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Sandia Peak Climbing....Attempt, Albuquerque, NM

Bumper snow year impedes access to climbs approached via the Sandia Crest.

Participants: Michael Altherr and David Rogers

David and I had hoped to do a climb on the Muralla Grande. We left Los Alamos at 07:00 and arrived in the Sandia Crest Parking area around 09:15. The trail along the East side of the Crest North was buried under deep snow. We quickly exited and moved up into the antennae area to approach our climb via the Chimney Trail. We began to descend and quickly ran into deep snow. It was not possible to follow the trail and the entire area from the Crest to the end of the trees (estimated 500-600 feet vertical) is buried under deep (several feet) snow. Similarly, I understand that Eric Ponslet and Luci Parietti had to abandon their attempt on the Sandia Needle because of the large amount of snow on that approach. Undaunted, David and I returned to our vehicle and scanned the guidebook for alternatives. We eyed the map location of a structure called Rat Rock and descended into upper La Cueva canyon on the Crest Spur Trail. There is still a fair amount of snow on this trail but it is less problematic than on the Chimney Trail. We descended to the junction with the La Luz Trail. Undeterred by cold and wet summer hiking shoes we continued to descend into La Cueva canyon to the position on the map where we thought the climb was located.

After an enjoyable Sandia bushwhack, we stopped for lunch thoroughly confused by the lack of correlation between the indicated map position, guide description and our view of the rock around us. After lunch and a period of thrashing about to unsuccessfully orient ourselves, we decided to continue down the snow choked La Luz Trail to a point where we could better see the rock walls around us.

Finally, at a position above an appropriately (one of the few) descriptively named feature, The Fin, we were able to orient ourselves. Unfortunately, there was very little time left for any climbing. The structure at the position indicated on the map as Rat Rock that we had oriented to is actually the "Hole in the Wall" area. Consequently, it was not surprising that the route description and our view of the structure did not jive.

We slogged our way back up the snow to the La Luz Trail junction. We thought that we would continue up the La Luz Tr. to the tram station to avoid some of the snow on the Crest Spur Trail. Great idea, Duh! While the La Luz Trail to the tram station was relatively free of snow, the 1.5 mile trek along the Crest to the Parking Area was a thoroughly unenjoyable snow slog. We returned to car at 16:00h having carried our climbing gear for approximately 6.5h and never put on our climbing shoes.

In the near future, anyone considering a climb approached from the Sandia Crest may wish to consider including real boots and gaitors, an ice ax and snow shoes, at least for the next 3-4 weeks. Anyone ever interested in climbing in the Sandia's may do well to take a reconnaissance hike in the area well in advance of pursuing any actual climbing. However, I would recommend that you carry ropes and a full rack for the day as it makes for excellent training.


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