Trip Report
If You're Into That Sorta Thing- The Needles
Tuesday September 4, 2012 8:05pm
Rock climbing is a weird activity.

Yes it is. Don't you sass me boy- I know the truth. So many little moments go by that fan fire on the stoke, but for most those very same moments would cause an insta-regression into fetal thumb-suckery. How did I get here- how did I find this place?

After a successful three day sojourn in Colorado, ct came out to California for one last trip before being enveloped in legal studies for another year. We vacillated between the Needles and the Hulk, but eventually settled on the adventure of going to a place that neither of us had been to before. We stopped at a Walmart in Porterville to pick up a cooler, and an endcap demanded a photograph. Did you know that you can buy pool floaties that function as a backpack, remington shotgun shells, paintball 'marker', and a basketball- and all of these items are priced below $99?!!!

gawd bless muhrica
gawd bless muhrica
Credit: snowhazed

By phone the ranger had assured me that the road to the Needles was passable in a 2wd sedan, but at midnight we hit a rut- literally- and were forced to bivy. Since the lookout burned down traffic has plummeted, and now 4wd is mandatory, and clearance would certainly speed things up. THe next morning we built a bridge out of rocks and then painstakingly navigated the rest of the rough rutted road to the campground.

Proof that we got the a5 back there. Thank you quattro
Proof that we got the a5 back there. Thank you quattro
Credit: snowhazed

The hike to the notch between the Witch and the Sorcerer is a good three miles; the heat and face-humping flies made things quite unpleasant. Luckily the notch provided some fly clearing wind and we were able to appreciate the soaring white and yellow monoliths before us.

The Sorcerer
The Sorcerer
Credit: snowhazed

Our introduction would be Airy Interlude 10 a/b. The old book said 'singles or doubles, nothing big, nothing small'. Armed with a single rack save for 2 green camalots, I set off on the first 70 meter pitch. This season I have really been enjoying getting after hard 5.11 in the alpine. So much so- that I had forgotten the joy of climbing 5.8 and 5.9 at 8000 feet. ct introduced me to the term 'a giggler'. As in- that pitch is a giggler cause you will laugh your way up it. The rock just moved itself underneath me, I placed 6 pieces in those 70 meters and it was an unparalleled pleasure- you know- if you're into that sorta thing.

P1 Airy Interlude
P1 Airy Interlude
Credit: snowhazed

ct then stretched the next 70 meter pitch to the top. A little bit of 5.10 but mostly some of the most I can't articulate head-shakingly fun 5.9 I've ever laid hands on- sustained and locker. I think ct enjoyed himself mightily running the last 60 feet of climbing with one piece on his belt- a truly awesome welcome route.

P2 Airy Interlude
P2 Airy Interlude
Credit: snowhazed

Looking back down the traverse
Looking back down the traverse
Credit: snowhazed

We dropped a rope down on Ankles Away- an incredible 11d tips splitter- and both eeked out the tronsight. That would be a booold lead. Stash gear, hike back.

Hiking back in the next morning (miles 7-10 so far- if you're into that sorta thing) was cooler, but the flies still wanted to make sweet sweet love to my face. The notch cleared them away and we waited for the Sorcerer to go into the shade. We started to rock, paper, scissors for the crux pitch- when abruptly I claimed it. I'm a straight-in crack junkie- power liebacking has long been one of my biggest weaknesses- and the only way to break free from the weakness is to go do it. Atlantis 11c would be just the ticket.

Can see all 4 pitches
Can see all 4 pitches
Credit: snowhazed

Next thing I know I am mid 5.10 power underclinging and liebacking with groundfall potential. In my head I'm saying to myself "might as well- there's some 11 liebacking waiting for you." The crack turns vertical and splitter- but throws in some liebacking up top- just for fun.

P1 Atlantis
P1 Atlantis
Credit: snowhazed

ct navigates a tricky start to P2 and then cruises. Now it is go time. I get some great gear in off of the belay- but I am going to have to punch it on 11c lieback with a nasty slab fall waiting for me. I have a few fits and sh*ts trying to figure out how to start- but once I do my identity is lost and I am the very activity I have initiated. I grab the horizontal, fire in some pro, and then send the techy and pumpy rest of the pitch. Grade-wise it is one of my finest on-sights to date and that is quite a nice feeling- if you're into that sorta thing.

P3
P3
Credit: snowhazed

The moves off the belay for pitch 4 are awkward, sequential, climb above your gear 11-, and ct blasts through it. The climbing here is powerful and committing- I think I like this place! We only have the one rope- so we rap into the notch and then climb Spooky- a very unique 5.9 to get us out of there. ct takes the 10b (cough cough 5.11) variation to the second pitch to avoid the OW.

Spooky follows the corner to the ledge- the variation climbs the arete...
Spooky follows the corner to the ledge- the variation climbs the arete in the sun/shade line and then up the ridiculous runnel tufa line
Credit: snowhazed

Look ma, no hands kneebar
Look ma, no hands kneebar
Credit: snowhazed

Yes those are granite tufas. Yes I am wearing a 3D gopro
Yes those are granite tufas. Yes I am wearing a 3D gopro
Credit: snowhazed

Hike out, hike back in. 15 miles now.

Day 3 almost didn't happen- we were running out of water. The cooler water is fine yeah? Beer label glue has nutrition I am sure of it. Instead we ran into a German who was visiting the states for the 2nd time. The first time was 25 years ago and he went to Colorado. We tell him that we had just climbed the Diamond 2 weeks earlier- and of course he says "I climbed the Diamond 25 years ago, D7." The same route we had just climbed! I love the community. While we were on Atlantis, he and his Canadian friend left us a bunch of water and made day 3 on The Don Juan Wall 11b possible. Thanks boys!

snowhazed follows P1
snowhazed follows P1
Credit: snowhazed

Where Atlantis is cruxy, Don Juan is sustained. The 9+ first pitch is cool and a great warmup- and then I am off on the crux pitch. Incredible sustained fingers lead to a bulge and a very hard to read sequence. I whipped nicely here before figuring it out- and surprise surprise- liebacking to victory.

P2
P2
Credit: snowhazed

ct follows P2
ct follows P2
Credit: snowhazed

The next pitch is listed as 10c and is kinda reminiscent of the 10b flare on The Crucifix- except much more strenuous and much less secure. Call it 10c OW and I guess (I did do all sorts of tubing and funky footery) otherwise cough cough 5.11. Sandbagged grades are good!... say it with me now- if you're into that sorta thing.

This is the only rest- otherwise hold the line!
This is the only rest- otherwise hold the line!
Credit: snowhazed

The next pitch is a beauty- super sustained 10+ and 10 on immaculate rock.

P4 Don Juan
P4 Don Juan
Credit: snowhazed

The camera died- so no photos of the wicked green 5.11 roof pull on pitch 5. The changing corners and bulge pulls after are all top notch. Burly in the best kind of way (I don't even need to type it again- you're already saying it in your head).

Credit: snowhazed

Credit: snowhazed

Credit: snowhazed

No crowds, F-18s corkscrewing by 100 feet off the deck, committing climbing on perfect aesthetic rock. 18 miles of hiking, cooler water ingestion and horrendously slow off-roading in the a5. Paradise. You know, if you're into that sorta thing.


  Trip Report Views: 3,676
snowhazed
About the Author
snowhazed is a trad climber from Oaksterdam, CA.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
this just in

climber
north fork
  Sep 4, 2012 - 08:15pm PT
Wow. Great pics and report. Going there in October and this definitely got me into that sort of thing. Thanks.
Radish

Trad climber
SeKi, California
  Sep 4, 2012 - 08:22pm PT
Nice TR! Good to see that familiar flourescent green! Thanks for the inspirations!
Jebus H Bomz

climber
Peavine Basecamp
  Sep 4, 2012 - 08:23pm PT
Cool, man!

I got my Echo in there no probs (no rock bridge either) in July. I guess the road got worse.

Proud ticks you guys got!
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
  Sep 4, 2012 - 08:27pm PT
Very nice... Thank you.
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Sep 4, 2012 - 08:28pm PT
Great TR!

Check your email in a minute...
D H

Trad climber
Exeter CA.
  Sep 4, 2012 - 08:29pm PT
Nice TR if you're into that sorta thing.

DH
nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Sep 4, 2012 - 08:44pm PT
I liked this phrase: "my identity is lost and I am the very activity I have initiated"


I've never been to Needles yet, but when I get there I probably won't be hopping on those clean lines y'all did. Someday maybe!
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Sep 4, 2012 - 08:47pm PT
...but when I get there I probably won't be hopping on those clean lines y'all did. Someday maybe!

I hate to break it to you but in The Needles clean lines is pretty much all you get.

You have an appointment with the rock!
Gal

Trad climber
going big air to fakie
  Sep 4, 2012 - 08:54pm PT
Great job... !
Jebus H Bomz

climber
Peavine Basecamp
  Sep 4, 2012 - 09:33pm PT
I wish the Tennessee boys I met there would post their TR. I don't think they had time for photos though. An example of just one day they had was Thin Ice, Atlantis, and Airy Interlude. Cool linkup, I think! You discover at Needles, the pitch count seems to go waaaay down, so a 9 pitch day becomes well stout.

Sometimes you try to fool yourself but you discover, hey, I'm NOT into that sort of thing! But good on ya, good on ya if you are and can hack it...

Also, I'm pretty sure the Needles is where the mountain Gods go to vacation in summer.
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
  Sep 4, 2012 - 09:05pm PT
Wow, soo good! How nice to have 70m ropes for Igor.

Such a powerfully great place to be.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Sep 4, 2012 - 09:27pm PT
The Needles are so BITCHIN' ! !


Gotta get back there.....
Gal

Trad climber
going big air to fakie
  Sep 4, 2012 - 10:15pm PT
I've never been there-now I really want to go!
Levy

Big Wall climber
So Cal
  Sep 4, 2012 - 10:25pm PT
Nice TR! Ya just gotta love that Don Juan wall. IMHO it is one of the finest outings in the Needles. I always thought that 3rd pitch was 5.10d and funky. The rattly fingers at the end of pitch 2 is the business I think, but the entire route is quite sustained. Sounds like you had a great visit.
ct

climber
CO
  Sep 4, 2012 - 10:54pm PT
After waiting so many years to get there... the Needles did NOT disappoint. Snowhazed is on a roll this year, both with hard pitches and the awesome trip write-ups. Such an amazing place, and such a pleasure to share it with a great friend.

Big thanks again to our friends who left us water!
drljefe

climber
El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
  Sep 4, 2012 - 11:23pm PT
Nice work snowhazed!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Sep 5, 2012 - 04:46pm PT
Stellar rock, stellar pics, stellar TR.
Thanks!!!!
Crimpergirl

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
  Sep 5, 2012 - 05:02pm PT
Great TR. Awesome place - you must go GAL!! Hope to get back one of these days.
Jeremy Ross

Gym climber
  Sep 5, 2012 - 05:25pm PT
Awesome! Loved it. Great job.


-JR
lars johansen

Trad climber
West Marin, CA
  Sep 5, 2012 - 06:32pm PT
Nice pics, thanks.

lars
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Sep 5, 2012 - 06:52pm PT
If the Needles were a country club (if you are into that) there would be a membership waiting list a mile long.
If the Needles were heaven, more of us would be Christians?
I climbed there with Jim Shirley in the eighties, about three trips. Needles had been on my mind ever since I heard way back in the late sixties Fred Beckey had been there not long before and endorsed it, saying there was so much potential.

It far exceeded my expectations: Scenic background of the Kern is unmatchable; climbing is as good as it gets; it's a good alternative to TM in the summer as a retreat from the Valley. If you are into that.

Great TR, enjoyable description. Thx.

Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Sep 5, 2012 - 07:30pm PT
Fred Becky was introduced to the Needles by Dan McHale in 1969. Interestingly the first route he and Dan climbed was the south face of Hermit Spire, the formation you see north across the Freeman Creek drainage from the Needles trail. This was likely due to the time of year, November. McHale had already climbed Sidewalk Magic on the Magician with Chatsworth climber Joe Brown. The following year Beckey, McHale and Mike Heath teamed up to climb the south face of Warlock where they found a cairn on top!!

Hermit Spire
Hermit Spire
Credit: Ksolem
msiddens

Trad climber
  Sep 5, 2012 - 10:50pm PT
Very nice
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Sep 5, 2012 - 10:59pm PT
Miss the Needles . . . thanks for the vicarious adventure.
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Sep 6, 2012 - 12:51am PT
Solid!
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Sep 6, 2012 - 01:29am PT
Holy moly, thanks that was an awesome tr with awesome photos. I'm psyched!!
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
  Sep 6, 2012 - 11:26am PT
I need to retire so I can climb at the Needles more!
Jebus H Bomz

climber
Peavine Basecamp
  Sep 6, 2012 - 11:32am PT
I need to retire so I can climb at the Needles more!


Ha! Yeah, that aid shizz you do, it looks like real WORK!!!

I keep trying to sell the Needles to a few partners of mine who don't get it. You look at the pics, hear about the climbing, WTF? GO TO THE NEEDLES! Simple.
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
  Sep 6, 2012 - 11:43am PT
Wow. That brings back a lot of fond memories. Needles has to be the best cragging area in North America.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
  Sep 6, 2012 - 11:51am PT
Thanks for the psyche. Turns out I'm really into it and plan on being there in a couple of weeks.... but I still need a partner so if anyone is game please give me a shout

I hear its the best in the world
Cragar

climber
MSLA - MT
  Sep 6, 2012 - 12:15pm PT
hhmmm, I know that giggler if his last name is something like Trimbulation? Damn proud trip there!!
snowhazed

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 6, 2012 - 01:57pm PT
Thanks for the bit of history Kris- we definitely eyed that formation- it catches such great light at the end of the day you can't miss it. Bit of an approach though.....
wbw

Trad climber
'cross the great divide
  Sep 6, 2012 - 02:43pm PT
If I remember correctly Snowhazed, you did a TR on some alpine rock routes you did in CO. If so, you have had one hell of a summer rock season. My first trip to the Needles, this past summer was much less impressive but I think it is the finest crack climbing I've ever experienced. And I am into that sort of thing.
pix4u

climber
Sonoma, CA
  Sep 6, 2012 - 05:09pm PT
There is an alternate approach to the Needles from the south, via a road that runs along the west side of the Kern River. It is paved all the way in, and the approach to some of the climbs is shorter than thew other way. It is a fantastic area. Attached are a few images.[photo
Credit: pix4u
id=262215]
pix4u

climber
Sonoma, CA
  Sep 6, 2012 - 05:12pm PT
Additional photo.
Credit: pix4u
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Sep 6, 2012 - 05:58pm PT
It is paved all the way in, and the approach to some of the climbs is shorter than thew other way.

Climbs on Voodoo Dome are better approached from below than above. I've also approached and climbed the South Face of The Warlock from below, and that is big but doable.

I hiked up to the main notch area from the lower road once. It's pretty amazing how much elevation you have to gain after passing the base of Voodoo. After we got up there we staggered down the gully and did P1 of Thin Ice, rapped and spent the rest of the afternoon getting back down to the car. Climbing in the upper Needles formations from the lower road is a tough proposition.

edit: Meant to add Nice Pics!
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Sep 6, 2012 - 07:43pm PT
This great TR can use a bump. But also I just want to call attention, for the sake of people who might be planning a Needles trip soon, to this thread.

Needles-upper-approach-closure-dates

A couple days ago it looked like the closure dates were locked in. Now things are in a state of flux again. Stay tuned, I'll do my best to keep accurate info posted up there.

FWIW my contacts with both USFS and National Monument people have been great, they are fully aware that The Needles is a world class climbing area and are doing their best to limit any closure times and keep us all informed. For our part, if you are at the Needles please stay away from the lookout site and do not climb any routes on Magician until the job is done.
jahil

Social climber
London, Paris, WV & CA
  Sep 6, 2012 - 07:57pm PT
I'm into to it.

Nice.

thanks

steve
snowhazed

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 7, 2012 - 02:38am PT
Yeah wbw- this has been a pretty stellar season for me.

Highlights include Soloed Snake Dike, Matthes, Cathedral. Roped up NEB of HCR, The Crucifix, Harding Route on Conness, Tradewinds on The Hulk,Cary Granite on Evans, D7 on The Diamond, Needles.

And I helped start a company this year, decent regimen of teaching yoga, and my day job. I technically have 3 jobs. It's the post mortgage crisis hustle.

No excuses boys and girls- go get some rock and chow down :)
cultureshock

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Sep 10, 2012 - 06:28pm PT
I've gotta get back to the Needles since I'm totally into that sorta thing.

Ankles takes solid gear the whole way even if it's mostly brass and thin cams. You have just got to think of the positives... Small gear = low weight!

Congrats on many nice ticks! Romantic on your next trip?
snowhazed

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 10, 2012 - 08:16pm PT
Yeah the gear looked fine- the purple c3 and micro brassies have saved my hide on falls many times- but fiddling that gear in on such a sustained line seems quite the challenge- I would imagine success involves running it between the actual first knuckle locks.

The other thing complicating matters would be the damn rope running right over the crucial foot half-pods- yikes. Just have to get stronger :)

Yeah Romantic is on the list for sure for sure. It's probably within my league to struggle/dog up it- but there are a few routes out there that I would like to save for a few years and go give em the real onsight attempt. Then again- stemming is one of my strong points.....
Roadie

Trad climber
Bishop, Ca
  Sep 10, 2012 - 08:22pm PT
dude, with all due respect, if you have ANY quams about leading ankles away just forget about doing RW. i mean that in the nicest way too.
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Sep 10, 2012 - 08:28pm PT
The Warrior is so much harder (and bigger) than Ankles away that it is really hard to compare them. I've done Ankles more times than I can remember. I've been up the Warrior once and it schooled me well.

On ankles the biggest thing you need is a 1" cam. Forget the brass, take good strong stoppers and some steel nuts. Lots of free biners will serve you better than a lot of draws. At the crux the crack thins down to a seam and you have to go a little ways out with the help of some features on the face. You can see this coming and double up your gear before committing. As far as pro is concerned P1 is the more serious part. Double ropes really help on that first pitch.

I think a really good progression would be to do Atlantis, Don Juan, Ankles, Duty Now For the Future, & Davy Jones Locker. Some of the other mega classics like Liquid Sky really need new bolts. They would be there now but for the lookout fire last summer...

YMMV though..;-)

snowhazed

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 11, 2012 - 03:19am PT
no qualms- just stated it would be a bold lead- especially onsight.

I would expect no less from rw (and perhaps a bit more- ok fine a lot more) although hard stemming is a different style imho

regardless- thanks for the sick tr's roadie- sounds like we had some marginally similar experiences on conness this season

Duty Now For The Future- cool name- I gotta look that one up- specially since it's next on the list :)
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Oct 30, 2012 - 05:52pm PT
Hey as long as we're bumping the good stuff.....
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Oct 30, 2012 - 07:18pm PT
Cool report and pics, brings back memories.
I did 1 route on Voodoo Dome about 80/81. Don't recall the name of the route, a 2 or 3 pitch .8/.9?
TFPU
Tad
gonzo chemist

climber
the east coast, for now.
  Oct 30, 2012 - 07:19pm PT
there's no good climbing at The Needles....only great climbing.


Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Oct 30, 2012 - 08:00pm PT
there's no good climbing at The Needles....only great climbing.

Exactly. Can I quote you on that?
gonzo chemist

climber
the east coast, for now.
  Oct 30, 2012 - 09:40pm PT

KSolem,

please do!
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
  Oct 30, 2012 - 10:20pm PT
Thanks for this man!! So cool! Ghost told me I had to go here.. He was right...

Jebus let's go!!


Justin did you go??
snowhazed

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
Author's Reply  Nov 5, 2012 - 08:08pm PT
who wrote this trash?
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
  Jan 7, 2013 - 04:24pm PT
Bump for gold
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Jan 7, 2013 - 04:28pm PT
Thanks for the bump, because I somehow missed this the first time.

Great TR!

John
can't say

Social climber
Pasadena CA
  Jan 8, 2013 - 08:25am PT
Anyone know if this ever got a 2nd ascent? I asked Mike and he said he didn't know.
Lechlinski and Gilje on Straight to Hell FA
Lechlinski and Gilje on Straight to Hell FA
Credit: can't say
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jul 24, 2014 - 12:05pm PT
Was reading the Tradewinds TR and found this too. Super cool place. Canít wait to go here in September!! BUMP
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