First Pitch Above La Luz Trail
The Northwest Ridge of the Thumb is considered by many, a classic of the Sandia Mountains due to its length (long for the Sandias), well recognized ridgeline from the valley, location directly above the busy La Luz Trail, and across Upper La Cueva Canyon from Sandia Crest. The ridge gains over 1,000 feet in elevation from the ledge to the summit and provides wonderful views of La Cueva Canyon as well as the Rio Grande Valley.
From the La Luz Trailhead, hike five miles to the bronze marker on the left side of the trail. Continue on the trail to the right for another 300 feet laterally until the first switchback becomes apparent. Instead of following the trail turn away towards the west down a climber's trail, past some old pipes, and up to some obvious ledges to reach the first belay area.
The ridge itself has several different variations up to 5.7ish grades. It really is more about finding the path of least resistance, which for us, was avoiding the plethora of rock lettuce covering many potential lines up the ridge.
The climb we undertook on August 9,2009 consisted of the following.
From the ledge at the end of the climber's trail, we veered up and left for the first pitch. The second pitch nearly regained the ridge before we started towards the left again. We traversed along a mellow ramp to the left and set up another belay.
The crux came and went quickly just past the third belay. The piton protecting it seemed rather sketchy so we avoided clipping it altogether. From there, we turned the corner onto the ridge and found a notch in the ridgeline.
Regaining the Ridge
We simul-climbed through the notch and to the right where we set up another belay. Up and over some exposed moves on a wall, we re-established ourselves on the ridge. From there, the climbing got a lot easier but still maintained good exposure similar to the Knife Edge of the Shield
. Two more run-out pitches and a load of simul-climbing later, we topped out at the false summit. We unroped and scrambled to the notch between the two summits and carefully navigated the 4th class scramble up to the real summit.
To get down, one must follow the Southeast Ridge of the Thumb
, which had a couple exposed bits.
Basic TRAD rack with gear up to 3 inches should suffice. Due to the tremendous amount of rope drag that can be experienced on the route, long runners are recommended. Also, because the approach hike is 5 miles up the La Luz Trail, which makes this more of an alpine experience, bring along some hiking gear.
The Last Challenge