....and that's why you gave the Northwest Ridge three stars?

(just kidding).

I was thinking this line is 2.5 out of 4, so I rounded up. Yeah, it just depends on how you use the stars, I guess. You've seen the El Rito Trad star discussion, I'm sure. Sep 29, 2009
Daniel Trugman
Los Alamos, NM
Daniel Trugman   Los Alamos, NM
Out of curiosity, John, what constitutes 4 stars in your book? Your description of a 3 star route sounds like my criteria for a 4 star route. Though I do make exceptions to this and give points for the adventure and experience of it (i.e SW Ridge of the Needle). I'm always interested in different criteria for quality ratings, and obviously there is no right answer. Sep 29, 2009
John Kear
Albuquerque, NM
John Kear   Albuquerque, NM
There is definitely a lot of room for interpretations and personal taste when giving star ratings. I think many things have to be taken into account.
1. History (so even though something like the SW Ridge of the Needle isn't the highest rock quality the history, adventure, length and prominence of the line bump it up a star or two)
2. Length and or continuous nature.
3. Rock quality
4. Esthetics and quality of the climbing

So, for something like the NW ridge of the thumb... It gets a star for length, one for historic value and another for prominence of the line as well as the feature that it climbs. None for rock quality that's for sure.

For a route in the Sandias to get 4 stars it has to be one of the best of the grade and or historical, esthetic, legendary, etc...

I can certainly respect other opinions concerning routes in the Sandias but some folks may take a three star rating to be a solid recommendation to do that route. I don't want to see anyone get sandbagged too badly. Well maybe a little, it is the Sandias... Sep 30, 2009
Mark D.
Santa Fe
Mark D.   Santa Fe
I thought that was a pretty killer route. We aren't climbing on Chamonix granite here so for the location I think that 2.5 stars is dead on. No one will have a bad time on this line. Realizing, of course, the grade and the fact that it doesn't see a ton of action. One star sounds like something not really worth doing unless you have a lot of time on your hands and have done everything better. It was my second Sandia route and i don't look down on it after doing Warpy or Procrastination. Apr 21, 2010