Type: Trad, 9 pitches, Grade III
FA: Dick Ingraham, George Goedecke, and Edmund Ward
Page Views: 10,513 total · 82/month
Shared By: Gary Parker on May 17, 2010 · Updates
Admins: Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Drew Chojnowski

You & This Route


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Access Issue: Power drilling is prohibited in the Organ Mountains Wilderness. Details
Access Issue: COVID-19 New Mexico Requirements - Updated Nov. 16, 2020 Details

Description

Overview and Opinion: Having climbed several Sugarloaf routes, including the classic North Face, I found this one to be my favorite so far. Now here's the catch: I am not 100% sure what I have described below is the original route or a variation (if anyone reviews this write-up and can set the record straight, I would appreciate knowing if this is the correct way). The old topos, guides, etc. are somewhat hard to follow. Either way, the route we climbed is great and has many classic pitches and some thrilling runouts on mostly solid Tuolumne-style granite. The 250 ft hands-to-fists crack on the second and first half of the third pitch is excellent. The sixth pitch is probably harder than 5.6 (I will go out on a limb and say 5.7) and should not be taken lightly due to there being only two options for pro after turning the roof (one of which is a manky, rusty 1/4 in bolt that doesn't seem like it would hold a hard fall). Because of this pitch, I think an 'R' is due. Despite the moderate 5.7 rating, this pitch is not for beginner leaders; most of the rest of the route protects well.

The route has a fair bit of traversing, making the route length longer than the formation is tall. Overall, this climb makes for a great adventure and should be on everyone's short list.

Location

The route starts on the west side of the peak, below the obvious recess called 'The Eye'. See the beta photo detailing the start.

Protection

1 set of stoppers and double cams up to #2 Camalot + 1 #3 (pitches can be made to be long and there are a few gear anchors... the extra pieces were appreciated). A shank of webbing to replace sun-rotted, old stuff (good advice for any route in the Organs)

Description

All pitch lengths are approximate. We used a 60 m rope.
Pitch 1 (180 ft, 5.6): Climb up past a bush and into a right facing dihedral. After 20-30 ft, exit left over the dihedral at a horizontal crack. Pass a tree and climb a fingers crack until reaching a large tree in a big notch in the face.

Pitch 2 (200 ft, 5.6): Excellent, continuous hands-to-fist crack. One of the best cracks of its grade in the state. Set a gear belay when you run out of rope.

Pitch 3 (120 ft, 5.5): More of the fist crack. Below the bush, leave the crack by heading right and climb on knobs and chickenheads until a large ledge. (edit: 12/4/13) I have heard that it is easy to join-up with the top part of North Face route from here. Doing so would probably require a short, easy scramble toward the east. But not having done this connection, I can't vouch for the length or difficulty, nor describe which pitch on the North Face that you would be connecting into. However, with this option, you could join two great routes and avoid the runout pitch higher up on this route — only to be replaced with other runouts on the North Face route.

Pitch 4 (120 ft, 5.5): Traverse right and slightly upward until it is easy to downclimb to the obvious live tree.

Pitch 5 (200 ft, 5.0-5.6): Mostly easy scrambling on a chossy ramp system until the last 40 feet which is a 5.6 climb up left facing flakes. Belay at the dead tree (the tree is hard to see from the ground and lower pitches). This pitch is a blight on an otherwise excellent climb; don't let it discourage you.

Pitch 6 (190 ft, 5.7 R): Climb up to the roof which protects with a small cam (0.3 Camalot) or stopper. Escape the roof/arete to the right on positive holds (the roof is not the crux). Climb up the face on interesting features. After about 20 ft, traverse right to the rusty old 1/4 bolt (needs to be upgraded) making some delicate moves on the way. Continue right and up for some more runout climbing until a solid cam placement can be found (0.5 Camalot). From here the climbing is almost straight up to a 3 bolt anchor.

Pitch 7 (130 ft, 5.6): Climb up a right-angling seam. It takes small stoppers. Clip another old 1/4 bolt and climb up and left onto easier, featured terrain. Pass a small roof (18 inches) and continue straight up to a right facing dihedral system. Belay off gear.

Pitch 8 (100 ft, 5.5): Climb the dihedral to a comfy ledge.

Pitch 9 (160 ft, 5.5 at first, then 4th class): Climb straight up for about 30 feet, then traverse right on positive incuts until an easy ramp is attained. 4th and 3rd class from here to the summit.

Descent Options: October 15th, 2012 Update: Mountain Project contributor Bill Lawry recently consolidated the descent information from the comments sections on several of the Sugarloaf routes. It looks like a users' consensus might be forming in favor of the South Spur–South Rap. Click Here for updated information.

I have rappelled both the east side and the South Spur–West. They each have their advantages and disadvantages. The east side is straightforward after you find the first set of anchors, but then you have to scramble all the way down the steep east side gully and back up to your packs. The South Spur-west option (take care scrambling down the knife-edge ridge) takes you down on the side of the mountain where your packs are. It has some new, high-quality bolts and leaver biners. Unfortunately the second set of bolts is placed about 10 feet above a comfortable looking ledge (you have to hang). It seems like this was done for single rope descent. After using this anchor, we chose to swing into a crack system (to the right when facing the rock) and did our third rappel off of a well-located anchor comprised of 3 stoppers. This offered a straight-down rappel to the ground with a clean pull. Having given up on the bolted rap line, I can't vouch for whether or not it is complete.

I have read that both rappel options can be done with a single rope, but I have always used two (it's comforting).

Photos