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Mike Edmonds on our 4th pitch.
The impressive and long North face of Sugarloaf attracts climbers like no other formation in the Organs. This route makes the most of the long continuous North face, climbing anywhere from 9-13 pitches to reach the summit (depending on how well you run-out your rope, and whether you know where the good belays are). Trying to describe each pitch in details not really in the spirit of the climb, as there are as many variations as pitches on this climb. Some key landmarks to keep you on route though are key, as getting off-route on these hard-to-protect slabs can spell some bad situations.
The start is at the very base of the north slab apron. An easy pitch takes you up to the highest pine tree on this slab (1 rope length). From this pine tree, head straight up the slabs keeping an eye out for a 2-bolt anchor. Left of the anchor is a shallow bush-filled corner with another anchor at its top. Another pitch up from this gains a nice ledge beneath a clean right-facing corner (there is another 2-bolt anchor below this ledge and off to the west more). A few pitches up from this ledge gains a 5'-wide dike (more like a band of different colored rock which runs up the slabs.) Follow this rock-band for a pitch, then head towards a small roof/overlap slightly to the east, by following the giant chicken-heads. A full rope length past this and you're at the top.
Route finding is key.
The approach trail is in pretty good shape. The last 300m are hard to follow as the trail becomes a "climbers-trail", but when you get that close you can simply head to the lowest point on the north slabs. The descent requires an exposed traverse down the south spur of the summit. It's 4th class but quite exposed and you won't see the 2-bolt anchor until you are almost at the end of the spur. A double-rope rappel reaches the ground, but an intermediate rap-station consisting of 3 fixed wires and an ugly rat's-nest of webbing will allow you to reach a saddle in two rappels. From the saddle, scramble down to the west where another short rappel from a 2-bolt anchor gets you to the ground. Follow the base of the cliff all the way back to start of the climb and regain the climber's-trail for the return.
A small alpine rack consisting of wires and a few cams (.5-2")is all that is really needed. Small wires especially useful for finding that tiny placement in seams. A few more pieces won't hurt, but on many of the pitches you won't be placing much pro anyways. Expect 40'-60' run-outs, or more if you get off-route. Long runners and smart rope-management are a must.
North Face 5.7 IV
Dave and I on Sugarloafs summit
Somewhere high on the North Face route (around pit...
Bob A. as the sun rises near the end of our full m...
Sunrise behind me during our full moon climb of Su...
Summit shot after our full moon climb, Sept. 5-6, ...
Sugarloaf as seen during our approach for our full...
BETA PHOTO: Approximate line of approach up Sugarloaf North Fa...
Looking up at our 5th pitch. We went right, prote...
Your only pro for about 20m of runout on slab clim...
|By ben bryan|
Jan 4, 2007
Awesome route... the hike in took several hours.
|By Steven Traylor|
May 22, 2007
Did this route with a guy from VA Tech named Chris who I had never climbed with before or since we did this route we had a major epic getting up and down this rte on a spring break.
I remember hearing stuff exploding over at White Sands and looking at the beautiful sands off to the east.
|By James Stockton|
From: Las Cruces, NM
Dec 6, 2007
Starting from the large parking lot at Aguirre Springs Rec. area the hike in is ~2 miles with general uphill grade. I did it as a trail run a couple of months ago in ~45min out and ~25 min back (with breaks), but lugging gear in puts a reasonable time at about an hour and a half (going in) assuming you know the way.
I don't really know this for certain, but I assume the longer approach times come from cutting off the trail too low. You have to eventually turn left off the trail and cut up/over to the base of the climb, but the closer you are to the same level the easier and faster it is. There's a big cairn at a good turn off point. The last time I saw it there was a large yucca stalk sticking out of the center as well.
For the decent you can follow the rock back around to the base of climb if you left anything there (don't) or just stay in the drainage until you hit a trail (you will). It's the same trail you came in on, just further along from the cut off you should have taken.
Four hours is probably a decent estimate for total time spent going in and out.
It's definitely an awesome climb and well worth the full day it takes. Also, Lowell, great route photo. It's a good addition.
|By Josh Hamling|
Mar 1, 2009
rating: 5.6 R
I climbed it yesterday and stayed right and out of the gully all the way up. My version of pitch three was tricky and harder than 5.6 with a couple of manky old 1/4" bolts and some serious runout but the rock was great. This was the 4th time I've been up the route and staying right made it the best yet.
From: san antonio tx
Mar 23, 2010
rating: 5.6 R
its advised to stay on the trail to this one or it will turn out to be about a 3-4 hour hike
|By Dan Carter|
From: 1986 Spacecruiser in Space
Oct 18, 2010
rating: 5.7+ R
I did the sugarloaf for the first time over the weekend. Great, exciting route. I definitely hit some spots that were harder than 5.6. I think a leader who was at their limit at 5.6 would be quite shocked while on this route. The way we did pitch 5 presented 5.9 esque slab moves. We followed aaron hobsons beta more or less. We went just to the right of the overhang, into a thin crack for a tcu and on into the dihedral crack. A few other spots felt a little dicey too. However, we managed to keep our runouts to only 30-40 feet and finished up in 9 pitches. It is quite a committing route.
There were new anchors at picth 9 (big bivi) and pitch 10. Most of the other anchors had atleast one retro bolt. We stayed straight, instead of vearing to the left, at the top and climbed through good chickenheads, lichen and a dirty crack to the small boulder field at the top. This worked out really well but didn't appear to be a popular way hence the dirtiness.
Some bigger cams, up to BD#3, were nice to set up anchors and place along the way. TCUs and micro nuts were very useful.
|By Craig Childre|
From: Lubbock, Texas
Nov 11, 2010
rating: 5.6 R
What a great route. I recommend scouting the approach and stashing gear the day before. I swapped leads with my partner Toph all the way up this fantastic line, dragging Josh as our 3rd. I was even, and somehow got all the head-game pitches. The run out on the 2nd was cool. We stretched the ropes so I was handed the lead of the 5th (our 4th), where I dropped the topo booklet. We made it to the big bivy spot and then worked right seeking the steeper line. Our 10th pitch, I viewed as the crux, steepest line with decent gear, felt like a solid 5.7. I am pretty sure we got off line past the bivy. The descent, the new double rope rap route seems great so long as you do it right. Single rope rap down the front to a descent stance above big split ledge. (Don't rap past it, no anchor below) Then a double rope rap will land you at the bottom of the slab rap. We were on 70's, but I think 60's should work..50's???? I don't think so.
We also had a pretty heavy rack. Next time we will take the set of small aliens, the C-3's, C4's: .5 .75 , yellow and red link cams.
|By Benjamin Smith|
Jan 21, 2011
I was going to post a pitch by pitch description of how we climbed this route, but now I understand why doing so wouldn't be in the "spirit" of the climb. The real adventure comes from it being such a long route, and often times haven't little confidence that you are on route. It really forces you to be at the top of your route-finding game.
I will say this though. It seems like there were rappable anchors every 200-300 feet for almost the entire route. Most of the time they were even big, shiny, new rap bolts. Finding these every pitch or every other pitch is the best indicator that you're on route.
The pitons/fixed-pins on the route were interesting. I found one on our second pitch, two on our fourth pitch, and one on our 7th pitch. The first three looked "new"... they still had paint on them and no rust whatsoever. The last one (hammered into the 5ft wide band of different colored rock) looked as rusty, old, and barely able to hold a fall (like I'm used to). What's the story on these newer pins?
|By Reed Cundiff|
Nov 28, 2011
I know that iron is now considered passe; however, there are knife-blade placements that are excellent. They sure worked great 46 years ago.
|By Jeff Laina|
From: Southern, New Mexico
Jul 17, 2012
John Hymer from Alamogordo Soloed this Route in 2 hours and 45 minutes, car to car.
|By Chris Miller|
Aug 8, 2012
For reals??? If so, that's impressive!
|By Jeff Laina|
From: Southern, New Mexico
Aug 9, 2012
I read this in "Rock Climbing New Mexico" Guidebook Author Dennis R. Jackson published 2006.
|By Kirk Hutchinson|
Sep 24, 2012
Did this route over the weekend. Ended up simul climbing all but 2 pitches in 2h20m. Great route and super fun. The runouts weren't very scary although there were some 50' sections. The approach in wasn't too bad, but on the decent we followed the wash and had a hard time picking the trail back up.
|By Marta Reece|
From: Las Cruces, NM
Oct 15, 2012
If you are into adventure climbing and wish to route-find for yourself, skip this post. If you feel that all climbers should do their own route finding in a sea of granite where protection is sparse and may be nonexistent, you will disagree with this post. I have had my scariest climb ever off route on Sugarloaf and believe that others should have the option of knowing where to go, as things can go very bad very quickly. Therefore this post. Mine is only one out of endless number of possible routes, but I have been up it a number of times and worked it out over time.
Sugarloaf, North Face
Pitch 1 – To a Pine Tree – Go up to the highest pine tree, the tree that looks like it’s a bit too far to the left, but it’s nice and vigorous. It’s a scramble, basically. One possible starting location is at the bottom of the sickle-shaped crack seen in one of the photos.
Pitch 2 – Up Over a Roof – Take the flake above to the roof, protect just under the lip, and mount the roof little to the right of there. The move is not difficult. There is a pair of fixed cams with a sling on them a little bit higher up in a right facing crack. Going up the cracks from there the holds get a bit thin just before a ramp sloping to the left to a pair of bolts. With a 70m rope you can just clip the bolts and keep going up to another pair just below a bulge. With anything shorter, you will want to split Pitch 2 here.
Pitch 3 – Left Tack – This pitch follows a left trending seam. There are sporadic placements in it along the way. It takes you to a shallow draw leading straight up. The pitch is relatively protectable and the climbing is easy. The bolts are above the end of the draw.
Pitch 4 – Right Tack – follows an obvious groove angling right. In parts it is almost a walk. Following the easiest terrain, you will walk down a bit and on level before angling up again. There are two fairly new pitons there, and a nut may be places into left facing corner/ramp little farther on. From here you are faced with running it out through a field of chicken heads. This is best tackled by going up before going right to a left facing corner. The bolts are couple of feet to the right of the top of the corner but may not be easy to see if there is no tat on them.
Pitch 5 – Right Tack Continued – More chicken heads, again run out. The easiest way is to go directly toward the bottom of the left facing corner on the right. A solitary old bolt on top of the lip provides a questionable protection. Climb up onto the more featured terrain to the right and go up about thirty feet before angling right to reach a crack. There is a pair of bolts some ten feet or so to the right of it, and you can stop there. From there you could climb to Bivy Ledge in the next pitch and have another pair of bolts there for you. The disadvantage of doing it this way is that you will climb the crux in Pitch 7 with a considerable rope drag. I like to stretch Pitch 5 to the small, left-leaning tree above the end if the crack. It generally has some slings on it, so I don’t seem to be the only one.
Pitch 6 – Past Bivy Ledge – Continue straight up on top of the chicken heads with just one cam in a crack you cross for pro. But the going is super easy. Alternatively you can go to the right and up a bottom of a right-facing corner making this into a protectable pitch with quite a bit of rope drag. Clip the Bivy Ledge bolts and continue up the dike to the left of them and then up the broken terrain left of the dike. (Or you can continue up the dike, if you feel comfortable there.) On a small ledge angle right to the dike and build a gear anchor in a left facing corner.
Pitch 7 – The Dike – Continue up along the dike. The climbing will get harder here and the angle steeper. (It will stay this steep for the remaining pitches). But it’s not that run out. Unfortunately, the one place where pro can’t be used is just below and through the thin section. There is a piton there with a ring on it. Tying it below the ring is probably safer, but we can hope that one day it will be backed up with a bolt. The pitch ends where the dike starts petering out. The bolts are easy to find.
Pitch 8 – To the Last Bolts – At first the terrain is blocky, and protection is possible. It’s best not to overdo it otherwise the rope drag on a 180-foot pitch will be considerable. Keep going basically straight up aiming for a left-sloping break in the roof up above. You will encounter a field of chicken heads. These are sticking out enough to be tied for protection, but the benefit is questionable as they are attached to a very thin, flaky layer of rock. The bolts at the top of the pitch may be difficult to see as they are to the right of a small right-facing corner and there is a bit of a bulge below them. They are easiest to spot from the right. There is also an old piton off to the right, well below them, that can be used, but it will contribute even more rope drag. The area immediately around the bolts is fairly smooth and will provide some exciting climbing, so splitting this pitch in two may not be the worst idea.
Pitch 9 – The Crux – Here the run-out nature of the climb combines with a steep angle. Go up from the bots to the right facing corner and follow it. There is a spot where an actual rock connection exists between the top layer and the one below and this can be slung. Go up and over onto the top of the corner. Continue up to a large (head size) chicken head with a nice mushroom shape. Sling that and then climb it to get up higher. Another chicken head bit left can also be tied off. Featured but steep terrain will take you to a large right-facing structure, a corner with a “nose” sticking out of it. Protect at the base of this and go up alongside. At this point your protection problems are over. All you need to do is escape upward and follow one of several available cracks up a field of chicken heads to where you can scramble to the summit. Build a gear anchor at a convenient location. A bottom of a right-facing corner is one possibility.
|By Bill Lawry|
From: New Mexico
Oct 19, 2012
I'll admit, sometimes I do worry that there is so much information out there in general that there will be no more "wild places".
At the same time, I ran into some interesting folks in the Sandia Mountains earlier this year. They had hiked up to around 8500 feet without a climbing guide and camped overnight. The next morning they planned to get on just whatever struck their fancy amidst scores of traditional routes without anyone around to lead the way and without prior knowledge. Their plan was to aid and/or bail on gear if needed (and they did).
Thanks for the write up, Marta. My first time up I lost my confidence that I was on route at about the crappy ring piton you mentioned (i.e., "This looks more like an old bail piece than pro for a well-traveled route!"). Instead, we backed down and then veered quite a bit left on enourmous detached blocks picking our way around them and spots of vegetation that had looks of previous compatriots.
Some would say then that I didn't belong on North Face in the first place. Everyone has an opinion.