The First Ascent of the Needle's Eye

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Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Jul 31, 2007 - 09:33pm PT
Here is a picture of Superpin, circa 1982.

Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Jul 31, 2007 - 10:56pm PT
Really iconic image, Rick.
Oli

Trad climber
Fruita, Colorado
Jul 31, 2007 - 11:02pm PT
Rich,
My understanding was that a bolt was placed soon after Henry's ascent but removed by someone who didn't like it. Later other bolts appeared. If I recall these and maybe even others were placed by some circus maneuver from a rope hanging off a nearby pinnacle. Are you sure about the difficulty of Pete's climb vs Henry's? How would anyone know which was harder unless they led both routes? Not that I doubt you, since you have so much knowledge of the area, but it did sort of make me wonder. Runout like they were, those routes were both pretty serious. How could Pete's be "two grades harder," though, if Henry rated his 5.10d or 5.11? Henry would have something to say about all this, I'm sure.

You guys certainly must have led Superpin. Which route did you do? Pete's or Henry's?
LongAgo

Trad climber
Aug 1, 2007 - 11:45am PT
Thanks to all for Super Pin history and great pic of pinnacle. Route I "downclimbed" (see previous post) is left skyline, from somewhere after it tapers off. Strange, looks like I should have been able to stop to put a bolt in, but decided better to go down than try. Funny calculus as mind warped.

Can anyone describe Cleveland route and Barber variation? I assumed Cleveland went directly up face, then to right ridge in pic. Maybe Henry went left to same ridge I descended in total fright?


Tom Higgins
LongAgo
wiclimber

Trad climber
devil's lake, wi
Aug 1, 2007 - 11:56am PT
Apparently some guy climbed up a little over half way and froze in fright. Some friends then climbed a nearby spire (Tent or Tricouni come to mind but I think it was King) and tossed a rope over to Super to save the climber frozen in fear. A tyrolean?

It was at that point a bolt was put in.

I've only seen one bolt on that spire but I've never been very far up it. It doesn't look all that crazy from the base.

If no one else chimes in before tonight, I'll re-read the account and post here.

Here's a bit from Kris Gorny on Mountainproject.com

Barber Route


Here's link to the larger pic:
http://www.mountainproject.com/images/95/33/105979533_large_d88334.jpg

Protection
Few 48" slings, 1 quickdraw for the bolt at the crux, 24" sling to equilize a pair of bolts higher up.

Description
From the base of Super Pin climb up a dirty vegetated crack into a chimney. Go up a chimney onto a comfortable stance between Super Pin and Tent Peg. From here take a step across the chimney onto Super Pin. Sling a flake (or place a large nut behind it), go up, clip a bolt and pull the crux bulge. Continue on fun but run out 5.7 crystals to a pair of bolts on the right. From the bolts a finishing section of 5.8 face climbing leads to the top.


WIclimber edit: The description of the beginning of the climb seems contrived to me as I do not remember there being a chimney there, nor does Tent Peg actually touch Super Pin. "Step across onto Super Pin"??? Not sure about that.

I've climbed Tent and Tricouni several times each, but I guess I could have forgotten the chimney? Maybe.

rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 1, 2007 - 12:18pm PT
Pat,

You may well be right about bolts placed and removed. That would explain why Bragg and I found none.

Bragg and I did Henry's route, which I remember as 5.9+/5.10-, but the grade is relatively meaningless, given the problems of mental control required. Bragg led the route (with absolutely perfect poise and control) so as a follower I probably shouldn't even try to grade it here. I think Paul called it 5.10 in his guidebook.

I haven't gone Pete's way, but I think climbers such as Dennis Horning, who led Henry's way, took at least one fall trying to toprope Pete's way, which is why I suggested that Pete's way is at least a grade harder if not more (depending in part on how hard Henry's way really is). By the way, Pete's ascent was before chalk was in common use, and he had none. Trying to hang on to slopey Needles crystals with sweaty hands while soloing the upper half of the climb must have been stressful, to say the least.

This is not to minimize in any way the magnitude of Henry's accomplishment, especially because Pete's way makes very little routefinding sense; after the initial moves common to both routes, he headed right onto vertical, perhaps a touch beyond vertical, ground rather than stepping left to the left skyline in Rick's photo and climbing that. I'm pretty certain from his description that Tom's attempt started up the path Henry eventually took.
jgill

climber
Aug 1, 2007 - 06:13pm PT
Pete and I had been doing some bouldering a few days prior to his Superpin ascent, and I seem to recall him using chalk - perhaps my block. But I don't know if he took some along on his famous climb. I suspect he did, but I could be wrong. Nevertheless, he complemented his great technical skill with the most impressive mental control of any climber I've ever had the privilege of observing.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 1, 2007 - 07:26pm PT
John's appearance here reminds me of an addendum to the Needle's Eye saga. It turns out he was one of those caught in the traffic jam caused, at least in part, by my indecision. As I was making various ineffective climbing motions, he walked up and recognized Don Storjohann, and the two had a brief conversation. Later, Don remarked, "That was John Gill. He does the most amazing mantle-stands on the Sylvan Lake boulder."

Somehow, John escaped from the traffic jam (or perhaps just went off climbing somewhere in the Needle's Eye area). After our ascent, we met up again, Don introduced us, and soon I too was trying to do those damn mantle-stands.
Oli

Trad climber
Fruita, Colorado
Aug 1, 2007 - 09:55pm PT
What do you mean by a mantle-stand? Where you do a mantel and then put a foot where your hand was and stand up?

I would be very surprised if Pete did not use chalk. He was using it with me, when we climbed together in Boulder, quite a long time before he did SuperPin.

Tom Higgins, you are very humble about your fear and failure. We all know you were one of the best of your generation and right up there with Pete, in terms of boldness and mental control. These routes are strange, you know, get on a set of knobs or crystals just a few inches off the correct ones, and it can be two grades harder. Whether or not you backed down that day, there are plenty of bold testaments with the name of Higgins attached to them, and Pete would be the first to speak his admiration of you, along with me.

And who is that John Gill fellow? And what would he know about climbing in the Needles...?
Oli

Trad climber
Fruita, Colorado
Aug 2, 2007 - 02:05am PT
Now John, don't go in and hack me...
the idle rich

climber
Estes Park, CO
Aug 2, 2007 - 10:28am PT
Rich

I climbed Super Pin in May of 1981 with Kevin Bein. I recall that there was a fixed pin to start the climb and a bolt in place higher on the route. I seem to remember climbing right from the bolt across the face to the ridge and then to the summit. Kevin told me that on the first ascent, Pete Cleveland was on the lead for a long time. Long enough that the sun was in his eyes and he kept traversing around the spire to avoid the glare. This might 'shed some light' on the route that Cleveland took. We also top roped the ridge directly above the start of the climb. It seemed much easier than the other route, but the rock quality was questionable.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 2, 2007 - 11:55am PT
Hi Rich, great to hear from you! It seems that the history of the routes on Superpin will remain somewhat fuzzy.

Here's a picture of Matt Hale on Cerberus that always seemed to me to capture the flavor of Needles climbing.



This route was a brilliant contribution by Royal Robbins in 1964.
Prod

Social climber
Charlevoix, MI
Aug 2, 2007 - 12:04pm PT
Wow,

This is some great stuff. Finding threads like this one is sort of like finding a new secret bouldering area, with tons of gems to pick from.

This is a great thread, thanks guys.

Prod.
Jaybro

Social climber
The West
Aug 2, 2007 - 12:11pm PT
Just a footnote but,'64 was a banner year for RR in that area, I don't know what else he might have done in the needles (Tricouni/Cerberus is a fantastic, truly memorable climb) but I believe he added Danse Macabre (10+ hard, especially with then-contemproary, shoes, pro and ropes), and The window ( A-4, I bailed on it in '83) on Devil's tower. Try that trinity on a long weekend and attempt to avoid acknowledging whose shoulders you stand on.
-Wasn't that also the year of the NA wall?
wiclimber

Trad climber
devil's lake, wi
Aug 2, 2007 - 12:20pm PT
Great pic Rich.

You can see the climber straining to find the last bolt. He should be looking straight right and slightly down for big footholds, for that is where the line of least resistance goes.

Interesting to see the slings there too. When did the Needles rappel become en vogue? I would have thought by that time.
Chiloe

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Aug 2, 2007 - 12:22pm PT
Oli:
Of course the story goes that he so scared his partner, Ron Cox, that Ron asked if he could give up the belay (which was not going to help anyway) and go up and watch from the road where he would be unable to see the results of a fall.

The story's true, I think. Ron Cox was a colorful character as well as a solid climber in his own right, living in Eldorado in the early 1970s (FFA of King's X with Paul Sibley, 1971). In SuperTopo's recent spirit of living and ancient history, here are a couple of unpublished photos of Ron, 1971-72.




rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 2, 2007 - 12:48pm PT
Wiclimber, I assume by "Needles Rappel" you mean a rappel that leaves nothing behind on the summit. For much of the time I was active there, it was a point of honor (going back to the Conn's) to get down without leaving anything, and there is no spire in the Needles that cannot be descended without leaving slings or anchors on top. What happened was that such practices went out of vogue rather than coming into vogue.

I'm sorry to say that a lot of climbers were more interested in convenience than in preserving the untouched look of the spires, and perhaps they suffered as well from a lack of imagination.

For a while, we would cut down any slings left on the summit, but of course after a while it became a hopeless task.
wiclimber

Trad climber
devil's lake, wi
Aug 2, 2007 - 01:00pm PT
Rich,
The Needles rappel is back in style for the most part. Slings on Tricouni don't last more than an ascent or two. Usually someone will scamper up there right away and clean it up. Same with most the other promminent spires, though rappel bolts are favored over downclimbing now :) when a simul-rap is not available.

Chiloe,
Is that 1st pic of Ron on the first couple moves of the Northcutt variation? Looks like he took a fall right before that pic was taken. An embarrassed look on his face!

I can't quite nail the 2nd pic, though it looks like the west face of the Bastille...
Chiloe

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Aug 2, 2007 - 01:13pm PT
Chiloe,
Is that 1st pic of Ron on the first couple moves of the Northcutt variation? Looks like he took a fall right before that pic was taken. An embarrassed look on his face!


Actually, he had just fallen after an all-out attempt on Tiger's Tooth (5.10) up on Twin Owls, in cold November conditions with a wind from the high country blowing through the crack. At this point Ron was exhausted and discouraged, but he soon recovered energy and redpointed the climb. Of course we would not have said "redpoint" back then. Note the period details: mountain boots, CMI piton hammer, knickers, balaclava, patched Holubar NP-22 parka. That might even be a goldline he fell on, though he seems also to be tied into a Chouinard "fantasia" perlon (don't recall our logic).


I can't quite nail the 2nd pic, though it looks like the west face of the Bastille...

You're right, that's the direct start to the West Buttress of the Bastille.
MZiebell

Social climber
Prescott, AZ
Aug 3, 2007 - 09:16am PT
Bump!
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