Type: Trad, 1000 ft, 7 pitches, Grade III
FA: Drew Chojnowski, Marta Reece, Forrest Wilcox (2017-11-24)
Page Views: 247 total · 17/month
Shared By: Drew Chojnowski on Nov 25, 2017
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


This huge route is probably the easiest way up the giant east face of Little Squaretop Massif. It starts directly in the middle of the face at its lowest point, and tops out on a section of the Organ ridge just south of the Little Squaretop Massif summit (or on the summit, if you feel like it). Most of the climbing is quite easy, but we encountered a few 5.7-5.8 sections a bit past midway up the wall. The rock quality is generally good, but the wall sees minimal sunlight and climbing traffic such that large sections of rock are covered in lichen and many of the cracks are filled with dirt and moss. It's unlikely that climbers will repeat the route exactly as we did it, so the pitch descriptions provided here are a basic guide rather than strict lines.

Although Pirates of the Carabiner shares the final few pitches with the historic "E Face, Bowl Route", as described in Ingraham's guide (web.nmsu.edu/~amato/ingraha…), the majority of the route in no way matches the Bowl Route description. For example, Ingraham described the start of the Bowl Route as follows "Traverse off the nose on a narrow ledge into the right side of the Bowl and continue up, generally keeping to its right side, over slabby sections and up short chimneys." Instead, we scrambled down to the south from the nose, to the lowest point on the main wall, and face/slab-climbed our way up to the "little glen, hemmed in tightly by vertical walls." We encountered no chimneys on our route.

P1 (5.4, 180ft): from the lowest point on the wall, pick any of numerous options and run the rope out over easy terrain up the middle of the wall. Protection may be sparse depending on chosen path, but the climbing is easy enough that it shouldn't matter. I placed a single Camalot #3 on the pitch, and built a gear anchor in a crack near a formerly-largish, but now quite dead tree.

P2 (5.4, 180ft): from the dead tree, head up and slightly left over easy ground. Face/slab climb to the right of a small gully, with plentiful but not always obvious pro. Build an anchor when the ropes runs out. We slung a large block near the small gully. From here you could stay left and see if that goes, but instead we traverse slightly right out onto the face just SE of the giant orange/pink roofs (see photos).

P3 (5.6, 120ft): climb up and slightly right on the wide-open face, whose angle continues to increase. Stop when you arrive a suitable gear anchor crack in the middle of the face.

P4 (5.7, 200ft): climb directly upward from the P3 anchor toward what appears to be a spacious ledge up with a large pine tree. Toward the top of the pitch, make some delicate moves up and right toward a small ledge with an anchor-worthy crack about chest level on its right side. This will just work with a 60m rope. Just above the belay is the steepest section of rock yet, but by now it's obvious that just above that section the angle decreases significantly

P5 (5.8 PG13, 120ft): the first 20ft or so of this pitch are the crux of the route. Make delicate moves upward on the lichen-covered rock, with decent feet placements but minimal hands. The only pro I could find was a yellow ball nut placement about 7ft up and slightly left of the P4 belay. From there I traversed up and right until reaching safe ground above, unfortunately still with little to no pro. Continue upward for some 80-100 ft until a good anchor can be found directly below the large pine tree.

P6 (low 5th, 180ft): run the rope out over very easy, low-angle rock until you find yourself in a flat spot just below the Organ ridge, with steep rock all around you. Choose one of many good gear anchors.

P7 (5.6, 100ft): climb up from the flat spot in the righthand/NW corner with plentiful features and pro, until being greeted with for the first time in hours by sunshine (assuming sunny day) on the Organ ridge. Build a gear anchor in a feet level crack.

From atop P7, another pitch would land one on the summit of Little Squaretop Massif. Instead, we scrambled down to the NW and did a single 60m rope rap from a slung boulder. From there we had to crawled under some thick tree branches before emerging in the gully between Little Squaretop and Little Squaretop Massif.


Start from Modoc Mine Rd on the west side of the Organs, driving as far as possible up the road. Then walk up the road, turning right/south after the switchbacks. From the next welt, take the Tooth trail east, going around the right side of the Tooth onto the huge low-angle slab known as the Ballroom. Walk about halfway up the Ballroom before exiting it's right side onto another narrower slab and then through brush, aiming for a low point on the Organ ridge to the north of Squaretop (see photos). Cross the Organ ridge here and drop into the pine forest on the other side. Hike south, staying as close as possible to the rock on the right. After 30 minutes or so, arrive at "the nose" feature (sort of a saddle, with a large pine tree), which is the first time you get a view of the huge east wall of Little Squaretop Massif. Scramble down to the bottom of the wall.

For descent, do a short single rope rap either from the Organ ridge or Little Squaretop Massif summit into the Little Squaretop/Little Squaretop Massif gully. From there, scramble/bushwack downward and slightly skier's left, until the Organ Needle trail is reached. Follow this down, back to Modoc Mine Rd.

Approach is 3-4 hours if you park high on Modoc Mine Rd and don't get lost. Descent down the Organ Needle trail back to Modoc Mine Rd is 2-3 hours. Car-to-car for us was 10 hours.


The face is huge, and it's best to be prepared for the unexpected. Bring a double set of camalots up to #3 and maybe a single #4 as well. Very small gear is also useful, i.e. several 0.1-0.2 cams and perhaps even ball nuts. There is no fixed gear of any kind on the route, and you will want to bring new webbing for rapping from the top.