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Routes in Chaos Crag

Duck Soup T 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b R
Edge of Chaos T 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Mucho Jale T 5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b
Type: Trad, Alpine, 230 ft, 2 pitches, Grade III
FA: Josh Smith, Will Vining, George Perkins
Page Views: 333 total, 63/month
Shared By: Josh Smith on Jul 9, 2017
Admins: Aaron Hobson, Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Drew Chojnowski

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If you're into roof cracks, this one is amazing and well worth the little jaunt down the La Luz. We did it in two trips; the first time up the roof, we aided it and the last person (George) cleaned a lot of loose rock out of the roof crack, setting it up for free climbing. From above the roof, Will pioneered a new pitch that went up and left to almost the left end of Space Ledge. We continued up the last two pitches of Metamorphosis (see Mike Hill book, easily linked with a 70) to the top of the formation and rapped once off the back with two ropes.

The pitch above the roof was fun, but checked in at probably 5.9 R (with the R on the hard part) and with some looseness. It would also be possible to go right above the roof and join Space Ledge on the right side at a much easier grade. However, it is also easy to rap off from above the roof and skip the rest of the mediocre climbing, which presumably is what most folks would do and why I'm not including the top part of the formation in the length and pitch count.

The Roof:

The first pitch follows an obvious dihedral directly below the roof and leads straight to it. The first part of the pitch is 5.7ish stemming on good rock and ends in a 8ft steep 5.10 layback up the right side of a red V feature. Stop at the good stance below the roof where you can get comfortable and watch the exciting sports action. Length is about 180 feet. We were unclear if this was the first pitch of Duck Soup or not, as we did not see the mentioned bolt and the dihedral is not "discontinuous cracks" as described. It's a very fun pitch.

The roof is about 18 feet horizontal, takes great gear, and is probably about 5.12b. The gear is excellent, and the jams are excellent and varied. The crux is pulling the lip and getting established above (long arms or ham-fists might make this easier). We taped up, which proved useful because there are lots of sharp crystals in the crack. Anti-tapers should anticipate exsanguination.

High quality roof cracks of this size are unusual, and I haven't climbed one comparable to it in New Mexico before. If roofs are your thing, definitely put this on your list.

For extra credit, just below Chaos Crag and up hill about 200 feet (right next to the trail) is a small tower with a seriously overhanging 30ft 11+ finger crack.


Hike down the La Luz to the bottom of the Thumb. Spot the roof on Chaos Crag from the La Luz just before it enters the trees. There is an independent tower in front of the crag, and you can approach from either side of it. If you approach from the bottom of the tower, leave the trail at metal sign and go straight up hill.


A rack of singles from #0 to #3 with a set of nuts and an extra #0.75 and #1. A #4 would be useful for either the first pitch or the belay below the roof, but we did just fine without it. The roof is fingers to #2 at the lip.

There is an anchor above the roof. One bolt and one Lost Arrow. 140ft rap to the side.


Mark Dalen
Albuquerque, NM
Mark Dalen   Albuquerque, NM
Not to worry ... DS probably does exit left significantly below the roof ... it's a blank face you wouldn't recognize unless you were looking for it to traverse to that major crackline the rest of the route follows (the first ascent skyhooked across) ... I remember P1 as being good quality & a lot of fun ... don't remember being very attracted to that bodacious overhang....

As for clarifying the line on DS, I don't think that is really an issue. My sense is that, if you're determined to climb it, you'll find the line. No, the real issue is difficulty & runout. I was a little shocked to see the 5.9 rating in Hill's recommended section as in fact it is solid 5.10 on all pitches except the first. he does get it right in the route description area, but that doesn't mention the two sections of serious runout. See the 'Protection' area of DS description for advice in this area.

[edited 10/03/17] Jul 11, 2017
George Perkins
The Dungeon, NM
George Perkins   The Dungeon, NM
Thanks Mark. Please don't take this as arguing..
Our gut feeling- trying to figure out the Duck Soup line, reading the Hill description and its photo with marked line, and based on the cleanliness and difficulty up to the roof (we encountered 5.10 climbing that had loose blocks (now cleaned) ~40' below the roof at the top of our pitch 1 and Duck Soup should be 5.7 up to the traverse)- is that Duck Soup exits the open book to the left significantly lower than the big roof, but we weren't sure where. We cleaned bail gear (nut+biner) 100' up the open book, just before the 5.10 climbing at the top of our 1st pitch, presumably from an attempt on Duck Soup.

Again, it's only an impression and we very well could be wrong about it, having never climbed Duck Soup. Hopefully someone (maybe me or you) will climb Duck Soup, find the bolt, and figure it out. Duck Soup is supposed to be a great climb, it's one of the ones listed in the back of Hill's book as a recommended climb, so there ought to be some interest in clarifying the line.

I'll reiterate that the roof crack is great and we hope someone else will appreciate it. Jul 11, 2017
Mark Dalen
Albuquerque, NM
Mark Dalen   Albuquerque, NM
FWIW this is the first pitch of Duck Soup ... 'disconnected cracks' came from the Hill guide entry written by either Meleski or Bridgers - it seemed to fit my memory of the pitch ... not sure why the bolt is not there unless my memory is bad & it's farther left of the belay ... proud line out the roof though.... Jul 10, 2017
Will Vining
Will Vining  
I thoroughly enjoyed the last two pitches we did after the roof, but as Josh said they pale in comparison to the first two. For those inclined to do the last two pitches look for a tree with rap tat down the gully to skiers right for the rap off the back. Jul 9, 2017
Josh Smith  
As always in the Sandias, one wonders if an FA really is, particularly for a feature this obvious, but given the amount of loose junk in the roof, we were pretty confident that no one had been out it. If we were wrong, let us know.

Kudos to Will for getting us down there. Jul 9, 2017