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Jul 12, 2002, 2:57 PM
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Registered: Oct 10, 2001
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Needles - Addiroids, Jabbeaux, PBCowboy
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FINALLY!! After about 2 years of wanting to climb The Needles, it happened. On July 3rd, Zac (pbcowboy) and I drove up to central California to climb in the mysterious place. A place so mysterious that the guide book is out of print. A place with rocks bearing the names of The Witch, The Sorceror, and Voodoo Dome. We were finally here.

Even though we had met only 20 minutes before we left SoCali, we had a lot to talk about on the ride up there. Zac had never climbed trad before, but was a 5.10 sport climber. And although he had a hurt ankle, he was fired up to climb. We found the dirt road leading to the campsite and rolled in at about 9pm to the full campground and threw down next to the car since about 40 people had already gotten a jump on us to the sites. Knowing that tomorrow would bring some hard climbing, we took a lap to meet some people, had some beers and hit the hay.

Just as scheduled, Tim Triche (Jabbeaux) rolled in at 5:30am really fired up to be back at the Needles. He brought with him two cute Asian girls named Jenny and Stephanie, and Jenny’s boyfriend, Will, who was out with an ankle injury due to a trail running competition fall. Since I am naturally loud (but tried to be quiet), and Tim was getting in and out of his car, we managed to piss a few people off. Will said we were the talk of the campsite for the next 3 hours. Apparently some people use climbing trips to sleep instead of climb. You can sleep when you are dead. If the sun’s up, you overslept. But we got on the trail and headed to The Magician which is the rock that the Lookout Tower is on. After the 30 minute downhill bushwhack, we arrived at the base of The Magic Dragon (5.7 8 pitches) and racked up. Since Tim had the two girls with him and we were ready to climb, I told Zac a few things about how to clean gear, and set off. Nearing the end of my rope with 1 hex in 200’ of 5.7, and still having about 30 feet to go before reaching a suitable ledge to belay, I asked Zac to simulclimb with me. I was kind of stupid in doing this because I didn’t give him time to put on his shoes and pack and was impatiently pulling on the rope. I guess it has been a long time since I have climbed with someone who had not trad climbed before and I assumed that he already had put his shoes on while giving me a “belay”. My fault. He also wasn’t used to the quick and efficient style I change belays and set off to climb. So that made Zac and Tim a bit mad at me. What a way to start off a trip. I apologized and we arrived at the notch after another 180’ for a view of the entire Needles. What a sight!!! 4 more pitches of runout 5.4 slab climbing brought me to some tricky 5.6 face climbing. After 20’ of that, I saw the Lookout Tower, ran up, jumped over the railing (dinking the window with my hexes – Sorry!!) and put Zac on belay. He asked, “Am I on a real belay, or a body belay????” I said, “You are on a real body belay!!” I had been using a body belay for the last 5 pitches and even held a fall that he took. Some people are just more traditional than others. He came up, we talked with Margee the ranger, and waited for Tim and his two climbing partners to come up. Then Zac and I went back to camp to prepare the July 4th feast, while Tim and the girls climbed something short.

Due to excess imbibement on July 4th, we were slow to rise the next day. Dave, a guy we met on the trail the day before decided to climb with us, so Tim, Dave, and I (Zac’s ankle was hurting) climbed The Yellow Brick Road (5.9 3 pitches) on The Wizard Needle. Although Dave hadn’t climbed in FOUR years, he headed up for some 5.9 face climbing with confidence. I followed, and Tim lead the offwidth 2nd pitch. This pitch is notorious for latching on to knees and not letting go. There is a bottle of salad oil at the belay from 2 climbers a while back. The leader got his knee totally stuck, and the other guy had to run back to camp (2 hour round trip) to get some oil to release the knee of the leader. Fortunately you can face climb on the outside of the crack so you don’t have to suffer the same fate. But if you do, the oil is still there. I got to lead the third pitch. Fingertips layback. Damn, I wish I was 8 years old again. I could barely get one-half inches of my finger tips in there. And since Tim’s nut rack was conveniently lacking in the small to medium size, I got to protect it with wobbly large nuts that were sticking half way out of the crack. After running it out 40’ of 5.2 at the summit, I brought Tim and Dave up and we rapped 80’, climbed to the top of the Sorceror (230’ of 5.3), and rapped the Sorceror-Charleton gulley. It was 4:30 and we called it a day. We went back to camp, drank beer, had dinner, drank beer and wine, and went to bed.

My buddy from San Diego, Zach “We’re not aid climbing” Armstrong, pulled in late Friday night. I had told him how to get there, but I wasn’t sure if he would show. That was cool because I wasn’t sure if Zac’s ankle was going to make it to climb all day. Dave had gone, Tim was TRing with the girls, Will, and Tim’s g/f at Dome rock, so I was glad to have Zach there. We did the hour approach, and got to the bottom of the classic Igor Unchained (5.9 3 pitches). As Zach (SD) was pulling the ropes out of his pig, he found a nice 20 pound rock nestled in between the two ropes. Somehow, as he was filling his water bottle at the campground, a rock just jumped into his pack. Okay, this was a funny idea I thought, until he reminded me that he was a Navy Seal and spends every moment of every day learning and training how to kill people before their eyes have time to blink. So I’m sure he knows many ways to play a little practical joke on me. I’m sure he will get me back somehow. He assured me of this fact.

Back to Igor. This is a beautiful hand crack in a left facing dihedral. The word “strenuous” makes it sound easy. I had a full rack of double-triple hand sizes (hence the previous comment from Zach) plus singles from TCU to #4. Nonetheless, by the time I reached the proper belay, I didn’t have the right gear for a 3 person anchor. That didn’t change as I neared the end of my rope. So Zach (San Diego) simuled with me about 20’ so I could make it to the ledge to belay (2 #3’s and a large red hex). I brought Zach (SD) up and Zac’s ankle was giving him trouble again, so I lowered him and Zach and I finished the route (too many Zac(h)’s!!). The second pitch is a brilliant 5.9 finger-hand-face-trickery crack that is way more vertical than the first. I asked Zach again if he wanted to lead it, but he hadn’t climbed hard in like 6 months, so it was up to me. I bootied a nut on the first 20’, then somehow made it to the top passing an optional belay shared with Airy Interlude (5.10a). The girl who was leading A.I., Anna (Valygrl) encouraged me to continue to the top so she and her partner could have the belay to themselves. I’m sure Zach would have liked to share the anchor with her since she was really cute, but we had climbing to do. He can look at girls all he wants back in San Diego. While climbing, we saw one of our buddies, Mike, working Pyromania (5.13a tips undercling). He got close like 5 times, then finally redpointed. Good work dude!!

After Igor, Zach wanted to speedclimb The Magic Dragon (5.7 8 pitches). I had fun on it 2 days before, and running up slab at 80 degrees F sounded like a great end of a day. So we took a light rack and an even lighter rack of water (2 cups left from the day) and went down the same murderous bushwhack to the base. Zach lead the first 3 pitches, then I lead us to the top. If you’ve never run up slab before, you should try it. It will give a new meaning to the words, “Fatigue due to lactic acid accumulation”. Zach touched the porch at 1 hour and 21 minutes. Not too bad, but we could have easily shaved 20 minutes off it. So what if The Nose has been done in a bit less than 3x that amount!! We felt good!!

That night we hung out with people at the campsite, then got up to climb Dome Rock on Sunday. We all three climbed Tree Route (5.6) which was one of my favorite 5.6’s I have climbed. A really nice splitter finger crack for 300’ that Zach was glad to lead. After that we headed back to the heat of SoCali to inhale some smog.

A couple of notes: We met Cedar Wright . He has done a ton of Grade VI speed climbs and is a really cool guy. Also, there were many nice people climbing there that weekend. We were privileged to hang out with Nick Sellars and Andrea from England, Ted and Tammy from Flagstaff, Dave from Flagstaff, and many other cool folks. The temperature was perfect (80 degrees barely on one day with 50’s at night) and the scenery was brilliant. Although this weekend is the busiest of the year, it was still a laid back atmosphere with FREE camping. Okay, so it isn’t The Valley. Well yeah, that’s the point. If you are looking for a beautiful place to climb Valley-style cracks, without the National Pavement Service sicking the Yostapo on you, head up The 99 to the Needles and you will have a great time. But be warned, there is only about a dozen routes under 5.8. But it is a place to not be missed.

TRADitionally yours,

Cali Dirtbag

[ This Message was edited by: addiroids on 2002-07-12 14:57 ]

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