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Middle Rabbit Ear
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Church Key 
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West Face 

West Face 

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

Type:  Trad, 4 pitches, 750'
Consensus:  YDS: 5.8- French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- British: VS 4c [details]
FA: Dick Ingraham, Paul Wohlt, and George Goedecke
Page Views: 774
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 Cowan
BETA PHOTO: West Face Route on Middle Rabbit Ear. Photo Terry ...
The route takes the left side of the two prominent left-facing corner systems.
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- HVS 4c

Depending on your level of comfort, you can scramble fairy high up on the face, but it likely wonít change the location of Pitch 1 belay.

P1: go up a slabby terrain a bit left of the bottom of the first left-facing corner. When you step up onto the slab at the base of it, you will see an inviting open book right in front of you. Donít go there. Not unless unprotectable 5.10, into which it deteriorates higher up, is your cup of tea. Make a move to the right past the obnoxious bulge in your face. Here you can head up a corner with two cracks in it, but even better is to keep going right, it is now considerably easier to do, and reach the very bottom of the corner. The climb up there is easy. Continue up the corner. When there is an opening to the right, take it. It will lead you to the top of the pillar the corner had been on the side of, and a comfortable belay. There is a rap sling around one of the boulders there, but a better anchor is in a crack in the bedrock past that.

P2: Take to the slab leading somewhat left and up a right facing corner, right of a broken looking rock. Head left on top of the rock under a block covered in green lichen. Once past the block, turn sharp right and go up to a tree. You could go higher into the bowl, but the cracks there tend to be between loose blocks.

P3: Go up the draw above you. Itís easy at first. When it starts looking like a challenge, there will be a cluster of parallel cracks leading at a slant up the left slab. Near the edge of the slab is a long finger crack. Follow that into blocky terrain above. Stay below the headwall and continue left all the way to where it reaches the north face of Middle Rabbit Ear, with its impressive Church Key clearly visible. There will be a piton in the head wall, but you probably wonít use it.

P4: Start up right on the ridge line. After about 20 feet, there will be a tempting ramp to the left. Donít go there, unless you want to aid out of this predicament on a small nut. If you prefer free climbing, go right instead on a traverse which has decent hands but small feet. It is fairy varied and includes a bulge of an overhang above you making for an awkward time. Once a way opens to go up, take it. Eventually youíll drift to the right some again and reach a nice ledge. Itís possible to belay from here, but an even better location is just a step and a short slab up. This ledge is just as comfy and has better cracks in the back of it.

P5: Head up the obvious left-facing corner on your right. It seems thin, and to an extent it is, but there are holds on the right and itís not too bad. If you donít like it, you can head sharply left instead to a right facing, easy, and protectable corner. From there youíll go up over a bit of a bulgy step to an unprotectable but super-easy ledge that leads you back right again. And I suppose there are other ways in between, with less chance of a protection on the wavy slab. In any case, youíll head up from pretty much the same place to the end of technical terrain.