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Sandia Mountains

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Chimney Canyon 
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From MP's sister site:

Sandia Mountains Rock Climbing 

Photos:  Recent | Best | Popular
Elevation: 10,678'
Location: 35.2106, -106.45 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 211,504
Administrators: Aaron Hobson, Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Anthony Stout on Jan 20, 2006

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You & This Area
Best climbs for YOU in this area
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La Luz trail with ice cyrstals on camera lense


Because of the approaches to the climbing areas here, you will typically find solitude while climbing in the Sandias. Due to high elevation and nature of these mountains, conditions can vary. While one can climb at any time of the year, the best time seems to be between May through October. West and Southwest facing walls, such as Muralla Grande, can be warm and dry even on winter days. Watch for thunderstorms during the summer months.

Getting There 

The majority of the climbs are accessed from the Sandia Crest, though some are approached from the foothills of Albuquerque (these directions will be give in the appropriate sections):

- Starting from Albuquerque, take I-40 east through Tijeras Canyon, exiting on the Tijeras exit (exit 175).
- North on highway 14 for 6.8 miles
- Turn left on NM 536 (follow signs to Sandia Mountain Ski area), and follow this road for about 14 miles, past the ski area, and finally to the Sandia Crest.

Getting to the different climbing areas:

Approach times and difficulties vary depending on where you are going. Directions will be given in the appropriate sections.

WARNING: Approaches can be DIFFICULT, as in both strenuous and difficult to find. It's not difficult to get lost in this area. Should anyone following directions posted on Mountain Project end up lost, feedback on the directions in order to make them more accurate is appreciated.


- Sandia Rock by Mick Schein (2013, Sharp End Publishing)
- Rock Climbing New Mexico by Dennis R. Jackson (2006, Falcon Press)
- Hikers and Climbers Guide to the Sandias by Mike Hill (1993, Coyote Books)

Climbing Season

Weather station 0.4 miles from here

268 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',29],['3 Stars',109],['2 Stars',99],['1 Star',30],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in Sandia Mountains

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Sandia Mountains:
Knife Edge   Easy 5th 1+ 3 I 5 M 1c     Trad, Alpine, 900'   Juan Tabo Canyon : Shield
Flake n' Bake   5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a     Trad, Alpine, 2 pitches, 200'   La Cueva Canyon, Lower : Flake n' Bake
Northwest Ridge   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Trad, Alpine, 6 pitches, 1000'   La Cueva Canyon, Upper : The Thumb
The Cave Route   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, Alpine, 4 pitches, 360'   La Cueva Canyon, Upper : The Pulpit
Estrellita   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, Alpine, 1 pitch, 110'   La Cueva Canyon, Upper : Estrellita
Miss Piggy   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, Alpine, 2 pitches, 220'   La Cueva Canyon, Upper : Hole in the Wall
The Second Coming   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, Alpine, 4 pitches   Chimney Canyon : Muralla Grande
Crackula   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, Alpine, 2 pitches, 180'   Echo Canyon : Techweeny Buttress
Southwest Ridge   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13     Trad, Alpine, 10 pitches, 1300'   Juan Tabo Canyon : The Needle
Warpy Moople   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a R     Trad, Alpine, 7 pitches, 800'   Chimney Canyon : Muralla Grande
Aviary Ort Overhangs   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, Alpine, 3 pitches   La Cueva Canyon, Upper : The Thumb
Bush Shark Spire   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, Alpine, 2 pitches, 200'   Echo Canyon : Bush Shark Area
Excitable Boys   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Trad, Alpine, 7 pitches, 700'   Chimney Canyon : Muralla Grande
Yucca Flower Tower   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, Alpine, 3 pitches   Echo Canyon : Yucca Flower Tower
Mountain Momma   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Trad, Alpine, 6 pitches   La Cueva Canyon, Upper : Torreon
Great Escape   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Trad, Alpine, 1 pitch, 100'   Echo Canyon : Yucca Flower Tower
Rawhide   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Trad, Alpine, 2 pitches, 300'   Echo Canyon : Yucca Flower Tower
Skinwalker   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, Alpine, 1 pitch, 140'   Chimney Canyon : Clandestine Wall
Little Yellow Jacket   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, Alpine, 5 pitches, 580'   Chimney Canyon : Muralla Grande
License and a Visa   5.11b/c 6c+ 23 VIII- 24 E4 6a PG13     Sport, Alpine, 4 pitches, 400'   Pino Wall & Jawbone : Pino Wall
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Sandia Mountains

Featured Route For Sandia Mountains
Rock Climbing Photo: approximate route. Yucca Flower Tower can be seen ...

Bush Shark Spire 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a  New Mexico : Sandia Mountains : ... : Bush Shark Area
Like the Candle in Chimney Canyon, this route leads to one of the few spire summits in the Sandias. An interesting route with a good hand crack on P1, the second pitch contains the routes crux which occurs right off the belay. The climb ends at a bolted anchor just short of the spires summit. A short section of class 3 scrambling can be done to top out on the summit. P1: (90’) Starts at the spire’s west face, underneath a large roof. Follow a good hand crack broken up with intermittent le...[more]   Browse More Classics in New Mexico

Photos of Sandia Mountains Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Tyrolean traverse "Cake and the Candle"
Tyrolean traverse "Cake and the Candle"
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking out to Albuquerque from The Sandias on a b...
Looking out to Albuquerque from The Sandias on a b...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Needle in clearing late afternoon storm- The 1...
The Needle in clearing late afternoon storm- The 1...
Rock Climbing Photo: Sunset in the Sandias
Sunset in the Sandias
Rock Climbing Photo: The rarely formed 3-Gun Falls on South Sandia Peak...
The rarely formed 3-Gun Falls on South Sandia Peak...
Rock Climbing Photo: Sandia ice? South Peak Smear, one of two known sit...
BETA PHOTO: Sandia ice? South Peak Smear, one of two known sit...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Castle formation north of Muralla Grande
The Castle formation north of Muralla Grande
Rock Climbing Photo: Sandia Mountains from the Foothills.
Sandia Mountains from the Foothills.
Rock Climbing Photo: Old La Luz trail after a storm
Old La Luz trail after a storm
Rock Climbing Photo: The Sentinel and The Thumb, taken just before drop...
The Sentinel and The Thumb, taken just before drop...
Rock Climbing Photo: Upper La Cueva Canyon on 28 April 2007
BETA PHOTO: Upper La Cueva Canyon on 28 April 2007

Comments on Sandia Mountains Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 6, 2017
By George Perkins
From: The Dungeon, NM
22 hours ago
The approaches to various formations in the northern Sandias that used the North Crest Trail are closed, in the aftermath of the North Crest Fire.

This likely affects Pinnacle Valley, the Needle, the Shield (from the top, though all but the Knife Edge are currently closed anyway); and the normal way of approaching Muralla Grande and Clandestine Wall may be affected (alternative routes from the big parking lot might also be reasonable to get to these last two). See map in linked order:
By Karl Kiser
Apr 29, 2006
One might want to check out the download from Sharp End Publishing. It shows the introduction to Mick Schein's "Sandia Rock" (2003)
By James Garrett
Jan 28, 2007
I just recently got a copy of the Jackon Guide to New Mexico Climbing. I have climbed Tooth Or Consequences in the Organs (really enjoyed it!), but I am embarrassed to say I have never been to the Sandias...they look amazing. Long Adventure routes on quality rock and generally well protected with year round access and weather...or is that a neophyte's misconception? I'd love to go there, but first get the skinny from locals. It seems odd that NM doesn't seem to get the publicity that Utah or Colorado climbs do for "intermountain west", but, anyway.... are the bolts on the long routes being replaced by new and improved 21st century quality beef? Specifically, I am keen to do some of the long routes on the Shield.
By Monomaniac
From: Morrison, CO
Jan 30, 2007
"quality rock and generally well protected "

That's hilarious! You made my day!
By Monomaniac
From: Morrison, CO
Apr 19, 2007
Anyone made the journey to the Windward Wall? looks sweet in the guidebook, but perhaps a bit difficult to find.

How about the Watchtower?
By Chuck McQuade
From: Golden, CO
Apr 20, 2007
The approach for science friction/windward walls aren't too bad. Approach via the crest, from the La Luz junction (Echo canyon meets upper La Cueva canyon) hike/scramble west sticking to the ridge line. There is a rap station (somewhat hidden) facing SW. Thus these crags get pretty good sun-exposure. If you pass the rap station no worries you cant continue too much further the line ends. The first rap gets you to the base of the upper tier crag. A second station after a scramble north gets you to the base of the lower tier.
By Steven VanSickle
From: Ouray, Co
Oct 8, 2007
What does a Sandia rack consist of?
By Anthony Stout
From: Albuquerque, NM
Oct 8, 2007
My standard rack for anything in the Sandia's typically consists of doubles (camalots) from 0.3 to #2 with one #3, a few smaller cams (C3s), a full set of nuts, and 10 slings. Slings are important because so many routes wander, though you could probably get away with less than ten on most routes with some quick draws (I don't have to extend all of them but I do end up slinging most of my pieces). If the route description ever recommends bringing any pieces larger, I typically do.

Hope that is helpful.
By Steven VanSickle
From: Ouray, Co
Dec 4, 2007
Does anyone have beta for a supposed tyrolean traverse. Between the cake and the candle?
By Charles Vernon
From: Tucson, AZ
Feb 22, 2008
Can anyone comment on a) current snow conditions and b) the temperatures to expect up on the rocks, if Albuquerque is forecast for low 60s and sunny (as later next week)? Specific routes I am considering are the Thumb and Needle ridge climbs, and Procrastination on the Shield. Thanks!
By Monomaniac
From: Morrison, CO
Feb 22, 2008
I haven't been up there this season, but I can see a lot of snow up there from my house. In fact, we got another ~1/2 an inch Wednesday night (at my house). I would guess the approach to any of those 3 routes would be pretty heinous, but the rock would be relatively snow free.
By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
Aug 13, 2008
An older but enjoyable read about the Sandias by local climber Josh Smith is online at Climbing
By Steven VanSickle
From: Ouray, Co
Oct 24, 2008
Does anyone know of any chimney pitches?
By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
Oct 24, 2008
The only thing I've been on in the Sandias that is close is P6 on Excitable Boys and it really isn't much at all. Long way to go for it. Granted, I haven't climbed much in the Sandias and generally avoid OW and chimneys.
If you're looking for some serious grunting in Northern NM, Airbus would likely be right up your alley. :-)
By Steven VanSickle
From: Ouray, Co
Oct 26, 2008
Mike Roybal... what do you think the aid on the south face of the chimney goes at? I hiked up to the base and thought it looked really really thin. Any idea? Also does anyone know what the brand new bolt about a pitch up the west face of the chimney is for, tried to lead past it but it was caked in lichen.
By John Kear
From: Albuquerque, NM
Nov 4, 2008
In answer to Steve's inquiry about the new bolt on the west face of the Chimney; The route is called Smoke on the Horizon II 5.11b. I climbed the route for the first time in 02 or 03 without the bolt and didn't climb it clean then. I went back with Allen Aiken in the summer of 04 and put in the bolt and tried to clean the route up a little but it struck me as too scruffy to become something many people would want to do, but it has been freed cleanly. I never got around to telling many people about it or posting it. If some one put in some anchors at the summit and rapped in and cleaned the line it would turn out to be a decent 2-3 pitch route on the Chimney. I just haven't gotten back to it as yet.
By Clark Gray
Dec 9, 2008
Steve; As for the South face of the chimney the aid consisted of RURPS, tied off knife blades an very small wired chocks and the old copper mashies. above the overhang it goes all free (A3, A4)

As for chimney routes hoys Chimney on the west side of the needle is about the longest chimney route in the Sandias. It ends up on the Southwest ridge right before you get to the fifth avenue level. It's not very hard but pretty fun.
By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
May 8, 2013
FYI, Mick Shein's Sandia Rock guidebook has been updated with a 2013 edition.
By kboofis
Feb 28, 2014
Anyone know what the conditions are like right now? Weather looks good for next week and kind of want to make the trip down.
By Matt Contreras
Mar 16, 2015
I would like to add something to complement the approach 'overview' given. Specifically the part that reads: "It's not difficult to get lost in this area".

While I wholeheartedly agree that it is indeed hard to find ones way to particular walls and objectives (especially once within tree cover in higher elevations). It is 100% absolutely completely and utterly impossible to become truly lost on the west side of the Sandias. I mean lost in the sense of "which direction is my car?" or "where is civilization?". Its possible to lose your way to the trail or become cliffed out (at higher elevations) but youll always have an idea of the 'big picture' regarding navigation.

On another note, I love this area. I spent my entire childhood boulder hopping and scrambling around the lowlands and spent many days in my teen years on the bigger objectives at higher elevations. The knife edge, pulpit, and the needle are not to be missed.
By Gary Lee Hicks
Jun 14, 2015
To CHIEF Clark Grey... I'm responding about your 2008 comment of "Hoy's Chimney"; I believe there are a couple of others!!!
I have soloed the West Face of the Needle way back in the 1970-s and found "Hoy's Chimney" to be a nightmare of loose rubble :op
Since then, yours and my friends have put up a few good chimney routes such as "Smorgasborg" (sp?) on the Shield and "ChockStone Chimney" on Hail Peak. They may not be considered as 'long' , but the quality of the rock and the climbs themselves are much better than HOY'S Chimney. I can still remember my solo descent down that "gully" ; and Jim Fuge's and my rappels during a lighting storm after an overnight ascent of the SW Ridge ( w Lighting! ).
Thank God for those little trees :o)
Good to hear from you my Dear Friend,,, even if I'm a bit late finding all of you in this cyber world :op
By Steve.B
From: Las Vegas, NV
Aug 26, 2015
Looking for some guidance, wondering what the bolting policy is in the Sandias. I know you can't use motorized drills and can't seem to find any guidance on new bolds in the Sandias. Short of getting an answer here I'll have to call the rangers but my work schedule doesn't always allow.
Many thanks, Steve
By Mick S
From: Utah
Aug 27, 2015
Like Jeremy said, please do not call the Forest Service.

New Mexico Climber’s Resource and Advocacy Group (NM CRAG) Route Development Guidelines

NM CRAG advocates and encourages climbers to abide by the following fixed anchor guidelines when establishing new routes in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness:

NM CRAG acknowledges and supports the existing laws that ban the use of motorized drills in Wilderness.

Minimize your impact by staying on existing trails when possible; do not build new trails without Forest Service approval.

New climbing routes requiring fixed anchors should be evaluated based on:

Rock quality, aesthetic position, environmental impact, natural terrain features, potential appeal to present and future climbers, the effect on other user groups, and the number of existing routes in the vicinity.

Ask yourself and others if your potential route is a worthy addition to the area before adding fixed anchors.

New routes requiring fixed anchors should not crowd existing climbs. Fixed anchors should not be used when reliable options for removable protection exist.

Fixed protection may be appropriate to prevent the risk of ground fall, hitting dangerous obstacles or factor two falls. Climbers should bear the responsibility for determining when to place safety anchors and how to use these tools.

Fixed anchors may be appropriate when used for rappel stations to reduce excessive trails and damage to fragile cliff-top environments. All fixed protection should be camouflaged to blend in with natural terrain.

Bolt intensive climbs are not appropriate in Wilderness. Sections of fixed protection may be required to link natural features containing possibilities for protection with removable gear.
By Jordan Wood
Jan 12, 2016
I am looking for some general guidance on approach times. Would someone mind giving an approximate approach time to some of the formations or routes to give me a ballpark figure on planning? Also, what are conditions generally like in early april? Thanks!
By George Perkins
From: The Dungeon, NM
Jan 13, 2016
RE: approach times in the Sandias.
Approaches are usually 30 min- 1hr, if you don't get lost. (Except for the Needle and the Shield- those are more like 1.5hrs- 2 hrs, if you don't get lost.)
Early April is typically a bit early in the season. (edit 4/2016) But this year, it ought to be ok, I've climbed in the Sandias a couple of times already this year.
By Courter
Jun 6, 2017
Found climbing shoes on side of Tramway just west of Forest Road 333 turnoff. Guessing someone was climbing up in lower La Cueva?? Turned onto Tramway and shoes slid off of bumper?? Send a text to 505-249-0170 with size and kind of shoe if they are yours and will happily return.

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