The Gemstone Slabs are located in lower La Cueva Canyon, which is a major canyon that rises steeply from the base of the Sandia Mountains to the summit crest. The Gemstone slabs are an easily accessilbe alternative to anything located in the upper regions of the Sandia Mountains.
The Gemstone Slabs are divided into two areas, the East and West Slabs.
Gemstone Slab West
This is the first area you come across on the approach up La Cueva Canyon, it is characterized by large, left facing dihedrals that can linked in multiple routes. Descent of the these routes is done by scrambling down the west side of the formation, or make a 150' double rope rappel from bolt anchors on the left side of the cliff. Routes are listed right to left while facing the cliff.
Shoots and Ladders (5.9) - 2 Pitches. Start from the base of the left facing dihedral system. P1: Climb the dihedral which becomes increasingly easier as you ascend to a belay stance. P2: Continue left up two cracks to a belay ledge.
The Fin (5.9) - 2 Pitches. P1: Stay to the left side of a large roof. P2: Friction up long slab to ledges near the top.
Flail Out (5.9) - Climb the large crack right of Gemstone.
Gemstone (5.9-) - 2 Pitches. P1: Layback up a low angle chimney then move left and climb a left facing corner to a good ledge. P2: Start on the right side of the ridge climbing a crack then moving left and finishing on easy rock to the anchors at the top.
Seamingly Hard (5.10b) - 2 Pitches. P1: Climb the slab just left of Gemstone and belay at the same anchor. P2: Follow the slab left of Gemstone's second pitch and then coming back to join the second pitch of Gemstone to end at the same spot.
Page authors note: Seamingly hard has three bolts up to the shared belay. Also there is another bolted route to the left of the Seamingly Hard that continues up and over the shared anchors of Seamingly Hard and Gemstone.
Gemstone Slab East
Slab East is characterized by a large pine tree at the base of the slab.
Opal (5.7) - 3 Pitches. P1: Stay below and left of a prominent roof to a 2 bolt belay on a small ledge. P2: Climb right past some loose flakes to a 2 bolt belay below a small roof. P3: Turn the roof on the right, then run it out on some easy climbing to the shared anchors of Sapphire and Emerald City.
Sapphire (5.9+) - 2 Pitches. P1: Climb first pitch of Opal. P2: Downclimb until you can traverse right to a left-facing dihedral. Good jams lead up the dihedral to the crux thin crack. Clip the single bolt on the slab above and then it's a runout to the anchors.
Emerald City (5.9+) - 2 Pitches. P1: Climb up a left-facing corner to another slabby section. Friction to a 2 bolt belay. P2: Go up a left-facing corner to a thin crack. Belay and descend from 2 bolt anchor.
Revenge of the Elderly (5.7) - 4 Pitches. P1: Climb past bolts on a water streaked slab to a tree belay. P2: Climb a left facing corner ending at a cavelike formation and belay. P3 Exit from rear of cave formation climb up right to an alcove. P4: Friction up a face to a left facing corner to a slab. Follow twin cracks traversing right to the anchors for Emmerald City.
Take I-25 North to Tramway Road (NM 556). Take Tramway Road (NM 556) East. Continue for several miles until you see signs for Forest Road 333. FR 333 will be on the left (north) side of Tramway Road (NM 556). Directly after the pay station make a right at the sign "La Cueva CG". Follow this road until you reach the parking area for La Cueva Campground. Park here and head east out of the parking lot on the well worn trail. After several hundred feet you will come across Tramway trail. Go left (north) here for several hundred more feet until you come across a well worn trail heading east up La Cueva Canyon. The trail is well worn, but often becomes braided and goes up and over rocks with no visible trail. Continue East, and follow this trail until you come across a very disctinct rock. This rock consists of a small square rock with a much larger rock balancing on top forming a natural shelter that one must go under to continue on the trail, great place to wait out a storm or grab a quick bit to eat in the shade. From here make your way southeast to the base of the slabs.