Keeler Needle Trip Report

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Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Original Post - Oct 22, 2003 - 05:32am PT
Inspired by Ammon's trip report and others, i though i might take a crack at my first trip report ever. here it goes...

Any climber who sees Keeler Needle wants to climb it. it's perfect symmetry and massive size make it probably the most striking feature in the high sierra. i waited until now to climb it because i heard from peter croft that the rock wasn't that great. but my buddy eric volz and i had both seen enough photos and heard enough rumors that we had to find out for ourselves.



PHOTO 1 - the view from Whitney Portal Rd. Lone Pine Peak dominates the photo with whitney and keeler needle right.


The adventure started the night before. Around midnight i woke up when something was patting me on the head. I looked up and watched a little bear run off to it's mom and brother/sister.

The bears in the portal are every bit as talented at breaking into cars as Yosemite bears. they also are relatively fearless of humans. i took this photo around 8pm of a bear that walked up within 4 feet of me. i think this is the bear that pawed/sniffed/tried to make a move on me later in the night.



Eric and i started hiking at 3:50am. at 5:30 we were Upper Boy Scout where took a long break. At 6:30 we we got this awesome view just as the sun hit hit the Keeler Needle (center) and whitney (right)



At the base, what is snow during the summer had condensed to bullet proof ice in late october. The only way to get to the start of the route was to jam the crack formed by where the ice meets the wall. This was mostly easy but there was a "5.8 ice-fists" move and a "5.8 ice chimney" move. Below is a shot of looking up at the route from the top of the ice and the start of the climbing. In this photo you only see 8 of the 13 pitches. its a big wall!



The climbing started out a little loose, rotten, and dirty then mostly stayed that way to the summit. From a distance the Keeler Needle looks like it has the same high quality white granite as the Incredible Hulk buts it's actually kinda chossy. However, there were a couple cool sections to the climb. Below erick is following the steep and only mildly-loose and rotten pitch 3 (5.10b double cracks).



The next pitch, p4 was the first offwidth crux. We didn't want to carry the weight of a #4 camalot so Eric got to run-it-out a fair bit. We also saved weight by leading on a single 8.2mm lead line which i justified because it was brand new. Eric and i both liked the thin rope but decided that next time 9mm rope would inspire a little more confidence while on the sharp end.



One pitch later the route went into the shade and temperatures went from feeling like 70 degrees to 40. As a result we tried to climb fast and didn't stop to take photos. Ill give a quick summary: The Red Dihedral (pitch 7) was the best on the route and involved sustained and overhanging 5.10a hands. the 5.10c upper offwidth crux was really strenuous-I felt like i was sumo wrestling--but well protected. after the crux, we had trouble following the route. we ended up climbing a fair number of cracks that didn't look like they had been traveled before. on the final 20 feet to the summit i managed to get on overhanging 5.11 cracks and face that were clearly off route but pretty fun.

OK, so Croft was right. the rock quality was poor and out of 13 pitches only 3 were really fun. however, by the time you sit on the INSANE summit prow/pillar/spire you start to forget about the less than amazing pitches that got you there. Here i am on the right and eric on the left doing a little summit posing. somehow, at 3pm on a late october day the temperatures felt in the low 70's.



So would i recommend the route? Keeler Needle is one those few climbs where even though the route isn't that great, the overall experience is worth it to climbers who want a big adventure don't mind a fair amount of low quality rock.

At this point, i don't know whether to include it in the next edition of High Sierra book.... any ideas?

On the descent, i snapped this photo of Mt. Russell
10b4me

Trad climber
Bishop(hopefully)
Oct 22, 2003 - 12:30pm PT
Nice tr and pics Chris. I hadn't heard the route was chossy.
Matt

Trad climber
SF Bay Area
Oct 22, 2003 - 01:10pm PT
the bears were the crux- who knew...

maybe if the rock were better they would have called it the KILLER NEEDLE instead.
Jody

Mountain climber
CA
Oct 22, 2003 - 01:33pm PT
Cool trip report and GREAT photos! Actually, what it inspired in me was more of a desire to do Fishook Arete on Russell, that was a great perspective of that route in the picture.
Murf

climber
Oct 22, 2003 - 06:29pm PT
Yes there was a ton of choss on this route. I really enjoyed all the 5.10 pitches and the Red Dihedral. The easier pitches really had the most choss on them. The 5.7 flakes across the prow were super chossy but the exposure made it super classic. We looked at no less than four topo's, most of which were fairly useless after the crux pitch. One my partner had from the NA Classics CD was spot on above the crux, but that is a pretty obscure source for a topo.

I figure it much like Croft does, it may be chossy ol' bitch, but you can't help but lust after it.

Murf
DEE

Trad climber
Orange County
Oct 24, 2003 - 02:22pm PT
Funny how the memory works (or not), I climbed it 25 years ago and only remember thinking one pitch was loose! It was that first 5.10 roof section (2nd pitch).
Murf

climber
Oct 24, 2003 - 02:33pm PT
DEE -

Is it true you did the second free ascent?
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 28, 2003 - 03:19am PT
Here are some more photos put to music in a QuickTime slide show:

http://www.supertopo.com/forumphotos/keeler1003.mov

the file is 2.7mb big so may take a little while to download on a slower connection. You need the free Quick Time Player to view this slide show. To get it go here: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/
DEE

Trad climber
Orange County
Oct 28, 2003 - 06:51pm PT
Yes Murph, Sybille Hechtel and I did it the first week in July 1977. I know that Richard Harrison and Jay Smith did it a couple weeks after. ...and thanks for the glory post!
DEE

Trad climber
Orange County
Oct 28, 2003 - 07:16pm PT
Yes Murf, I climbed it with Sibylle Hechtel the first week in July 1977. It took 9 hrs. for 18 pitches, I led 15 and she led 3. The Stonemasters had been talking about it since it went free (the year before?). We had not heard of anyone free climbing it, and the climbing community was MUCH smaller back then. Richard Harrison and Jay Smith climbed it later that month. Oh, and by the way, thanks for the glory post!!
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Feb 24, 2004 - 08:08pm PT
Beautiful, mate! Great photos!

Let's see more stuff like this on SuperTopo.
David Nelson

climber
San Francisco
Feb 24, 2004 - 09:57pm PT
Pretty incredible, Chris! That is what I call a TR!
Dapper Dan

climber
The OC
Sep 24, 2005 - 03:16pm PT
a question: what is the needle to the left of Keeler , i think it is named for a woman who summited whitney in the old days and ... : is there any good routes on the needle to the left ? it looks kinda of ledgy and easy....

(didn't walt shipley solo keeler needle ? proud )
10b4me

Trad climber
On that V2 problem at the Happies
Sep 24, 2005 - 05:16pm PT
yes, Walt soloed it in a snowstorm while wearing a t-shirt.
the needle to the left is named for Hilda Crooks. it used to be called Day needle. She climbed Whitney close to 100 times so I heard.
can't say

Social climber
Pasadena CA
Sep 24, 2005 - 06:31pm PT
and to the left of that is something called Aguille Extra. Done back in the 70s as a mixed free and aid route that has since been freed.
T-2

Mountain climber
Baldwin Park , Calif.
Sep 24, 2005 - 09:38pm PT
Good show Chris.
Keeler has been on my list for ever. I must have walked by it 20 times on my way to something else. In spite of the rather loose rock, it's still a classic and I vote for it to be included in the next edition.Hey, 10b 4 me, what about a couple of old farts like you and me taking a trip up Keeler next summer.( it would take me that long to get into shape!)
Jody

Mountain climber
Templeton, CA
Sep 25, 2005 - 03:20am PT
Joe

Social climber
Santa Cruz Mountains/Los Gatos
Sep 25, 2005 - 11:08am PT
Definitely agree that it would be nice to see more posts like this on ST.
Great TR.
Anal C#nt

Boulder climber
Bald Knob, AR
Sep 25, 2005 - 11:52am PT
The photo of Russell does not lie, that peak has amazing climbing. Keeler *looks* amazing especially in the morning but it sounds like you need you have your ducks in a row to enjoy it -- leading the crux on an 8.2mm rope, nice touch, heheh.

Aguille Extra sounds like a logical candidate for your next Whitney TR, Chris. 5.10 hands, 5.9 OW, 5.8 face, 5.8 face, 4th, 5.7 corner, 5.10 hands to 5.9 stem, 5.8 face, 5.8 face, 4th, 5.8 hands, 5.10 corner... according to Moynier at least. Curious whether the rock is as good as the climbing.

Great TR and photos, you fired the route in what, 6 hours? Tremendous athleticism.
addiroid

Big Wall climber
Long Beach, CA
Sep 25, 2005 - 12:34pm PT
Great pictures Chris. I think "loose" needs to be taken on a relative basis. Sure, it's not Yosemite craggin' but all in all it was clean, classic, splitter alpine climbing. That little roof on P2 was a little chalky, but that's about all from what I remember. And safety wise, I thought the climbing itself (not counting the bowling alley) was WAAAAAAY safer than the SW Face of Conness.

Let's try to keep it what it is. It's supposed to be a fairly involved climb, try to keep the adventure to it. Awesome job on the 8.2mm rope for lead too! Burly.
bringmedeath

climber
la la land
Sep 25, 2005 - 12:49pm PT
Ya, I think loose to a lot of people climbing in california is different than up here. Up in the Bugs even on popular routes there is still plenty of loose rock that just falls down the faces and nails you. You also pull tons of flakey stuff off no matter where you put your feet. Also from what I understand the Candian Rockies are crazy!
426

Sport climber
Tierrany Roofs, Obed
Sep 26, 2005 - 10:23am PT
Nice TR/pics.

Sounds improbable but this was the first alpine route I ever did. An alpine bud decided to take a "lightweight" (free climbing specialist) and designated all hard pitches to said lightweight. Sounded cool.

I was gasping on the whole route but especially on the wide stuff, having never climbed above 10,000 in my life. Dragging up boots and axes ((early season ascent) in the 2nds pack was pretty burdensome for a fly rod like me, so I preferred the leads ultimately.


The crux was filled with dirt, I had to "mine" out placements and aid briefly. Sounds like it's cleaned up a lot since the early 90's.

More than chossy, my memories are of "crunchy" rock. When rock cracks but stabilizes under the foot....


Most memorable was stuffing my nog in a crack to try to drink from a seep. We were out of h20 for hours .


....

The exposure is fantastic, in a way it goes all the way to the Owens Valley.
....


Anybody ever hear from Rahja-maaaan (Mark Rogers)? Last I heard he moved to Bozeman to focus on ice....
Western Sloper

Social climber
Western Slope, CO
Sep 28, 2005 - 12:54am PT
Nice pics. Not my type of climbin' but cool still.
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Sep 28, 2005 - 05:29pm PT
Soon as we heard Keeler went free, Richard Harison and I were on it. Problem is a huge snow cone was sitting at the base and the top was separated from the wall by a 20 foot gap and we counld't cross over to the wall no mater how hard we tried. We couldn't rap off the snow lip as it kept calving away. We were truly bummed after all that hiking and driving to get there. I went to Mexico and Richard returned with Smith a little while later and I never went back. Wish I had . . .
JL
Claude

climber
where I'll end up
Sep 28, 2005 - 08:13pm PT
Murf doesn't know what he's talking about.
426

Sport climber
Lounge Lizard, Obed
Sep 29, 2005 - 11:36am PT
Largo-

We had a similar situation-it wasn't 20 feet wide, but perhaps 10, but being very cold, the snow patch held as I was lowered into the "slot" and started climbing.

No "all free" for us! I was using rope tension just to get on the thing.


My partner raised an eyebrow at my first piece, a #4 friend cammed between ice and rock. Both his eyes were open wide as he "jumped" (with tension) onto the rock.




Frankly, I still think you've got it in you---just find you a "lightweight"...


PS-The crux of Keeler is way easier than Right or Left (yours) at Woodson...
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Sep 29, 2005 - 12:14pm PT
Hey "Claude," I am curious about your comment that Murph (his real name) doesn't know what he is talking about. If you have info that shows that I and whassername didn't do the second free ascent of the Harding route on Keeler Needle during the first weekend of July 1977 let's hear about it. You would probably need to provide proof, which is something I can do. There is too much bs on the internet forums these days from pseudonym posers. It is just too easy to lie when there is no accountability involved.
I am not that concerned with whether I did the 2nd, 3rd or 4th free ascent, I just want to know the truth. After all, I have been telling people that we did the 2nd ascent for 28 years.
Spill it, or go home.
Claude

climber
where I'll end up
Sep 29, 2005 - 12:18pm PT
hey dee-ee~

my note was in now way a question fo your ascent, only a way to rouse up an old friend. Murf is actually an accomplished man and a respected climber.

Peace.
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Sep 29, 2005 - 12:18pm PT
ps. To "426".
I wouldn't be callin' Largo a lightweight!
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Sep 29, 2005 - 12:19pm PT
Right on!
10b4me

Trad climber
On that V2 problem at the Happies
Sep 29, 2005 - 12:19pm PT
hey T-2,

I am too old and decrepit.
has anyone here climb the east buttress of Muir?
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Sep 29, 2005 - 12:33pm PT
pps. I thought you could be Claude Fiddler, in which case I would have to bow down.
426

Sport climber
Maximum Overdrive, Obed
Sep 29, 2005 - 12:52pm PT
Heh, reread, dee ee, I said he needs to get him a "lightweight"....but the context is in my post upthread; it's the Intrawebs, so maybe I should clarify better...


I think Largo could do Keeler easily with his multitude of wide experience.

Even when I was up in the flare, pulling some aid to the Harding bolts I was trying to remember Largo's video admonishment...

"Never thrash."

dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Sep 29, 2005 - 03:46pm PT
"Never thrash," thrutch!
kevsteele

climber
Santa Barbara, CA
Oct 1, 2005 - 08:48pm PT
Cool to see Keeler back in the posts. We did an FA on that great red rock in '91: The Crimson Wall. It went directly up the center of the face for ten pitches. Crux was 5.12. Kevin Brown, Mike Carville and myself then headed left to join the Harding as the upper headwall had to wait until the following year. In '92 Kevin and Mike finished it off, straight up at 5.12d with an A3 pitch. Total of 16 pitches.

None of the guidebooks have really got it right, although the descriptions are OK and vague enough, the lines drawn on photos are just wrong.

Below is a scan from the Alpine Journal ('92) where I've added the line. If any are interested I can post the topos.


Best,
Kevin Steele
Jody

Mountain climber
Templeton, CA
Oct 1, 2005 - 08:59pm PT
Kevin,

You are right about it being a "red rock". From the approach as the sun is just starting to rise, the Whitney massif takes on some cool colors. This picture was taken around 4:30AM in late August one year, not red, but a cool shade of orange.
WBraun

climber
Oct 1, 2005 - 09:00pm PT
That Keeler needle is such a cool place. I remember the second to last pitch or so of the Harding route goes left around the corner and into the shade. I look into the crack and there is this emerald bluish ice in there. I was climbing with no shirt on that day. It was that warm and still ice in the cracks in places.

Kevin S your new route with 5.12d free climbing way up there, yikes, that must have been hard, especially at that altitude.

Kevin Brown and Mike Carville two great guys.
kevsteele

climber
Santa Barbara, CA
Oct 1, 2005 - 09:50pm PT
Thanks Werner,
Kevin B and I have been back up there since then and put up two more 6-pitch 5.10-11ish routes on the spires just North (right of the Mountaineers Gully) of Whitney. (We called them There you Have it and Full Moon Dihedral).

I'll post the topo to Crimson Wall on a new thread tomorrow after I scan the old scrap of paper.

Crista

climber
Las Vegas
Oct 2, 2005 - 11:10pm PT
I had an epic with the snow cone, too. I ended up "crack climbing" to the top of it via the gap between the ice and the rock.... definantly not a good idea. I didn't know any better. I grew up in the desert, and it was my first alpine route. I knew nothing about "snow cones." My friend, Michelle, opted for the gulley. What was spooky is the bowling ball sized rock we used for a foothold at the top of the ice popped out of the ice at a 90 degree angle like a punted football when we were at the top of the first pitch... so the lesson is, don't stand on those rocks?

I don't remember the rock quality being that bad, I expected much worse. The sight of that thing made me fill all my poop bags before leaving camp. On the way back to the portal, my pack was a Xmas tree of poop. It's a scary (and stinky if you have fear sensitive bowels) proposition. The most memorable pitch for me was the .10a offwidth which caught me offguard as the sleeper crux. We had a slight epic... Michelle and I got a really late start, and didn't start climbing until around 10am. Another setback was I got suckered into the chimney after the .10c pitch leading us off route. Now that was some chossy rock!!! We topped out in the dark, so we slept in the little cabin on top of Mt. Whitney which was cold and desperate. We then descended down the north face of Whitney so we could sun ourselves by the lake and stare at Mt. Russell close up. All in all, it wasn't that bad. It is the hardest I've ever pushed myself in the mountains. I didn't feel worthy of being up there in the first place... two girls in "hardman's territory".... it almost felt like outer space.

All the pictures are great! They bring back great memories! I climb with Richard Harrison every once in a while, so it's funny reading the "glory posts". His daughter is turning out to be one hell-of-a-climber. She trad climbs and everything.

Note of interest... I met some loon in Mexico who claimed she put up the Warren Harding route.... "because Warren could only climb 5.5" according to her... she also said she was in the CIA and had a working airforce base hidden under her ranch in one of the Dakotas, but that's a whole different story....
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Sep 14, 2009 - 03:08pm PT
Bump for Chris to put the photos back up, maybe?

Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
Sep 14, 2009 - 07:25pm PT
what Munge said...plus the slide show with music perhaps?

Six year old TR will live to ride again!!
matty

climber
po-dunk
Sep 14, 2009 - 08:35pm PT
Crimson Wall topo is in the taco obscurity list, direct link here:

http://www.supertopo.com/topos/obscurities/crimson_wall_topo.jpg

another cool TTR*:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=403582&tn=0


Matt

*TTR=tacotripreport
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Sep 14, 2009 - 08:36pm PT
good name is right: TTR = Taco Trip Report
mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Sep 14, 2009 - 10:21pm PT
C Mac, in case the enthusiastic response on this thread hasn't already made it abundantly clear, you definitely ought to have this climb in the next and every edition of any High Sierra climbing guidebook.
kevsteele

climber
Santa Barbara, CA
Sep 14, 2009 - 11:02pm PT
I'm hoping to see a TTR from Myles Moser here soon. He did a recent ascent of Crimson Wall, asked for some info then e-mailed me after the deed:

On Aug 25, 2009, at 7:02 PM, Myles Moser wrote:

"we were on the wall for three days two night. one of the hardest routes i have ever done. great work. the topo could use an update though. a lot of bolts have been added. plan on going up again to work the aid section. the beginning of that section is some steller free climbing then the transition to aid is a bust, but most defianlty worthy. the a3 now has one of my soft iron knife blades which i shall return for. thanks, it was alot of fun. need more food next time. 12d is extremely hard at 14,000ft"
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 14, 2009 - 11:18pm PT
crap, that is why i need a feature to upload photos directly to the supertopo site. i dont know where those photos are... but ill find them again somehow
BeeHay

Trad climber
San Diego CA
Sep 15, 2009 - 12:41am PT
This thread started way before my time on ST.

Dee Eee, I was going to jump on you about your math, until I went back and saw the OP was 2003. 1977, 32 years now? Whoa, I was thinking the EXCACT thing, second pitch, I don't remember any other "choss". I did it in about '82, With Adrian Almodovar, using the topo you drew for us on a napkin.

RE; Walt Shipley, he did it in October. I'm not sure what year, mid 80's. I recreated Dave's topo on a new napkin at the Deli for him. Very bold any time of year, especially when relying on my crappy memory!

Brad

mission

Social climber
boulder,co
Sep 15, 2009 - 01:10am PT
Back in '81 Werner and I drove down the East Side in his purple Pontiac, thrashed up through the manzanitas and climbed the Needle.

He was belaying under an overhang. I stemmed out to a foothold on top of a good sized block, and when I touched it, the block cut loose. I screamed "Rock!!!" really loud, in proportion to the size of the block, forgetting for the moment about Werner's hearing loss. He poked his head out from under the overhang, right in the line of fire to see what was up, and ducked back in just in time.

Just relating this in case anyone still thinks we are in charge of our destinies...

luquitos

Trad climber
santa cruz, ca
Sep 15, 2009 - 01:15pm PT
photos aren't showing up for me, anyone else having that problem?
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Sep 15, 2009 - 03:29pm PT
Hey Brad, how goes it?

I ran into Dan Curley in the Sierra several weeks ago, dang that guy is fit. He said he did one of the big 100 mile mtn. running races recently. Dude is bad ass.
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Sep 23, 2009 - 01:22am PT
Interesting to read about bad rock on the Harding route. My friend John Weiland and I did a route in 1973 to the right of the Crimson Wall (traversing left into the middle of the wall at 3/4 height so it must almost be overlapped by CW from there on up). The rock was excellent. The first six pitches were free, then the next four were mostly aid, then free to the summit. We climbed straight up the headwall to the ledge on the prow that's on the cover of Ascent.

-Jello
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Oct 23, 2010 - 02:18am PT
Chris McNamara, SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 14, 2009 - 08:18pm PT
crap, that is why i need a feature to upload photos directly to the supertopo site. i dont know where those photos are... but ill find them again somehow
And he did add a feature (excuuuse me, functionality) to allow direct uploading of photos, within weeks. A very handy one, too.
BeeHay

Trad climber
San Diego CA
Oct 23, 2010 - 02:01pm PT
Bump for the photo feature...
There are 3 people on the snow below the toe of Day Needle.
There are 3 people on the snow below the toe of Day Needle.
Credit: BeeHay
Credit: BeeHay
Credit: BeeHay
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