Sarah and I climbed the Northwest Ridge on The Thumb of Sandia Peak. We had the unusual experience of sleeping in our own bed before a day in the mountains. We started at the top of Sandia Crest, joined up with the La Luz trail, and descended to the start of the climb. Here, The Thumb is seen from an overlook along the La Luz trail.
This proved to be a very, very humbling day for us. We left the car at 8:15 A.M. and made quick work of the approach. With little difficulty finding the start of the climb, we were roped up and ready to go an hour later. After just three pitches of roped climbing and several hundred feet of exposed scrambling, we reached the summit of The Thumb at 3:15 P.M. The descent off of the summit to the talus below proved much more difficult than we had expected. We FINALLY arrived back at the car at 5:00 P.M., making for a 9-hour day. Captain Slow!
early morning cloud cover over Albuquerque
Before spending 9-hours on The Thumb alone, we thought maybe we would climb a few pitches on these formations on our way back up to the car. Jason had suggested that we link Estrellita (lower center) with Miss Piggy (center rear). We were horribly mistaken. We just didn't give these routes the respect they deserve. Humble Pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
Andy starting the very first pitch
This pitch caught my attention right off the belay ledge. I've struggled less on a 5.7 than I did on this 5.5. I guess my mental game just wasn't ready for an alpine route like this.
Sarah looking back at me just before she leads up the second pitch
Aside from a few nerving mantle moves, the first pitch was rather straightforward. I'm still now quite sure how, but Sarah ended up leading what was supposed to be the third pitch, which is the crux pitch. Somehow we missed the first pitch altogether. Anyway, this pitch was my favorite of the three. The moves were fun, and the exposure was intense. I guess I'll have to come back to get it on lead.
Sarah got hammered with rope drag while leading the second pitch, so I had plenty of time to snap some photos. Here, a section of the La Luz trail winds its way down the lower portion of La Cueva Canyon.
Sarah making the final few moves at the end of our third pitch
This pitch had many different flavors, including exposure, slabs, and a chimney. I really had to be careful to avoid rope drag. Lots of long slings were necessary.
looking down on Albuquerque from the top of our third pitch
the La Luz trail winding along the canyon floor way below Sarah
From my belay at the top of the third pitch, it looked like the remainder of the climbing involved just some straightforward scrambling. I couldn't have been more wrong. Just beyond the trees in this photo, the ridge continued for another several hundred feet. The exposure was sobering, and it felt like class 5 moves were tossed in along the way. We regretted having packed up the rope at this point.
the remaining ridge to the summit of The Thumb
A few of the steps in the ridge really caught our attention, particularly the lowest step right above the saddle.
Sarah making her way to the summit
a hasty portrait on the summit of The Thumb
Is it me, or does this tower look like Donald Duck?
The descent from the summit required some very tricky route finding. I wish I had spent more time reading the online description. After exploring at least 4 different options off the summit, we finally found the secret ledge which took us safely down to the saddle below. The clouds had been building for quite some time, and we were really getting stressed out. We both breathed a huge sigh of relief when we got back down to the La Luz trail. We sprinted up the trail in the driving rain and deafening thunder, getting back to the car in just 45-min. From high on the La Luz trail, I caught this parting shot of our route.