By Aaron Hobson Administrator From: Las Cruces, NM Dec 7, 2007
It's interesting to see where this topo shows belay 5. I've climbed this route half a dozen, each time with different partners, and we always avoid getting too close to the large overlap that this topo's belay 5 shows. I wonder if this was the original ascent route, and that now most people skip going there, because it involves a sketchy un-protected traverse?
Yes, I like to stick to the traditional line. The sketchy section you speak of is the well known "Friction Pitch" which is the original route mentioned in the Climbers Guide. It's a very simple 5.7R, nothing to really worry about these days. In fact it's super fun. Great rock. This route is also mentioned in the Tony Bird topos that were published in Rock-n-Ice #48. I've gone the other way and don't really like dealing with the veggy cracks and lichen.
When I climbed this route we also didn't go to the overlap shown as belay #5. Instead, I traversed right lower and then went up to a set of bolts in the middle of nowhere (on the next pitch I continued up face climbing with no pro to belay #6 and then up the crack above). For me this was by far the scariest climbing on the route--over a hundred foot runout with absolutely no pro anywhere, with some 5.6/5.7 near the end. It is the one thing that gives me pause at the thought of doing the route again, but if I knew of a less scary way to go in that area, I might do it again (even just a 50 foot runout rather than 100 feet!)
That's the thing with bigwall routes. There's many variations. But we all head for the same summit. However I checked the topo in Rock-n-Ice #48 and it shows the same direction as Ingraham's guidebook which goes like this -
Quotes from: A Climbing Guide to the Organ Mountains -- R. L. Ingraham
"The 5th pitch leads up the gully until one can move out onto the face to the right. You should be in a shallow trough-like structure which turns into a thin ledge. Head up to deep sickle shaped crack and belay from ledges here. Off to your right (west) is a smooth face broken by a vertical rib. You should be more or less even with the bottom of the rib for your belay in the deep crack. You want to traverse right hitting the top of the rib and continuing past it. However, you cannot reach the next belay from the deep crack. You now climb straight up for a short pitch to a small, crumbly ledge, more or less even with the top of the rib on the right. Belay here. The 7th pitch (commonly called the "traverse" or "friction" pitch) leads straight over to the top of the rib. Then head up and right across a long face until you can see another vertical rib with a cruddy crack with bushes along it. Head for the base of this. On top of the rib is a bolt for a belay. This pitch is long (150 feet) and relatively unprotected."
This is the original First ascent: summer 1960; P. Wohlt, J. France. The Guidebook and Rock-n-Ice topo does tell us in detail that the route takes the slab pitch and not the dihedral crack from the mini roof/step with a ledge at its base.
There was four of us and we enjoyed breaking it into a two day ascent. So we went this way to hit the big ledge so we could bivi the night. And we didn't know exactly where the dihedral crack went. But it looked like the way to go with the crack for pro. I'll have to try it.
Although it really doesn't matter to me which way climbers go. I agree with it being a scary runout, but. Once you do it you'll fully understand how classic slab climbing is in the Organs. Like routes on The Tooth or the East Slabs of Sugarloaf. Which have never ending blank slab pitches for climbers with nerves of steel......YIKES :)
I spoke with Dick Ingraham on the phone for a report I wrote back in the mid 1990's and he said;
Quote "Some of the routes might have thin slab sections. But the Organs will always give you a crack or ledge as a reward."
To me. Climbing in the Organs goes hand in hand with being able to climb blank slab.
When I dig up the blown up topo from Rock-n-Ice I'll post it.
By Aaron Hobson Administrator From: Las Cruces, NM Dec 18, 2007
Looking at the route-topo more carefully, I realize I deviate even more. Above and right of the Pitch 5 belay is a large right facing corner. I've always climbed this (as evidenced by the other photo posted for this route). Almost near the top of this corner is a break where you get onto the slab. then 30 feet of slab to a small ledge with pro, and another 30-40 ft to the "Big Bivie" pitch 9 belay. I'll definitely try the other way next time I go out there.
When looking at your action photo it seems like following the crack would be the ideal way. Is it a clean crack (for the Organs)? A small amount of lichen and moss is cool with me, but not too much. It looks real good in the photo. I'd like to try it.
A new question in the discussion: 1) Any info on the line of mysterious double bolt anchors directly up from the top of North Face Pitch 6? We went right of the line depicted on Lowell's map and discovered great anchors at the end of every rope length. It was a really great line that kept the climbing in a nice 5.7 range most of the way to the top.
12/31 I went up to check things out. Knee deep snow all the way to base camp. RE: After the 6th Pitch the rock changes from blank slab to vertical jug holds. You can basically climb anywhere on low grades to the top. Just watch for more loose rock on lines that aren't as popular. Bigwall routes that are usually low grades always have optional detours. I stick to the original line for traditional values and cleaner rock. I am interested in trying the variations though. The Organ Mountain Bigwall Guide is almost finished www.vcrux.com/el_paso_climbing/?page_id=872