Saturday morning we arrived at the Sandia Crest parking lot to clear, breezy, 30 degree weather with 6+ inches of snow on the ground.
We did some mulling around and calculating and decided that we'd be climbing with wet feet in ~30 degree weather in the shade for a few hours before the sun hit us if continued with our plan. We opted to go climb in Lower La Cueva Canyon instead.
In fact, my CR-V might have gotten stuck if I tried to park in the normal parking area at the switchback in the road.
On the approach into Lower La Cueva Canyon we spied a coyote checking us out
It was warm when we started the hike in but was chilly in the north facing stuff where we'd be climbing
Mark was kind enough to hold the boulder up for me so I could squeeze under
Roger and George headed up the two pitch route, Sapphire, 5.9+. The first pitch was dripping wet on the slabs
Mark and I headed up the neighboring route, Revenge of the Elderly, 5.7. The book shows this as four pitches but we climbed it in two without an issue. Here Mark warms his hand on the slab of P1
This is part of the stellar left-facing layback corner on our P1
George sets off on P2, the crux pitch, of Sapphire
Assessing the situation before moving into the thin and run-out slab above
Mark on our P2 of Revenge...
To our right, Bruce Holthouse (of Tres Piedras fame) was climbing Gemstone with his son Harrison. This is Bruce on P1
Rumsey starts up P2 of Sapphire
We all shared the anchor at the top and tied our ropes together to rap down. Two ropes pretty much required to rap down.
Mark and I were a bit chilled and didn't have a second rope to do another route in the Gemstone area so we headed across the drainage to a decent looking slab (center of photo here) with a left-angling crack in it's west face.
The dome was low angle up it's main face that it wouldn't have been fun to climb but the left-angling crack making a semi-horizontal line across the west face looked entertaining. We bushwacked up there to check it out.
I led it and found it fun enough. Definitely not worth a visit on it's own but since we had bushwacked there with a rack and a rope, might as well.
It started out with about 15 feet of unprotected slab climbing (crux) up to an “a-frame” roof where good pro was found. Then fun, nearly horizontal traversing moves left along a finger crack/flake with smears on the slab for feet.
Just when it looks like the crack might peter out, a big flake up on top comes into reach.
A close up view of the crack route we named “On the Lame”, 5.6, named after a climb with of similar horizontal climbing (but much, much better climbing) in Tuolumne called “On the Lamb”.
We had some time left and went to check out the very popular flake route, Flake n' Bake, 5.5. Quality, clean, secure flake climbing. We opted to solo it and boy was it fun! Mark on the 5.5 P1
More super fun flake climbing on the 5.4 second pitch. It took us about 4 minutes to climb the two pitches to the walk off to the east.
Mark makes the final moves on P2