Friday, October 3, 2008

Sugarloaf: Flea Tree Dihedral

Sugarloaf has a special appeal to Las Cruces climbers, it's uninterrupted North face stands out from all the jagged Organ peaks. Once again I found myself heading back to Sugarloaf to roam the expansive slabs. This time, with a fellow co-worker and OMTRS member, Ross Allen. Ross is at WSTF as part of an internship with NASA. I hadn't met him until an OMTRS event for some reason. Once I realized we'd both have the same off fridays, I invited him climbing. He was gung-ho about doing Sugarloaf, even though he's never climbed trad, and never done multi-pitch. I figure, he's frsh tuna I can exploit to do some new routes. So off we go.

I end up picking the Flea Tree Dihedral because it is shorter (only 6 pitches) and has easier route finding. That pretty much sums up the climbing on this route as compared to the other routes on Sugarloaf. To make things a little more interesting, I only brought five cams and relied on wires and tri-cams for most of the routes protection. This saved a lot of weight, and I rarely missed having the cams. I'd say that for most "moderate" Organ mountains routes, a light rack will suffice.

Route Description
P1: 60m of 4th and easy 5th class scrambling. I ended up belaying in a corner above a tattered poot sling which was cleverly threaded through a hole in a granite shelf. Easier scrambling looks possible more the the west where a broad ledge sports a couple trees.
P2: Another 60m of low fifth class climbing put me 15 ft below a two bolt anchor. Above the anchor is a sloping ledge and then the crux head-wall.
P3: At the far right end of the sloping ledge is a vertical head-wall. Hand cracks and good holds surmount the headwall (5.7) and an additional 60ft of 5.7 climbing gains a spacious alcove for a belay spot. To the left of the initial 5.7 crack is a very clean and appealing finger crack which slices up a smooth and steep slab. I'll ahve to look into this harder variation another day.
P4: Continue up the brush filled corner system with easier climbing. Off to the left, the steep face looks like it could offer a more challenging variation. A full 60 meters put me 25 ft short of the "Flea Tree" on a nice ledge.
P5: A few slabby 5.6 moves are required and then climb past the flea-tree to a final headwall. We climbed the head-wall direct, which felt 5.8 and was fairly exiting on lead as the pro is at the bottom of the headwall (which is 5 ft high). An easier exit to the right exists.
P6: 4th class to the top (only about 30 m). You end up on the summit close to the descent ridge.

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