<-- Map of summer 2018
     climbing roadtrip 
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JUNE
23-25
2018
Category: California
Trip Report #: 288
Partner: John Bolte (& Joe Maier on Climbs 6-7)
Rock Type: Granite
Elev: ~8,000 ft
Three Days at THE NEEDLES
Climb 1: Inner Sanctum, The Witch (5.9, 3p, 500')
Climb 2: Thin Ice, The Sorcerer (5.10b, 2p, 450')
Climb 3: Spooky, The Charlatan (5.9, 2p, 175')
Climb 4: Summit spire aka Our Lady of the Needles, The Charlatan (5.7, 1p, 45')
Climb 5: Spook Book, The Witch (5.10d, 3p, 500')
Climb 6: Atlantis, The Sorcerer (5.11c, 4p, 500')
Climb 7: Lost at Sea, The Sorcerer (5.10d, 1p, 80')
Climb 8: The Howling, The Warlock (5.10a, 2p, 250')
Climb 9: Silver Threads, The Necromancer (5.10b, 3p, 400')
Climb 10: Don Juan Wall Pitches 1-2, The Sorcerer (5.11, 5p, 500')
My second trip to the Needles. I think this is my favorite place to climb.
Climbing at the Needles. Wow.

INTRO

The Needles are a group of granite spires that stand watch atop a narrow ridge that sits high over the Kern River in Sequoia National Forest in southern California. This is a climber's paradise: perfect rock, beautiful scenery, reasonable summer temperatures (due to higher elevation), minimal crowds, and adventure in abundance. With names such as The Warlock, The Witch, The Sorcerer, the area has an aura of mystery. The climbing at the Needles is known to be stout at the grade, and there are few easy routes and many hard routes.

I had been blown away by my first trip to the Needles in July 2017, and made the Needles a priority of my Summer 2018 adventures. So in late June, I joined John Bolte for three days of climbing in the Needles. With the sunny and warm summer weather, we played the shade (very easy to do in the Needles where there are routes on all aspects), climbing comfortably in a t-shirt all day. These are the sorts of days of climbing I dream of. 

John and I climbed 10 awesome routes, a respectable number for the Needles, where pitches are long and steep and climbing is challenging. Below is a list of routes we climbed, linked to their photos and color-coded by formation.

To stick with the color-coding by formation from my 2017 trip report: Hermit SpireDome Rock, The Witch, The Warlock, The Sorcerer, The Charlatan, The Wizard, The Necromancer


    PHOTOS

    CLIMB 1 - JUNE 23
    Inner Sanctum on The Witch (5.9, 3 pitches, 500')
    Along with Airy Interlude and Igor Unchained, this route is one of the moderate standards on The Witch.
    Photos Photo descriptions
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    1. Looking up Inner Sanctum from the base of the route.
    2. Starting up Pitch 1. There are a couple of ways you can climb this pitch: the burly crack in the photo or the face on the left. 
    3. Looking up the first half of Pitch 1, a really cruiser crack with lots of jugs and good stances.
    4. Looking down the first half of Pitch 1.
    5. An old bolt below the roof. Not really necessary since there is a great cam placement just above, but clip it because it's there.
    6. The roof. The face crux is above the roof. There is a good cam placement below the roof, then a good brass offset nut above the roof, then run it out for 30 feet to easier terrain. 
    7. A HB #5 is the final gear placement before the crux face moves. There are a couple of ways to go: up left (apparently 5.9), or up right and then back left (apparently 5.10a). We went right. This is the crux section of the route. Mostly just a mental crux as the moves are not all that bad.
    8. Looking up Pitch 2, which ascends a cool runnel with a hand crack in the back. Really fun 5.8 climbing.
    9. Pitch 3. More fun 5.8 climbing.
    10. The final scramble to the top of The Witch. There is one exposed defintely-don't-fall-here move stepping across a giant chasm (we belayed it for safety), and then you are on top.
    11. The final scramble to the top of The Witch. The Sorcerer, The Charlatan, and The Magician behind.
    12. This photo was taken
     later that day while climbing Thin Ice on The Sorcerer, looking at climbers on Inner Sanctum.


    CLIMB 2 - JUNE 23
    Thin Ice on The Sorcerer (5.10b, 2 pitches, 450')
    This  route follows a right-facing corner and finger crack up the center of the east face of the Sorcerer. Although challenging and physical (and awesome), it is the easiest way up the rock.
    Photos Photo descriptions
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    1. Starting up Pitch 1.
    2. Looking up the flared groove of Pitch 2. I led this pitch. I was able to climb it straight in, and found it pretty cruiser. A larger person would find it harder and be forced to face in or out and do some stemming or wedging action. The gear in the back is great the whole way up.
    3. A photo taken by a pair of climbers on The Witch, showing me starting up the flaring groove of Pitch 2. This photo makes it look like more of a chimney than a groove.
    4. Looking down the first part of Pitch 2 just after exiting the flare. There's a lot of fun climbing to go above this too!
    5. The final grove to the top.
    6. I recommend running Pitch 2 all the way to the top. It is a 60-65m pitch, but gives you a nice belay at the big tree on a flat ledge rather than a small stance on a ledge.
    7. John on top of The Sorcerer. It's a cool summit. The Witch and The Warlock are behind.
    8. Photo taken by Zach Little (who emailed me some photos a few days later) of John and I climbing Thin Ice. Looks steep!


    CLIMB 3 - JUNE 23
    Spooky on The Charlatan (5.9, 2 pitches, 175')
    A short 2-pitch climb that has it all: slab, splitter hand crack, offwidth, and juggy face. This climb also provides a way to get back to the Main Notch without having to slog back up the gully.
    Photos Photo descriptions
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    1. Looking up Pitch 1, a really fun thin hand crack up a corner.
    2. The short offwidth that starts of Pitch 2. We brought a #5 and #4 for this section, but never placed the #5.
    3. The awesome features on Pitch 2. Really unique climbing for granite.  I had climbed this route the year before, but John had not yet climbed it, and it was worth climbing again. Also, it provides a way to get back to the Main Notch without having to slog up the gully.


    CLIMB 4 - JUNE 23
    Summit spire aka Our Lady of the Needles on The Charlatan (5.7, 1 pitch, 45')
    The short but fun fingercrack to the top of the cool summit spire on top of The Charlatan.
    Photos Photo descriptions
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    1. A short 5.7 finger crack boulder problem to the top.
    2. On top of The Charlatan summit block. I had climbed this the summer before, but John had not yet climbed it. The climb only takes a few minutes and is worth it for the summit photo.
    3. Fido the crag dog protecting the gear from critters at the Main Notch.


    CLIMB 5 - JUNE 24
    Spook Book on The Witch (5.10d, 3 pitches, 500')
    Ascends a magnificent corner up the face of The Witch — super technical, sustained, devious, and full of committing (i.e. "spooky") moves above fiddly gear.
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    1. Spook Book follows the obvious left-facing corner system.
    2. Starting up Pitch 1.
    3. There is a piton under the roof, then 2 bolts protect the face moves. This part is a bit heady (spooky) but John hiked right through it.
    4. A fun crack to finish off Pitch 1.
    5. Looking up the awesome corner of Pitch 2.
    6. John figuring out the crux section of the corner, where the crack peters out and you have to make a few delicate moves to a positive arete hold. There was a fixed nut and John also got in a black totem cam to protect the crux. 
    7. Pitch 2 of Spook Book follows the obvious corner in the center of the photo. This photo was taken while climbing Atlantis on The Sorcerer.
    8. We linked this with Pitch 2, although some parties climb this as a separate pitch. This is the most moderate climbing on the route, but pretty fun climbing through steep flakes.
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    The awesome corner continues for Pitch 3 (Pitch 4 if you break up Pitch 2). The gear is really good and this pitch involves thoughtful climbing that never seemed strenuous or spooky. A really fun pitch.



    CLIMB 6 - JUNE 24 (/w John Bolte & Joe Maier)
    Atlantis on The Sorcerer (5.11c, 4 pitches, 500')
    Atlantis climbs through thin cracks and flakes just right of Thin Ice. A phenomenal route.
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    1. This photo shows Joe Maier leading Pitch 1. This pitch is pretty strenuous and sustained 10c, but protects very well and of course is awesome climbing. (While racking up for the climb at the Main Notch, we ran into Joe Maier, who had come to the Needles alone and was rope-soloing a bunch of routes. We invited him to join us on Atlantis; he had climbed Atlantis the day before with a couple of guys, but we tempted him into it with the idea of adding on Lost at Sea detour at the top of Pitch 3, which he had not climbed. So Joe joined us and we had a blast.)
    2. This photo taken the next day shows a climber styling Pitch 1 of Atlantis, shirt blowing in the wind. It was super windy every afternoon for a few hours as the sun swapped aspects in the canyon.
    3. John having a blast following Pitch 1.
    4. Rochambo for Pitch 2 of Atlantis. (John won.) 

    5. John starting up Pitch 2. This photo also shows climbers on Thin Ice and Don Juan Wall. The Sorcerer is quite the weekend crag!
    6. John at the belay at the top of Pitch 2. There is a fun hand traverse across flakes to get to this belay.
    7. The first half of Pitch 3 is the crux (11c) section of the route, a punchy section up the thin crack/flake. It takes good gear before pulling the moves and then you can get in a piece after pulling a couple of moves.
    8. John starting up the crux (11c) section of Pitch 3. He led this brilliantly.
    9. A bit higher, chalk bag flapping in the wind. We lost a lot of chalk while climbing in the afternoon winds.
    10. Pitch 3 finishes with a super fun hand crack. This photo was taken by Joe, who had borrrowed my camera. Nice photo Joe!
    11. John leading off Pitch 4. He is just past a crux 5.11 layback move, which he of course styled.
    12. There are two options to finish off Pitch 4: a flake (5.10a?) on the left or a corner (5.11-) on the right. We went the corner. It was awesome. I assume the flake is awesome too.
    13. Topping out on Atlantis in the late afternoon. What a route! (Photo by John.)


    CLIMB 7 - JUNE 24 (/w John Bolte & Joe Maier)
    Lost At Sea on The Sorcerer (5.10d, 1 pitch, 80')
    A must-do detour between the 3rd and 4th pitches of Atlantis, ascending an arching flake across the blank face to anchors.
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    1. Joe Maier* leading Lost At Sea, a 10d single pitch detour at the top of Pitch 3 of Atlantis. This pitch follows a thin flake to a bolted anchor. It is super fun and wild and definitely worth doing. After climbing it, we rapped back down and climbed Pitch 4 of Atlantis to the top.

    *John and I had tempted Joe into joining us by telling him we would climb Lost at Sea, which he had not yet climbed. Then of course we stuck him with the lead. =)



    CLIMB 8 - JUNE 25
    The Howling on The Warlock (5.10a, 2 pitches, 250')
    A route with an amazing position up the exposed arete of The Warlock summit.
    Photos Photo descriptions
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    1. There are two options for Pitch 1 of The Howling: the left crack system or the right. I had climbed the left system in 2017, and so we climbed the right system.
    2. Pitch 1 (right option), a fun 5.8-5.8 handcrack and corner.
    3. The traverse at the top of Pitch 1 right option, which brings you to the bolted anchor below the arete.
    4. Looking up the exposed arete of Pitch 2. There are 3 bolts and 1 intermediate rap anchor in the 35m to the top - just enough to keep it safe, but with the exposure it is a spicy lead.
    5. Looking down while climbing the exposed arete. A phenomenal position.
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    Climbers on The Howling on The Warlock. I had taken this photo the previous day; seeing these climbers, John and I decided we had to climb this route the next day.


    CLIMB 9 - JUNE 25
    Silver Threads on The Necromancer (5.10b, 3 pitches, 400')
    When you've done the other moderate standards with morning shade (Airy Interlude, Igor Unchained, Inner Sanctum), Silver Threads is a good option. It's a bit less travelled and hence a bit dirty, but has a lot of unique (and slightly spooky) climbing up flakes.
    Photos Photo descriptions
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    1. Looking up Pitch 1.
    2. The corner on the upper half of Pitch 1 is quite vegetated. But some spots have been cleaned out for gear and finger locks. This would be a really nice corner climb if the vegetation were cleaned out.
    3. Pitch 2 starts with underclinging right along this roof and then climbing up through flakes
    4. Flakes on Pitch 2. The flakes are a bit hollow sounding, and gear is a bit suspect, but the climbing is pretty unique.
    5. Looking down while climbing Pitch 2.
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    Pitch 3 ascends more flakes. Super cool climbing.


    CLIMB 10 - JUNE 25
    The Don Juan Wall (Pitches 1-2) on The Sorcerer (5.11, 5 pitches, 500')
    This is one of the best routes at the Needles. 
    Photos Photo descriptions
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    1. Looking down Pitch 1 - steep and well-protected climbing up a finger to hand crack. This is the first half of Pitch 1 of Thin Ice before traversing left along the top of a giant flake.
    2. Looking up Pitch 2. This is one of the best single pitches of climbing I have done. 
    3. John starting up Pitch 2.
    4. Looking up Pitch 3. I'll come back someday....*
    5. John enjoying a refreshing drink at the Main Notch before hiking out.

    * Our 10th route in 3 days, the Don Juan Wall proved to be a bit too powerful of a route for our less-than-fresh bodies, so we decided to rappel after climbing Pitch 2. I took the opportunity to do a lap on the amazing Pitch 2. John and I agreed that we would be back to climb the full Don Juan Wall route someday, it looks awesome!