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Gemstone West
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Broken Ladders  T 
Christian Rock T 
Fin Left, The T 
Flail Out T 
Gemstone T 
Pair of 4s T 
Seamingly Hard T 
Shoots & Ladders T 
Sinsemilla Shake - P3 (a.k.a. Green Snake - P2) T 


YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 2 pitches, 180', Grade II
Original:  YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c [details]
FA: Gary Hicks and Jim Fuge, June 8, 1974
Page Views: 2,727
Submitted By: George Perkins on Nov 19, 2007

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (28)
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BETA PHOTO: The entire first pitch of Gemstone showing the loc...


Pitch 1: Start up the obvious large left-leaning offwidth. Traverse left under the roof. Climb easier cracks in the left-facing corner above to a bolted anchor on a ledge.

Pitch 2: Step right and climb a left-leaning hand crack with poor feet to easier climbing (crux). Continue in the same left-angling crack system; some variations are possible. There are 2 sets of anchors at the top.

Simplest descent is one rappel with 2 ropes. It may be possible to rap the route with 1 rope, or to scramble down steep terrain to the west.


Obvious left-leaning dihedral in the Gemstone West area.


Nuts and cams to 3", optional larger gear

Photos of Gemstone Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Jason leading Pitch 2
Jason leading Pitch 2
Rock Climbing Photo: Richard above the roof on Pitch 1.
Richard above the roof on Pitch 1.
Rock Climbing Photo: Up the dihedral on pitch 1
Up the dihedral on pitch 1
Rock Climbing Photo: Seth getting through the start of the squeeze.
Seth getting through the start of the squeeze.
Rock Climbing Photo: Bruce Holthouse on the first pitch of Gemstone. He...
Bruce Holthouse on the first pitch of Gemstone. He...
Rock Climbing Photo: Ryan having some fun on the first pitch.  This is ...
Ryan having some fun on the first pitch. This is ...

Comments on Gemstone Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Aug 11, 2016
By Ryan Smyth
From: Albuquerque, NM
Apr 30, 2008
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

The first pitch of this climb is awesome. Getting of the ground is, well, interesting. I usually get inside the crack and and wiggle around. It works. The second pitch is very intersting. I don't remember it too well because it was getting dark and i was cleaning and rushing. My leader had a hard time finding the top anchors, they're a little off to the left and hard to spot.
By Bill Lawry
From: New Mexico
Sep 7, 2008
rating: 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

There are two separate bolted anchors near the top of the second pitch. Either works for the double rope rap-off. Both are kind of hidden as you approach the top. As mentioned above by Ryan, one anchor is quite a bit off to the left. The other is directly above, nearly in-line with main crack of the second pitch; see a marked up version of Monomaniac's photo on the Gemstone West page.
By mattb19
Oct 14, 2008

I hated the first pitch and prefer to go up Seamingly Hard instead. The second pitch was fun and had lots of options to choose from. Take a 70m rope to rap.
By Nick Manke
From: Edgewood, NM
Oct 28, 2008

The body jam in the start of the first pitch is quite upsetting to say the least (at least for my lanky ass). The second pitch is much more exciting. The start of the second pitch is a little awkward so be prepared to do some jamming.
By Asa King
From: Salt Lake City, Ut
Oct 19, 2010
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Fun climb, I'm not a big fan of the first part, I feel pretty pathetic thrashing about in that body jam.
By Brian McLaughlin
May 11, 2011

This was my first route in the Sandias in September of 85. Climbed it with Garry Wolfe from SMO. Ended up guiding it on several occasions over the next 2 years. Good route!

Once saved a guy who had hopelessly tangled his rope on pitch 1 and was looking at a ground fall from about 10 feet above the overhang. I soloed up Seamingly Hard, talked him onto some better holds and then cleared his rope tangle so his belayer could bring him on up to the belay. I continued up Seamingly Hard and then traversed over to the belay ledge. The guy was totally freaked out. After everyone had all rapped down we were walking out and one of my friends said, "Man I'm ready for a hot shower and a soft bed." I did not own a bed, and had been sleeping on the floor, so I joked about it and everyone was ribbing me about it. About an hour after I got home the guy I had saved shows up at my place with a king sized waterbed. I wound up using that bed for about 10 years.
By Mark Dalen
From: Albuquerque, NM
Dec 22, 2011

If I may make a suggestion, the first pitch squeeze chimney goes stupid easy as a layback ...
By Bill Lawry
From: New Mexico
Dec 26, 2011
rating: 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

I always thought the option for using a layback was common knowledge for the first part of P1. Are there features for protection on the way up in that mode before the corner?
By Mark Dalen
From: Albuquerque, NM
Jan 3, 2012

Bill - if memory serves (big if) there's a piece low down & then it's just go for broke to the corner. Transitioning from squeeze to layback is the tricky part. After that it just feels so right ...
By Howard Snell
From: Belen, New Mexico
Jul 14, 2012

A #4 (Blue) Big Bro can be used to protect the start of the crack w/o grovelling for placements deep inside. Combined with a #6 C4 up where the outer wall of the crack develops an interior flake allowed sewwing it up nicely (yep I'm a seamster).
By Gary Lee Hicks
Aug 11, 2016

Just reading through the above comments and wanted to give some input for future climbers unfamiliar with Gemstone.

On the first ascent of Gemstone (June 8th,1974), Jim Fuge and I had gotten a late start in the afternoon after having hiked to the boulders up the canyon that sit atop the ridge east of Gemstone and south of the waterfall upstream from Gemstone. It was so windy when we reached the pillars we decided to blow off climbing and go home.
As we hiked down the canyon along the stream (not a river and hardly a "creek" :o) I noticed that the dihedral, of what would become named "Gemstone", was probably protected from the wind coming up the canyon. We decided to give it a try and thrashed and bushwhacked our way to the base of the dihedral.
As it was about 5:30 pm and as I was the more experienced climber, Jim allowed me to lead both pitches.
The start up the "chimney" felt like a 5.10 thrash !!! I stayed inside the damn thing 'till I was forced to move onto the face by grabbing the flakes above and behind my head. T'was gnarly to say the least. I was looking at a grounder and possibly knocking Jim off his stance. In desperation I put some funky nuts behind the obviously worthless flakes and managed to get out and stand up :op
Those flakes have long since disappeared though there are a few remnants that can be seen in the pics.
Over the years we began doing the layback but the protection was dubious (stacked hex-s and tube chocks, etc. ) until one of my partners brought along a Camalot large enough to sweeten things up. Unfortunately, I don't remember what size it was. It's important to know that whatever is used should be well runnered to keep the piece from walking and to reduce rope drag for the rest of the pitch.
Some Tid Bits about the 1st ascent:
After Jim and I topped out the 2nd pitch it was virtually dark due to our late start. We had no bolt anchors to rap from and no known way to get back to the base of the climb. In the dark, it would've been tough to find good anchors for a rappel. We set a belay a little east of the top of the 2nd pitch and did two more roped pitches to the top of the ridge then hiked down the ridge back to the parking lot.
The name "Gemstone" actually came from a British climb reported in Mountain Magazine just prior to our climb. My partner's name was 'Jim' , I was stoned..... and, for the Sandias, the quality of the rock was great ;o)
Finally, the best way to do Gemstone is to free solo it. Soloing Gemstone eliminates the gear being in the way in the squeeze box start of the climb, and the rope drag for everything else. Soloing Gemstone also transfers the crux from the two crux sections of the second pitch to the final section of the second pitch where it traverses under the arete (which forms the finish to Drunken Master) and up its left side. This final section was the way Jim and I went in the attempt to extend and pack as much climbing as possible into this "practice climb". Soloing this section is dangerous because of the potential fall if one of several chockstones or holds were to come loose or break off. Of the fifty or so times I've soloed Gemstone, this section was the most heady. My fastest time soloing Gemstone went this way in three minutes, fifty seconds for both pitches. The first pitch that day was fifty-eight seconds. Enjoy... but stay alive!!!

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