A home in the Sandia Mountains | Team Mammut

Monday, October 11, 2010

A home in the Sandia Mountains

Sandia Mountains, New Mexico October 1 & 2, 20

I’ve been at home here in NM since late August. Being home follows a great summer season in the Alps as always but it’s so good to be home and climbing in my favorite backyard range, the Sandia Mountains. September and October are almost always the best months to be climbing here. The temperatures are perfect; the weather is clear, crisp and so blue. Combine this with the changing colors of the fall and the mountains here become magical.

Many times I’ve missed this magical time at home due to work in other parts of the country but this season I’ve aligned the stars to keep me at home for work and play. This little backyard playground that helped shape me as a climber continues to yield great adventures and new routes that to me are some of the best in the world.

On October 1st I was able to get out with one of our local guides who had just spent his first season guiding on Rainier. Like me he’s enamored with the Sandias and was keen to get out. We went to an area that I’ve been actively developing called “The Secret Garden”, which has 20 or so new routes ranging from 5.7 to 5.11. On this day I was keen to head up into unknown terrain on a beautiful headwall I had seen from another formation earlier in the summer. To get to the headwall we climbed a 5.11a route called Pocket Cougar, which my lovely wife Carolyn Parker and I had done the first ascent on earlier in the summer. From the belay at the top of this pitch I cast off on to the headwall of seemingly unbroken granite. I new the crux of this pitch was going to be finding pro. From afar I was optimistic that what looked to be horizontal seams every 10ft or so would yield some type of protection. As I climbed up on thin crimps and knobs I was pleased to find solid but small pro in the horizontals every 1-3 body lengths. This went on until the last 8 to 10 meters, which turned blank both for pro and for positive holds. I tickled in a 000 C3 in the last horizontal and headed up for what looked to be good holds. Sometimes all you need are some good holds for protection. From the last good holds I only had a couple body lengths to the top. I looked down at the tiny cam now 20ft below me and figured falling wasn’t an option. I took a moment to find my inner butterfly and carefully floated the final friction moves to the top. I called the new 5.11 pitch Rawdawgin’ due to the unprotected nature of the last section of climbing.

I got to get out again the next day to make the first free ascent of a new route we had been working on. The new route is an extension of a forgotten classic called The Sorcerer’s Apprentice III 5.11a. Our new line would continue directly up for 2-3 more pitches of steep and clean face climbing to the top of the Sandia’s steepest tower, Torreon. I joined up with Mick Shein, an old friend and local guidebook author for the ascent. The first three pitches went well as we had already climbed these pitches on previous attempts. The final headwall was the only question mark. I had been out the week before on a solo mission to clean and establish the line, where I placed four protection bolts on an otherwise unprotect-able section of thin face climbing. The pitch starts with a fun 3-4ft roof. This gets you on to the headwall where a shallow seam splits the wall for 50ft or so. I was keen to send this pitch so Mick let me have the lead. The roof went easily so now all I had to do was not fall off the sustained thin seam above. I began pasting and lie backing my way up the seam. A few desperate moves on small slopers with no feet is the real crux and some how I manage to stay on. The rest of the pitch backs off a bit and leads more easily to the summit. The new route we named The Sorcerer (III 5.12b) since just like in Goethe’s Poem the master Sorcerer has to come in and save the day after the apprentice let’s thing get out of hand.

Mammut toys used:

Neon Pro Pack

70m 9.8 Tusk Rope

60m 9.5 Infinity Rope

8 Moses Express Set

4 Element Express Set

Bionic Mytholito Biners

Cotopaxi Zip Pull

Mica T-Shirt

Boulder Pants

Pro Rock Shoe

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