Monday, September 29, 2014

The Needles (Emma's epic TR sessions)

The Needles are located in the Southern Sierra, a five hour drive from the bay area. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't know anything else about the area except that it exists. The guide book for the area has been out of print for several years now. We were worried that access to the trail head might be tricky with low-clearance Prius because the road has been reported to be in bad shape. In addition, the book cover pic doesn't really promise much. A storm was rolling in from the North so we didn't end up having a choice. We had dinner at the Lee Vining Mobil Station (fish tacos, of course) and drove to Needles.

This is what you want. Thank you Angel!

Everything about the Needles is a bit of a mystery. I think part of the appeal of the climbing is that the access is not straightforward and finding your way around might be difficult at first. Nothing made sense to me, until I got to the base of the actual pinnacles (in between Sorcerer and Witch) and started orienting myself. The biggest challenge, I think, is finding your way around and using time efficiently by linking climbs. Routes we climbed were between 70 and 150 meters so it was easy to climb two or three every day.

To bring shoes or not, to hike off or to rappel, to haul or not, to bring a single 70, two 60s, or a tag line? Why are there so many squirrels?

There is no cell service so if something happens, you are on your own. Always bring a headlamp.

Be prepared for wind, bears, and critters.

The map of the area, very simple!
The Witch is the home of Airy Interlude (10a), Igor Enchained (5.9+), and Spook Book (10+)
P1 and 2 of Igor Enchained can be linked with a 70. This is the classic 5.9...+.
The East face of the Sorcerer. We climbed Don Juan Wall (11b), Thin ice (10b), and The Atlantis (11d).
I'm on P2 of Don Juan. Morgan is leading P1 of Ice Pirates (11b).
P3 of Don Juan has some awkward climbing

By this point you probably realize why title says Emma's TR sessions. We spent a week at the Needles so there are a lot of pics. Of. Me. Top roping. Pics taken by Max.

Romantic Warrior (12b) The P5 traverse (12a) is spicy for the second. Max's weird long arm compliments the pic.
Oh the fighter bombers...
The book of Deception (12b) is The Pitch.
If hauling, add one more pitch to The Romantic Warrior and rappel the back side of the Warlock. It's easier and faster than rapping the entire route and reversing the approach. Pic taken from the top of Warlock.
The fire lookout on the Magician burnt down 2011 but it's still worth a visit.

We spent rest days in camp or drove to town. Hiking in the area would be great but my foot could barely make the three mile approach on our climbing days so we hung out, made friends, ate a lot of chips and salsa (mostly just me), and played card games.

Habituated fat chipmunk. Lock your doors and store your food wisely.
That's all Max does, all day long.
Lunch: burritos with fried left over rice, bell peppers, eggs, and avocado.
I consume about a jar of salsa per day. Great for candles!

Max makes 80% of our meals really. I'm very lucky. Actually, I think he is lucky because I just want to eat burritos.

The Swedish team: Morgan (climbing) and Peter (belaying) sending Don Juan (11b).
Peter finishing the last pitch of Don Juan. We topped out Thin ice (10b) right before them. Next Spooky (5.9).
The Sorcerer is my favorite pinnacle. I took this pic after topping out Spooky.

The weather deteriorated towards the end of our trip. Temps were at couple degrees above zero. We had to hike in one more time to get our gear. It was hailing and snowing when we left camp. At the crag the weather was perfect. We were surprised and decided to go rock climbing. The occasional gusts of wind were freezing cold and we could see the storm building around us.

The Atlantis (11d) and Lost at Sea (10d) link up.
Hulk, again?
Please become a clove hitch!
Peter and Morgan on Spook Book (10+).
Chasing the sun on Spook Book. My fingertips gave in, blood everywhere, cams, stoppers, slings, holds... I'm sorry.
Last morning, freezing cold. Poor fingers.

The food in Berkeley is amazing. Go to Cheese Board! Now I must finish packing and head to the airport. See you!

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