Author: Larry Earley
Larry Earley and Norbert Ensslin
Palomas Peak located at 8000 ft in the Sandia
Mountains is a nice limestone sport climbing crag. Some information can be
found in Rock Climbing New Mexico and Texas (Falcon Guide). Detailed
information is found in a great online guide (see link from LAM home page).
Around 80 bolted climbs ranging from 5.6 to 5.13 are at Palomas. It is not
good for beginners since the average climbs are hard 11s. There are a couple
of 8s, a few 9s and a few easy 10s. The climbs range from 40-70 feet and face
west. Access is from Placitas up towards the Crest on NM165, partly paved and
partly dirt. Parking is limited. Access is also from the Sandia Peak ski area
downhill on the dirt road a few miles. The hike in is about 30 minutes on a
nice trail with 500 feet elevation gain.
Norbert and I walked all the way to the back of the area
first and started on People Mover (5.6-7). A short climb with three bolts. It
seemed a little tricky and both of us took our time leading. Not a good first
lead. Rock was pretty good but the climb was not great. We stepped a few feet
left and tried Pony Ride (10a). A hard layback start leads to mostly 5.9 moves
to the fourth bolt. The crux is the top. A strange anchor with a very
difficult move to the anchor gets your attention. The last move was 11a. The
anchor has a low bolt and one high bolt. You clip the first anchor bolt and
then try the short well protected move to the second bolt. We didn't make it.
Simply grab the quickdraw and get the second bolt. You have to see it to
believe it. Really. Climb is excellent and clean rock.
We walked a ways back the way we came until we found the
climbs Pussy Whipped (8+) and Tiger by the Tail (9+). They share the first
four bolts. These were interesting and 70 feet tall. Some different kinds of
moves including face, stem, steep jugs and others. These were not just a
walkup. Try them. We both hung at bolt five and thought about some moves
We next went to some great climbs Lonesome Dove (9+) and
Patchwork (10b). Both are 70 feet high. Both have hard starts and some fun
too. Lonesome Dove has a great crux halfway up. You have to make four hard
moves in a row and then run it out a ways to the next bolt. Its only 9+ but
its committing. Go for it. Patchwork is much harder. The surprise is the
finish. Great face climbing. The geology changes three times along the way. We
look over at Chess (10b) and Checkers (10b). These look harder and a little
overhung. Next time. Awesome sport climbs.
We walk back and see a few other climbers. Its a Friday so
its pretty empty. A really perfect day with clear blue sky and nice moderate
temperatures. We spend the whole day and don't rush. Some guys are trad
climing the mediocre cracks. Oh well. We see two others on Green Eggs and Ham
(10c). A bolted dihedral. It is delicate and balancy we are told. It is
quality. Next time. We settle for Floating on Moonbeams (9+). A short average
climb with the crux start. We finish on a classic sandbag Stick to Stucco
(10c/d). I try it first. I stick clip the first bolt. The start is thin and
steep and sharp. Then pull over a bulge at the bolt. I wouldn't lead this one
if you are not a 10+ solid leader with balls. Unless you clip it. The climb
continues sustained 10 to the forth bolt. I find a bail draw. This can't be
good. Did I mention its damn hard to move past bolt three. I hang and
reposition myself to continue. It is now crux time above the bail point. The
next bolt is too far. I go up several moves but can't see a clipping hold or
stance. I bail. Norbert tries the climb. He struggles past bolt one, hangs and
repositions on bolt three and has a plan for the crux. Norbert places three
cams in the short crack and moves up ten feet and hangs. Six more feet to go.
A few slips and a cut on the wrist. Next a foot in the sling aider and he
makes it to the fifth bolt. Norbert says he can't make the anchor. He tries
three times and fails. He lowers left off route to a big crack and runs it out
to the anchors. It is definitely 10+. The guide book says 10c. The latest
online guide is now c/d. From the ground it is a low angle slab. The rock is
so rough a fall will scare you to death.
We walk out and plan to return some day. Maybe we will
bring back a rope gun to try some other hard tens. There are lots of 11s and
12s. We give them a look but we won't even try. There are not many 11a, but a
lot of 11c. We will be happy with the tens. The Mountaineers need to check out
this place. It is quality and very different from White Rock in every way.
Plan on a full day with the drive and walk. It is worth the trip.