Larry Earley and Dave Barlow
Saturday morning August 24
and its a perfect day in Northern New Mexico. Anyone climbing back east just eat
your heart out. There is not a cloud in the sky and the visibility is just a
little hazey and I would guess the visibility at just over 50 miles. The
climbing at Eagle Canyon is above 7000 feet with 75 foot tall pine trees and
no one in site. The climbs face north but there is little sun till 11am.
Belays are in the shade. Full shade after 1pm. This area is a little off the main
track and I like it that way. There are 28 climbs here and most are bolted sport
climbs on less than vertical faces. The area is known for super thin climbing
with pockets. There are more awesome two finger pockets here than anywhere else.
There is one 5.9 and four 5.10s. Most of the climbs are 5.11 with
several 5.12s. This is my third trip here. The climbs were established around
1990. Its only an hour from either Albuquerque or Santa Fe. Full descriptions
can be found in "Rock Climbing New Mexico and Texas" (Falcon Guide) or in an old out
of print book "Sport Climbing New Mexico" by Randal Jett and Matt Samet.
Dave and I reach the
parking area at 8:30am. We have kids so we want to get an early start to get home
early. It's a 15 minute walk from the car to the climbs. The car is out in the
New Mexico sun but a miracle happens as you walk to the cliff. After you enter
Eagle Canyon you change ecosystems and enter a wonderful canyon with great trees
We first start on Maalox
Moment (11a). I have looked at it before, but this is my first time on it. Dave
leads and finds a little crux at the second to third bolt. It must be hard. He
calmly figures the moves and works his way to the top. Its about 80 feet to the
anchor. Now its my turn. I am a very accurate route rating meter for face
climbs. As I approach the 11a crux I feel myself coming off. Its definitely 11a.
I take and get a little tension. Now I am climbing good for me. Its like 10c the
rest of the way. This was a great climb. Mostly two finger pockets and almost no
feet. But since its less than vertical you keep your feet on the small nubbins.
You can't see them but if you use your imagination. Some pockets take a little
toe but not many. Its not really friction climbing either. You can call it slabby but its not really like most slabs. Sorry no cracks. We move on to Turkey
Baster (10c). Its a little less vertical but same pockets (some three finger).
The crux is about three moves after the second bolt and the rest is like 10a/b.
Its very nice too. We pass the only 9 which is Killer Bees. I have done this one
before. It has some lose stuff, the rock quality is not great and its not really
good for moderate leaders since the climb starts on a ledge and if you fall
before the first clip you can go down 30 feet. Good leaders won't think its a
challenge and new leaders will not like the start. Just don't do it. We also
pass by Tutti Frutti (11a). Dave tried this one before on a previous trip and
couldn't make it from the first to second bolt. This one must be a sandbag.
You must hike down and
traverse on a trail to the next section of climbs. We head for Manhattan (10c).
I have lead this one twice before. It was pretty easy except for two moves right
at a bolt. I tell Dave it will be easy for him to lead. He gets up to the 5th
bolt and stops. He calls down and says its hard and "watch me". I'm thinking he
must be tired. He gets to the top and lowers. Now I try on toprope. I cruise to
the fifth bolt and what is this. Two thin flakes are broke off. All thats left
is two little crummy sidepulls. I take and try to figure this out. Well I can't
make it without some good tension. I get through. Well now this climb is 11a.
Dave wants to try a harder climb now. We try Unnamed (11b) next to Manhattan.
Dave knows the lady who put up this route. He says her name is Leslie Coon from
Albuquerque. The bolts are close together so it must be hard. The climb is 85
feet and has 13 bolts. Wow. Its steep but a few degrees less than vertical
except the overhang to the second bolt. Dave leads well and makes it look not
too bad. Ha. He is moving slow and carefully places his feet on nothing. He has
a little trouble up at bolt 10 but finishes clean. He is really good for an old
dad over 40 who climbs a few times a month. If he ever trained three times a
week with a decent partner he would flash 5.13. Now I almost pass on this one
but Dave says try it. He gives a great belay so I try. The overhang feels like
10c but I am weak on overhangs so I need tension and a little power belay. Now I
am standing above the overhang on the last foot hold on the climb and look up 70
feet to the anchors. There are some good two finger pockets but now they a
shallower. Sorry no cracks or edges either. I fight my way up with tension here
and there. When its 10+ I barely stay on and when its 11a I take. I make it up
to the crux and well its looks like 11b the last 15 feet. I try but fail even
with tension. I lower off. But this is a really great climb for somebody who
knows how to climb. This awesome climb has sustained 10+ to 11b face climbing
for 70 feet. Throw in a little overhang at the start and its worth the trip. You
must have great footwork and have strong fingers. Also the start is on a ledge
12 feet off the ground. If you miss the first clip its 25 feet to the deck. This
one is very technical. But some people will say its a slab. Well if you think
you can lead 11b and think slabs are for whimps then just try this one and see
if you know how to use your feet. I can't really call this one a classic because
there are several others nearby which are just as good. There is a good one 100
feet over which can test the best and what a name. Psycho Thriller (11c/d) is
waiting. Its just like Maalox Moment without the pockets. But someone took the
hangers off the bolts. Too bad. We finish on Banana Rama (10c). I have done this
one before. Its nice and the top half is excellent. There is a little lichen at
top but this one is a nice climb too.
As we head out we see two
climbers on the wall and two more walking towards us. Wow its a crowd. Six
climbers at Eagle Canyon for the day.