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North America, United States, New Mexico, Shield, The Promise Land

Shield, The Promise Land. On Oct 3, 2004, Carolyn Parker and I completed the first ascent of our big-wall project, The Promise Land (V 5.12c), which climbs a l,200'-tall section of the Shield s southwest face. The Shield, in the Sandia Mountains, is home to a host of routes ranging from alpine scrambles to new-wave aid routes and a lot in between. What the Shield lacked for many years was a modern, high-standard free route on good rock. The granite of the Sandias varies widely from steep and solid faces with in-cut holds to grainy and loose weaknesses of relatively poor quality. It was our vision to establish a route on the Shield that avoided the choss, even if it meant really hard face climbing. Due to an annual six-month falcon closure and my guiding schedule, the route took many forays over nearly two years to complete. To help me when Carolyn wasn’t available, I enlisted our friends Marc Beverly and Alan Aiken to help clean, protect, and belay me while figuring out some of the crux pitches.

The route starts 20 feet right of Rainbow Dancer, with eight feet of climbing onto a right-trending ramp system and a step left to a steep face with crystalline knobs. The first pitch has a lot of fixed gear, since it’s steep face climbing with no real cracks. The route is sustained and technical. Of the 11 pitches, two are 5.10, seven are 5.11 (three 5.11+), and two are 5.12. The rock and the positions are excellent. The continuous face climbing and discontinuous cracks made the protection devious or impossible with natural gear. Despite this, we went to great effort to add as little fixed gear as possible. The climbing is unrelenting, and the protection can be challenging but, in general, not run out. The exception is pitch six, which involves long run outs on 5.9-5.10a sections. We look forward to strong parties having a go at it. As of December 2005 it awaits a second ascent.

John Kear, AAC