Trip Report
the ROMANTIC WARRIOR, First Ascent, 40 years ago, October, 1977

by ec
Sunday October 1, 2017 2:15pm
Summary: I had only been climbing about 3 years. While hanging out at Dome Rock, I discovered the line of the route, on the Warlock Needle, miles away. Shortly after my discovery, I slyly took the opportunity to plan an attempt the route, ‘sight unseen’ (from the base, anyway) when John Peca casually expressed to me that he wanted to do a route that had a bivy. Again, neither of us had ever been to the base. We walked up to it without further inspection and climbed the route with our crappy shoes, stoppers, hexes, a few pitons, and a bolt kit (placed 11, 8 for belay anchors). Even then, I felt that the route was a big deal; we had to climb it. After 3 days, we summited. My focus had been just to get up the thing, free climbing or aid. We chose the RURP seam, as it appeared to be a more direct line ‘up’ than the current free version that goes out left and up the roof. And to be frank, out left was crumbly, insipid and uninviting. I had been inspired from pictures of The Shield, and we had our own right there, not to be missed. LoL, one can get into serious sh*t by reading books. It was a life-changing adventure, for sure.

Please post any pictures or stories of your own adventures on the Romantic Warrior here.

thx - ec

Credit: ec

Link: The Original Tale of the First Ascent

The Romantic Warrior by Neville Potter

Standing bold Romantic Warrior

Timeless one in amour gold

Giving your message to warriors all

The victory of victories is about to be told

Don’t succumb to the sorceress warriors

Tarnishing your purpose bright

Have your senses yet to have their fill

Of battles old and fearsome stories told each night

You’ve wandered off the path my warrior friends

Those pictures painted in your weary eyes

Tell of age old times gone by

When you fought and jousted cross the skies

In those battled faces etched so deep

Are stories of those gruesome duels

When locked in combat for a thousand years

You earned the title tyrants cruel

But even in those loud victorious cries

The magician spun a strange defeat

For as you smote from view the jester bright

Your battered selves lay at your feet

The sadness in your hearts ring out

Protesting those whose silent will

Led you to this bloodstained trail

And you can't recall deciding to kill

Pick up the gauntlet warriors

Sheath your swords put up your trusty lance

Channel the power used to rush every foe

Into giving the future a chance

Believe in yourselves old warriors bold

Create a path so firm and sure

Fight for the birth of the freedom of man

The end of this medieval overture

  Trip Report Views: 3,313
About the Author
ec thinks, “WTF?! 40 years ago!”

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Social climber
  Oct 1, 2017 - 04:11pm PT
hey there say, ec... thanks for sharing...

hope to see lots of folks chip in, too...

Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
  Oct 1, 2017 - 08:15pm PT
Cheers, man

T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Oct 1, 2017 - 08:24pm PT
Proud effort!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Oct 1, 2017 - 08:27pm PT
The bar for experience-based contributions is pretty high on this one...

I can just say "whoa, pretty gnarly."

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Oct 1, 2017 - 08:29pm PT
Great...forty years goes by pretty quickly.... !
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Oct 1, 2017 - 09:15pm PT
This is great, thank you for sharing. Hope to climb it as free ad possible one day. Looks way good and way hard. The rock in the needles is the best!

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
  Oct 2, 2017 - 09:23am PT
ec ...... way to go.

you sir, are well known by your quality climbs.

and as Jim says... 40 years goes by fast.

Trad climber
Save your a_s, reach for the brass...
  Oct 2, 2017 - 10:13am PT
Thanks for the history EC! An amazing line that kicked my ass, didn't finish due to style violations ;-)
Leading the 10d/11a pitch that gets you to the start of the business p...
Leading the 10d/11a pitch that gets you to the start of the business pitches.
Credit: BrassNuts
My partner coming up the first 5.12 stemming pitch.  Intricate and ins...
My partner coming up the first 5.12 stemming pitch. Intricate and insecure combinations in an obtuse corner. Absolutely amazing this route has been free soloed!
Credit: BrassNuts

right here, right now
  Oct 2, 2017 - 11:21am PT
That was a fun read!

Some good stuff in there:
They would be considered quaint when compared to today's super outdoor shops. There was lots of natural wood, gear hanging in every available space and the merchandising was as if it was some guy's closet. It was the simpleness of it all that I recall that was most appealing.


The stance measured about one foot by two feet and was perfectly flat. It was situated in a position at the very top edge of the overhanging wall we had climbed up; giving us a clear view of the base of the route. The walls below were steep, gray and streaked with black and yellow lichens. This view of the exposure was so surreal here we dubbed the stance 'Excess Reality Ledge.' We were glad to have this small place to stand instead of hang. The summit corner loomed overhead.


In the years after this, I have chuckled at the efforts to neophyte wall climbers, remarking to them, "Yeah, you are going to spend all this time making your plans to climb your route and even relish the thought of living on it for days. I'll tell you, once you get up a ways, unless you bail off, you're going to do everything in your power to get the hell off the damn thing as fast as possible.



It's a pleasure after all these years, to see your voice on the forum. Not that you are by any means new here, but we haven't really interacted.

I first started climbing in The Needles in 1978 and 1979 with Erik Eriksson. At the time, we once visited Richard Leversee at a modest USFS cottage which he inhabited for a time, as I recall, connected to a local job that he held. And we would run into him at Dome Rock.

There sure weren't very many locals to The Needles at the time, not that we were aware of anyhow, Richard being one, and later Patrick Paul and Ron Carson. Of course Tony was around, as were others of our Southern California crew. But you were the one storied individual with whom I never made acquaintance.

In the early 60s, I used to visit my grandparents and aunts and uncles who lived in Bakersfield. But that's another story.

Never climbed Romantic Warrior. Great route name, BTW, and I have the album right here at home (two copies, one of which belonged to Erik from way back in the 70s), both on vinyl!

Looking forward to reading all of your other climbing adventure recollections on the website:

Happy trails,


EC, from the Moser, Vernon, and Paul Needles guide:


Author's Reply  Oct 2, 2017 - 01:01pm PT
Thx, guys...40 years like a vapor...

Great shots BassNuts!

Roy, strange we hadn’t crossed paths. Beleve it or not, your name did come up in conversation with acquaintances (nothing defamatory). I was about, but probably spread myself ‘thin’ by attempting to explore the vast resources of the area. You mentioning the cabin in Camp Nelson gives me a definite time frame.

I met Erik in the summer of ‘77 when he and Badyrka first showed-up around Dome Rock. At first, they appeared apprehensive or even suspicious of my friend Scott Edmiaston and I for whatever reason. However, after hitting some hot springs, partying-down a bit, and climbing together on the 2nd ascent of what is now known as ‘Grand Delusion’ on the southern prow of the Hermit, all the planets were aligned.

And thinking about the recent rockfall in Yosemite, the last time I saw Erik at the Needles was when he was on a route on the Witch Needle (‘78-‘79). Leversee and I were scouting for new routes in the lower Witch/Sorcerer Gully. I got caught in a major talus slide where I literally was thrown a distance, slamming my chest into a stationary boulder and somehow was able to literally ‘shoot the curl’ in a desperate lunge for safety, all the while sucking air. My main incentive to move was a VW Beetle-sized boulder headed my way. I still can’t figure-out how I pulled that off; I’m totally sh*tty at dynos. Erik and Leversee thought I was surely dead.

Matt Sarad

  Oct 2, 2017 - 01:22pm PT
Last time I climbed at the Needkes I met a young couple who had come to climb Thin Ice and then Romantic Warrior. They had left Yosemite a few days before after climbing Astroman.

I loaned them my Moser/ Paul Needles guide for reference.


  Oct 2, 2017 - 01:46pm PT
ec, thank you for posting the story of the first ascent. What a cool adventure it must have been to find such a beautiful line before anyone else had climbed it! I had the opportunity to climb Romantic Warrior about twelve years ago. Though I wasn't quite equal to it at the time, it was still every bit a worthwhile experience.

I had been to the Needles once before and had climbed a number of more moderate classics such as the Don Juan wall. I knew about Romantic Warrior and was intrigued by it, but it wasn't a reasonable choice on that first trip. A couple of years later in mid-October I was two weeks into a rather unpleasant job painting a communications tower that involved a lot of old lead paint and a lot of time in a respirator mask. Needless to say, when my friend Ben called me from California imploring me to come down to the Needles (I was in Seattle at the time) and climb Romantic Warrior with him, it was an easy decision to ditch the job and go climbing.

I drove the 20 hours pretty much straight through with maybe a two hour layover at a rest stop. Upon arrival at the Needles, I learned that we would climb the route the next day, as a large storm was moving in the day after with some significant snowfall forecast. I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of having no time to get comfortable with Needles climbing, but how could I possibly say no? Ben really wanted to climb the route and I had no desire to be a source of disappointment.

After some fitful sleep, we woke up early and made our way up the trail and down the gully to the base of the route. I knew the moment my climbing shoe touched rock that I wasn't going to have an easy time of it; I was tired and somewhat discombobulated from all the driving. Nevertheless, the climbing felt fine until I tried to lead the first of the harder pitches, which is the free variation that avoids the RURP seam from your original line. I started up, shoved two lobes of a purple TCU into the wavy, incipient crack ten feet above the belay, and felt all resolve crumble away.

I've never had a more emotional meltdown while climbing. I literally cried in frustration. I tried to convince Ben to bail from the route: he would entertain no such tomfoolery. He half-encouraged, half-shamed me into continuing. It was the right combination of approaches: I managed to calm myself and proceeded to follow him up the rest of the route. Being a consummate granite magician, he floated up the climb, showing no sign of it being remotely challenging save for a couple of grunts on the second pitch of the Book of Deception, which has some notoriety for being difficult for its grade.

For my part, I managed to climb the route cleanly save for having to hang once to retrieve a stuck cam from the short, steep finger crack traverse that accesses the belay stance before the slab traverse to the base of the final corner. I yelled and pounded the rock with my fists at this fresh indignity: I really wasn't at my best that day. To redeem myself, I led the last short face pitch in the dark with a headlamp. Somehow, I got off route far to the left after clipping the lone bolt. I had a few minutes of real terror as I grappled with suspect rock and climbing that seemed well above the 5.9 paygrade, far too runout from the bolt to contemplate failure.

We had to rappel the route because of a slight logistical error. On one steep rappel, I hung helplessly in space, unable to touch the wall while the ropes, blown by wind, became stuck far around the corner on a highly featured face. As I pulled myself further and further around the corner to investigate, they released, sending my swinging out into the darkness. In that moment the frustration and fear of the day inexplicably modulated to an odd feeling of peace. I still recall how strange it was to feel a deep sensation of well-being at that particular time, but when I think of the route and the experience, that feeling stands out above all.

Thank you for your work establishing the route. It's truly one of the great ones.

Trad climber
the middle of CA
  Oct 2, 2017 - 04:10pm PT
One time I looked at it, peed a little in my pants, and then climbed something easy.

Just livin' the dream
  Oct 2, 2017 - 04:11pm PT
The Needles area is such a stunningly beautiful family of formations...and mysterious beyond words. I've climbed there a couple times and always feel I've stepped into an alternate reality when I first look upon them.

Thank you for the excellent TR from 40 years ago. Truly inspired climbing and taletelling.

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  Oct 2, 2017 - 06:21pm PT
You know, there's the excitement of pioneering a new route, and then there's the excitement of pioneering a great new route.

Cheers, EC!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Oct 4, 2017 - 03:17am PT
Bump for the real deal.
TR of the year?

Author's Reply  Oct 9, 2017 - 12:01pm PT
a good profile of the route from an image from Kris’ new Needles guide
a good profile of the route from an image from Kris’ new Needles guide
Credit: Ksolem

In this image, I’m actually trying to get over the pile of aluminum sh...
In this image, I’m actually trying to get over the pile of aluminum shavings left on my garage floor after drilling those Hexes out...Domelands, ‘76
Credit: Joel Matta, ec collection

Author's Reply  Oct 20, 2017 - 08:21am PT
I tried getting some of other FA images, but somehow they’re lost :(

Jon Clark

  Oct 20, 2017 - 10:49am PT
An awesome read. I also appreciated Drewsky's write up. Thanks.

right here, right now
  Oct 20, 2017 - 05:22pm PT
Just read the write up for Igor Unchained:
The walls were astonishingly beautiful; white granite accented in the colors of gold, black and yellow. From a neophyte climber's view, the Needles' vertical spires, with their mysterious shapes, colors and surreal beauty had me in a state of shock.
All these years later, I'm still in a state of shock!

Joel had now quit climbing due to a bad shoulder and a new commitment to an orthopedic practice.
As it turns out, Dr. Joel Matta wound up inventing some special surgical tables that assist in the anterior approach for hip replacement.

He's also buddies with Doug Robinson, whose prose are included in the write up. (Sent a link to this story to Doug just now).

Author's Reply  Oct 20, 2017 - 05:26pm PT
Yep...Joel was a hip specialist! I originally met Doug thru Joel on a trip to the Valley (Yos).

HaHa...Doug told me to be careful of what you read (in regards to his piece I shared).

Domelands, BITD
Domelands, BITD
Credit: ec

Joel, 2017...from the article posted above.
Joel, 2017...from the article posted above.
Credit: The Steadman Clinic

Joel had some unbelieveably crazy stories about working the ER. He even worked on me once after breaking my ankle at Dome Rock.

Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
  May 17, 2018 - 03:56am PT
So much here! = some morning bumpige, to go with coffee,& nkidz home from schoolz
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
  May 17, 2018 - 11:51am PT
Glad to read it was first climbed with aid. ;>)

Social climber
Southern Arizona
  May 17, 2018 - 06:29pm PT
Thanks for bumping this back onto the front page.

The valley is awesome, but the Needles is magical.


Trad climber
Monrovia, California
  May 17, 2018 - 08:45pm PT
Dr Mata is a highly regarded orthopedic surgeon. His innovations in hip replacement techniques are revolutionary. An elderly friend of ours who danced with Fred Astaire and Lucille ball had Dr. Mata do her hip replacement with remarkable results and a short recovery time.

Amazing to see this on your TR, EC!

The NW edge of The Hudson Bay
  May 19, 2018 - 12:11am PT
Great TR on a legendary route!

In the strangest of coincidences, my work colleague told me today of having his hip rebuilt by Dr. Joel Matta back in the early nineties.

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