Into the Unknown
Weeds and I had both hiked up past the Rabbit Ears on our way to the top of the Rabbit Ears Massif on previous hikes. The three giants towered over us as we hiked up to the Massif, giving us day-long views of their West sides. We ended up with dozens of pictures of the jagged spires – enough to inspire us return and attempt some true adventure climbing.
Weeds suggested the North Rabbit Ear and so we set to researching route information. Though the Ears are not often climbed these days, we managed to find a few local guides on line. We chose to try Boyer’s Chute Boyer's Chute
a mostly 3rd and 4th class climb with a short 5.4 chimney section. The route information was reasonable considering the limited attention paid to the area. Boyer’s Chute follows a huge gash that starts on the right side of the West face and trends left. Route finding was easy. The only beta needed is, “stay left”.
The hike is was a typical Organ event. We picked our way up the overgrown wash that made for the easiest path up the otherwise trail-less canyon. When we were just below the North Ear, we cut left, out of the wash, and up the nasty, loose, prickly slope. It went quicker than I expected, but I was left with a pound of dirt in each show and hundred scratches on my arms. Again, par for the course in the Organs.
The route began with a wide 3rd class section. We started with our hiking shoes on, but switched to the sticky rubber at the first opportunity. The climbing was easy, but the cactuses and other forms of sharp plants growing out of the chute made some of the easier lines less desirable. So we picked our way up over easy stretches of rock and trail, divided by short steep sections. We noticed several tree-slung rappel anchors that were remarkable fresh and expensive. There were seven in all, and they each consisted of Mammut spectra cord and beefy Black Diamond or Petzel locking ‘bieners; we collected all of them. We estimated there was $200 worth of poot which, while not adequate for general use (never trust poot) would make for some very sturdy bail ‘bieners if ever needed. It did cross our minds that the gear would be just as necessary for us on the way down as it was the previous party, but 1) we were not sure we were going to descend the same route, 2) most of the chute looked like an easy down-climb, and 3) we noticed two fixed rappel stations that the previous party appeared to have skipped…
The crux was a 5.4 chimney with a nice small crack running up one side that made for easy protection. I wiggled up the chimney and out of the chute, then ran the rope out and up the higher brushy section. Two more airy 4th class pitches led to the summit. Just as we walked up, on to the summit Weeds stepped on a Cholla cactus and hopped around for a few minutes with a 6 inch long branch fixed firmly to his climbing shoe. Eventually he managed to safely extract the hazard and joined me at the top.
The coolest thing about the climb was the summit register. While the original one had been replaced in 1969, all the previous entries had been reproduced word for word in the “new” one. The entry for the first ascent read:
North Rabbit Ear,
Harry S. Davis, Betty R. Davis
1109 Lees Drive, Las Cruces, New Mexico
26 November 1954
Started up South Face about 75 yards below the ridge. Traversed to West Side slightly below summit. Used pitons and rope. Weather sunny and windy. Signed Harry S. Davis and Betty R. Davis.
- Finding no previous note, we claim a first ascent
We didn’t count all entries, but it is certainly not an often climbed peak. A bit strange since it’s fairly accessible by Organ standards and easily seen from town. According to the register, ours was the second ascent since 2004.
Down and Out
After peaking over the South side, and not seeing the rappel anchors that were described in one of the guides, we decided to descend Boyer’s Chute. We reinforced some old fixed rappel anchors with webbing of our own and quickly made it to the top of the chimney. There, we inspected an old, peculiar two bolt anchor. What was odd about it was that, while the ¼ inch, SMC bolts looked healthy enough, they were strung with a steel cable that was closed with screw tight swages. On one had it looked over-designed, but on the other had, it’s hard to trust an old, hand tightened swage. Weeds and I mulled it over, then, upon his suggestion, backed the bolts and cable up with a sturdy nut. Weeds (50 lbs heavier than me) went first, and if everything held, I would remove the nut and follow. As soon as he weighted the anchor however, one of the bolt hangers snapped clean off! “Getbackgetback!” I ordered him.
We collected ourselves and inspected the damage. The cable was plenty strong, but it looked like the broken hanger had been split when it was placed. A slightly concave depression behind the hanger caused it to warp as the nut was tightened. The edge that split had been slowly rusting through over the years. So I guess that’s one more thing I’ll check in the future when assessing the viability of “classic gear”…
We found a nice fat boulder to sling, threw on a rap ring, then continued, safely on our way down. We came across one more swaged cable slung over a horn (no bolts). That time we added one of the spectra cords we’d collected on the way up and continued our descent without any further incident.
As we had expected, climbing the North Rabbit Ear was an adventure. We hadn't expected the anchor mishap, but that's why they call them adventures I guess. Luckily, we made it down safely and just in time to share some after dinner beers with our friends.
Organ Climbing Info:Mountain Project
A Climbing Guide to the Organ Mountains by R.L. Ingraham