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Middle Rabbit Ear
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Church Key T 
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North Face Gullies T 
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Three's the Charm T 
West Face T 

West Face 

YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b

Type:  Trad, 4 pitches, 750'
Consensus:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: Dick Ingraham, Paul Wohlt, and George Goedecke
Page Views: 1,009
Submitted By: Aaron Hobson on Aug 7, 2007

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BETA PHOTO: Upper pitches as seen from midway up North Rabbit ...


You can't help but stare at this route as you approach the Middle Rabbit Ear from Rabbit Ears Canyon. The route follows a nearly direct ascent of the North Side of the West face, folloiwng a path of least resistance up corners, face climbing and slab.

Scramble up to a nice belay ledge about 50 ft above the canyon floor. This is 4th class, and there are multiple good places to belay from. The first pitch aims for a large left facing corner system. A few harder variations can be found getting into the corner, some of which may be poorly protected. Good route-finding sense is required if you want to keep this route in the 5.6 range. Belay at the top of the corner system on a comfortable ledge (~180ft depending on where you start).

The second pitch starts off climbing up and left from the belay ledge, into a good crack system. About half a rope-length up, you will be getting close to another large left-facing corner system. Steer to the left of this system, over some easy slab climbing and past a piton, until you reach a nice belay spot near the NW ridge. (~180 ft)

Pitch three continues trending left to a ledge right on the NW ridge with nice views through the Church-key. Climb up the ridge, past a piton making a tricky traversing move with good exposure. there are several nice ledges to choose from for setting up a belay. (~120 ft)

The last pitch follows any of several paths through blocks and slabs to the summit.


As you go up Rabbit Ears Canyon, eventually there will be a lesser-gully that branches off to the left directly up towards the North and Middle Rabbit ears. Follow an indistinct trail in this gully and next to it on its south side. It leads roughly to the base of the West Face of the Middle Rabbit Ear.


A light rack with plenty of long runners to reduce rope-drag. Aside from the two pitons, no fixed gear/anchors are found on this route.

Southwest Mountaineers Description 

West Face, Class 5.6

One of the true classics of the Organs. Climb up the bottom of the West Face for 100 feet or so unroped to a good belay spot. The route goes up the northern half of the face. Climb up 60 or 70 feet, traverse right on a steep slab, go up a little open book, step far left into a dish foothold and muscle up steep rock with finger holds. Another 30 feet up belay from the top of a pillar. Next go directly up a steep slab behind you will small footholds. Then head left and finally back to the right on easy rock to a great concave place about 1/3 of the way up the face. Now climb up fairly easy rock on the left (rather than going to the cracks at the rear of the hollow) to a stance just below a slight overhang above which is a long, smooth slab. Step up over this using good finger holds and run the rope out. This puts you on the Shoulder, where the West Face runs into the perfect vertical slab of the North Face. The sight from here toward Sierra Blanca, past the vast suspended bulk of the Church Key, is one of the great sights of the Organs. Take to the vertical rock at this corner an dbear up and right, around an airy hand traverse to a belay about 120 feet up. Then bear up for two more pitches, staying left in general to keep it easy, to the top. Everyone likes this climb, but no two people agree on the crux pitch. The route described has been varied in too many minor ways to mention in detail.

Photos of West Face Slideshow Add Photo
West Face Route on Middle Rabbit Ear. Photo Terry ...
BETA PHOTO: West Face Route on Middle Rabbit Ear. Photo Terry ...
The route takes the left side of the two prominent...
BETA PHOTO: The route takes the left side of the two prominent...
West Face route. Photo Bob Cort.
BETA PHOTO: West Face route. Photo Bob Cort.
Lower pitches. Photo Marc Tarnoski.
BETA PHOTO: Lower pitches. Photo Marc Tarnoski.

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By Marta Reece
From: Las Cruces, NM
Oct 17, 2013
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Depending on your level of comfort, you can scramble fairy high up the skirts of the west face, but it likely won’t change the location of Pitch 1 belay.

P1: looking up, locate the obvious buttress. Pitch 1 belay will be on top of it. Notice a horizontal extension to the left of the foot of the buttress. Go up the slabby terrain to the left end of this extension and climb up onto it. Traverse right to the base of the buttress. This is best done away from the bulges above. Climb up onto the corner and then follow it somewhat left on small holds and up again. When there is an opening to the right on steep and fractured rock, take it. This leads to a comfortable ledge with a rap sling around one of the boulders. A better anchor location is in a crack in the bedrock past this.

P2: Looking up and to the left, you will see three green, lichen-covered, boulder-like projections one above the other. The route goes to the right of the first one, left of the second, and right of the third. The crux of the pitch is getting up the slab into the shallow corner leading to the first "boulder." Once past the third one, you will see a tree to your right. You can use it for a Pitch 2 belay. You could go higher into the bowl, but the cracks there tend to be between loose blocks.

P3: Go up the easy draw above you, then follow a pair of parallel cracks on the left to a nice stance at the base of a right-leaning finger crack with some grass in it. Follow that into a blocky terrain above. Go left a bit and up an unprotectable but easy slab (or a corner to the left of it) continuing to the left. Go all the way to where the head wall reaches the north face of Middle Rabbit Ear, with the impressive Church Key clearly visible. There will be a piton chest high in the head wall, with opportunities to back it up.

P4: Start up on the ridge line. After about 20 feet you encounter a piton. With your feet just barely above it, start to traverse right. The traverse is short but awkward, with a good pro placement in a horizontal groove you are following but a bulge to the right making progress difficult. Step up onto the bulge and look left into a well defined corner with some small bushes inside of it. Go up the corner and exist up it's steep right wall. A short scramble up and to the right will take you to a ledge with a couple of largish boulders on it.

P5: Head up the slab to another equally comfy ledge (this one equipped with more cracks, if you'd like to belay from here instead). Go up from the ledge and then sharply left all the way to a right-facing corner. Go up the corner and then a bit right to a nice and shady belay spot.

P6: From the belay either take the crack straight up or traverse right. In either case go up the slabby terrain you find on the other side of this buttress staying to the right of the largish looking head wall above. You will encounter third class terrain there and will scramble past it later with no problem.

Pitches 5 and 6 can be combined if you go up the crack, but should be separated if traversing, to avoid significant rope drag.

P5 variation: For this it is best to end Pitch 4 on the higher ledge, the one within Pitch 5 in the above description. From this ledge, head up the obvious left-facing corner on your right. It is rather thin, but there are both holds and protection opportunities on the right. It is somewhat height dependent and definitely above the 5.7 rating of the climb.
By Victor A
May 19, 2014

Is it possible to do the descent with a single 60m? I did read the MRE description and it says a single double rope will get you done. Just asking in case somebody knows of an alternative.
By Marta Reece
From: Las Cruces, NM
May 22, 2014
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

The original rap line on the south to Normal Route was set up for a single 60m back in the day. However, the intermediate rap station has deteriorated into unusability. Two ropes are required.
By Marta Reece
From: Las Cruces, NM
Jun 18, 2014
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Bail option: If you were to set up your rap anchor at the Pitch 3 belay, two 60m ropes would take you to the ground in a single rappel. All you'd have to do is go down the clean, vertical plane next to Church Key (not down the route). From there you can scramble toward the Middle Rabbit Ear/North Rabbit Ear saddle by going north and up over the top of a bit of a buttress, then down to the saddle, and down the gully and then left to the start of the route.
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