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December 15, 2018
The White Wash ascends Piedra Lisa Canyon through boulders and pour-offs comprised of granitic quartz monzonite. Bands of metamorphic rock in the upper region present short and interesting climbs, When traveling on Tramway Blvd just before Menual, the main pour-off presents itself to the West.
We start the hike at the Menual-Embudo Canyon Trailhead at the very end of Menual Blvd. The route is not obvious at first. Hang an immediate left from the trailhead and follow the mountain bikers. This is a fairly level trail that passes through the Sandia Foothills Open Space. After half a mile, Piedra Lisa Canyon comes into view. The namesake White Wash is immediately visible. Head right for it and don’t be intimidated. You won’t have to make a vertical climb here although many do. It’s a popular top-roping spot for local climbers. Instead, follow the trail signs. These are posts with arrows on them that point a more reasonable way through this section. When I was last here in 2015, these trail signs did not exist. I’m guessing a few people have gotten into trouble while climbing through this section hence the signs
Once over the top just head up canyon staying in the center as much as possible. The cliffs on both sides will keep you there as they are very steep. You are now climbing up and over large boulders and rock slopes on good solid granite, slick in places, and with sheets of ice when we were there in December. The steeper sections have workarounds on dirt slopes so you don’t have to climb steep rock (Class IV to easy Class V) if you don’t want to. This route is just challenging enough to keep you interested.
Once the canyon starts to level out it’s time to consider your exit. You don’t want to go to much farther up the canyon unless you like slopes over 30% and really thick bushwhacking. The farther you go, the worse it gets. Exit the canyon to the right and head up the slope. The hiking here is steep but doable. Within half a mile you will reach the unmarked White Wash Trail. Turn right and start heading towards the suburbs. The trail is more of a route. It won’t be long before you start running into trails heading every which way. Stick to those you like and that aren’t too steep and just keep heading downhill to the trailhead.
Gear, dogs, etc. I highly recommend hiking poles and a pack that can stow them. They are an encumbrance in the canyon but very helpful on the climb out and more so heading down the steep, loose trail back to the cars. I didn’t bring mine and my knees paid the price. Knee pads are helpful in certain sections. The bare rock is more amenable to bare hands than gloves. Dogs don’t belong here. It’s too steep in places and it’s impossible to keep them on a leash without getting twisted up.
This hike/climb is 3.14 miles long and cumulative ascent is 1405 feet. 1184 feet of that takes place in the first 1.90 miles. That is a lot making this a very strenuous affair. It took CK, Gustaaf, Nancy, Shawn, and SK Lund 2:48 to do it. The Bagels at Einstein’s were awesome.