Type: Trad, 9 pitches, Grade III
FA: Dick Ingraham, George Goedecke, and Edmund Ward
Page Views: 9,193 total · 86/month
Shared By: Gary Parker on May 17, 2010 with updates from George Perkins and 1 other
Admins: Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Drew Chojnowski

You & This Route

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Access Issue: Placement of bolts/fixed anchors is prohibited in Wilderness Study Areas Details


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.


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


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)


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).
Aaron Miller
Santa Fe, NM
Aaron Miller   Santa Fe, NM
Great route description and topo Gary. I will look forward to trying it this Fall.

Thanks May 21, 2010
No Juan  
I believe this describes the variation. I used a simple topo from some of the Sugarloaf pictures
and mistakenly confused this description for the original line. I should have used your info here with these new topos. I'll get to the top next time.
Ended up climbing a bolted line above a dihedral. Rapped down right before the hand/fist crack, bummer. Aug 7, 2010
There are two sets of rap anchors on the south ridge from the summit. One (easier to see) to the right, and one to the left. I've not tried the ones to the right, but have heard some strange tales (like "they appear to have been set for 70m rope", etc.) So, I suggest the ones on the left. a two rope rap gets you to the saddle, scramble down to the right and a short single rope rap gets you to the walk off. You can do the first rap with a single rope, using an intermediate anchor (3 fixed wires but somebody recently cleaned up the webbing)). Sep 4, 2011
Craig Childre
Lubbock, Texas
  5.7 R
Craig Childre   Lubbock, Texas
  5.7 R
Anyone have any firm beta for the new rap anchors? We used them on during our first descent off the loaf. Not confirmed, but the first rap looks like a single 70m will easily reach. The 2nd took two full 70's to touch dirt. We stayed left-west of the gultch didn't see any intermediate anchors. Gets you down fast though. Sep 23, 2011
Bill Lawry
New Mexico
Bill Lawry   New Mexico
This is a quality written description of the route. And I think it very well matches the topo drawn in the latest Falcon guide for climbing NM. Nice work, Gary.

A couple minor comments ...

P4: Is described as traversing right and slightly up until a downclimb to the tree. I'd describe it as climbing mostly up until can traverse right to the downclimb.

P6 & P7: The physical locations of the mid-pitch bolts are good. Just keep an open mind about what sequence of rock features to use in getting past them. Mar 22, 2012
Craig Childre
Lubbock, Texas
  5.7 R
Craig Childre   Lubbock, Texas
  5.7 R
Fantastic route, and as expected, this route description and pics made staying on route simple. The only way this deviates from the Ingram description of 1965 is in the breakdown of pitches, but it essentially climbs the same line. Apr 10, 2012
Climbed this route today 7/15/12, Gary's route description is excellent, but I'll add a few comments nonetheless.

Pitches 2, 3, and 4 can be combined with 70m ropes, and possibly with 60's. Climb the crack until you run out of rope (or almost if on 70's), belay in the crack. Then leave the crack immediately off the belay by climbing off of the right facing corner onto the ramp, then angling up and right on the ramp towards the live tree. (two long pitches)

Pitch 6 can be split in order to save the leader some rope drag on the run-out climbing above the roof, by belaying on gear immediately under the roof. (two short pitches)

Above the P6 roof, instead of heading straight up and traversing to the bolt, angle right slightly and go directly to the bolt. We found that we had to go slightly left to the bolt anchor after finding some gear placements above the bolt.

The small roof on Pitch 7 has a fixed nut under it at the moment. Didn't seem like anyone would be able to clean it anytime soon.

We ran out the ropes on Pitch 7 all the way to the comfy ledge (lots of rope drag).

Pitch 9 description doesn't sound right (maybe we were on the wrong ledge, but I don't think so, two options: 1) climb left to a right facing corner (a little bit of choss in the corner), then follow the corner to a large roof, move right under the roof and continue up the corner to some easy moves just below the summit. 2) climb straight up from the comfy ledge, aiming for the right side of the aforementioned roof. You'll find some small protection in a few seams, but also some pretty thin moves between the placements. Edit: Now that I look at this picture mountainproject.com/v/10676…, I clearly see what we did differently, the right facing corner and roof are clearly visible above and left of the last belay. Apparently there are three options ;-)

One last comment...the two 1/4" bolts on pitches 6 and 7 (in Gary's route description), are more psychological than anything else, I believe someone in our party said "they wouldn't hold a fart".

Have fun! Jul 15, 2012
Marta Reece
Las Cruces, NM
Marta Reece   Las Cruces, NM  
The roof in Pitch 6 is surmounted more sideways than upward. From there go directly up, eventually (after some 20 feet or so) reaching a less steep terrain. Angle right to a single old bolt. From there move a few feet to the right and step up over a slight bulge to reach a right slanting groove with ample holds. Follow it another 20 feet or so to a shallow, right-facing corner where protection may be placed. Look up to the left of the top of the corner for bolts.

My thanks go to the climber who added a new bolt there. Jul 15, 2012
Marta Reece
Las Cruces, NM
Marta Reece   Las Cruces, NM  
If you'd like to climb the first, protectable portion of the Left Eyebrow with its long, attractive crack but would rather not do the run-out crux pitch, there is a way. Extend Pitch 3 all the way to the bush above the long crack. This bush is on the North Face route and is marked on both topos. Aug 14, 2012
Bill Lawry
New Mexico
Bill Lawry   New Mexico
My previous comment here has been replaced to describe the cross over from this route to North Face. See Left Eyebrow to North Face. Oct 30, 2012
Jason Carlson
El Paso, TX
Jason Carlson   El Paso, TX
A friend and I did this route this past weekend. Got slightly lost on the way back in the dark which delayed us about an hour, but it would have been ~12 hrs, car-to-car, so keep that in mind when planning.

We were able to combine pitches 3 and 4 (make sure to extend pitch 2 as far as you can) and also pitches 7 and 8 with a 70m rope, so it's possible to do this in only 7 pitches.

We descended via the south spur - west route described above. With 2 70m ropes, we were easily able to reach the 2 bolt anchor below the first set of anchors, 10ft above the small ledge. On the way down from that anchor we saw the 3 nut placement in the crack system to the right, but we didn't use it, as 2 70m ropes will reach the bottom (with about 3 feet to spare), by a big pine tree in the gully. From there it's an easy scramble down to the start of the route (if you left gear).

One final note about the walk back, where we got lost. When you reach the first large stream crossing on the way back (after the sign marking the split in the trail to sugarloaf and the pass), the trail splits and goes left down to the stream and right under a little boulder and parallels the stream for a good ways. If you take the left trail you will see a cairn on a boulder in the stream bed (not sure what it's there for) which can trick you into thinking you are on the right path (you're not). You want the right trail under the boulder which parallels the stream for about 300m before crossing. After this the trail is obvious. As a side note, there is a beautiful waterfall formed by the stream between these two "crossings" which we found searching for the trail when we were lost. Apr 18, 2015
Ian Harris
Las Cruces NM
  5.7+ X
Ian Harris   Las Cruces NM
  5.7+ X
CrimperE6, is it possible you were off route? Based on the other ratings people have given this route, your rating seems a bit off base. Sep 5, 2016
Gary Parker
Gary Parker  
I'm somewhat annoyed that you feel the need to add unwarranted noise to the discussion, CrimperE6, but you were clearly off route. Many TV sized blocks? 500+ feet of vegetation? I'd say you climbed something else. Sep 6, 2016
Three of us climbed the first three pitches of the Left Eyebrow route and then crossed over to the pitch six belay of the North Face Route with a fourth pitch. Finished the route in eight pitches. It was great to combine the Left Eyebrow crack with the North Face pitch seven in one route. What an amazing slab climb.
Mar 27, 2017
Crimper E6
cheltenham, UK, SW is the BEST
Crimper E6   cheltenham, UK, SW is the BEST
for sure the cross over route is the way to go, the best bits of both routes Apr 24, 2017
Bill Lawry
New Mexico
Bill Lawry   New Mexico
Last weekend, noticed some rust marks in the P2 crack in a couple places where the crack is around an inch wide. Imagine there was some old fixed gear in there for some years. Anyone have pictures of gear that might have caused the rust? Wish I'd taken a picture.

Also, we did the easy transition from Left Eyebrow to North Face - easy as falling out of bed and recommended! Oct 24, 2017
George Perkins
The Dungeon, NM
  5.7 PG13
George Perkins   The Dungeon, NM
  5.7 PG13
OMG the hand crack pitch is AMAZING! The upper pitches are pretty good too! I'd go so far as to say this climb (and/or the N Face) rank up there with the best long climbs 5.7/below in the country. Apr 16, 2018
climber pat
Las Cruces NM
  5.7 PG13
climber pat   Las Cruces NM
  5.7 PG13
I recommend a 70 meter rope which would allow the leader to reach more comfortable belay stances. Using a 60 meter rope we often simul climbed a few feet to all the leader to reach a nice ledge. Oct 1, 2018
Brandon Gottung
currently Las Cruces, NM
Brandon Gottung   currently Las Cruces, NM
Gary's description is great, but we were able to link P3&4 by extending the first two pitches as long as possible. For pitch 5, the gully can be avoided via a fun rightward hand traverse to undercling out the obvious flakes 20 meters above the tree belay, left of the gully. The crux pitch is great, safer to build a belay directly below to the roof, making the pitch 35 meters. Oct 2, 2018