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June 10-25th, 2003
The Needles were a place I had been wanting to check out for a long time. If you have seen a lot of climbing pictures then you have almost certainly seen the unmistakable granite spires covered with nearly day-glow yellow lichen and classic climbs. I finally got a chance to check this area out when Jen and Brian headed there. Matt was to follow shortly after his truck transmission got fixed. Yosemite Valley was plagued with mosquitos and high temperatures, so June 10th I headed south towards the Needles. The drive involved passing through the extra hot central valley, but eventually I was winding my way up 190 and I do mean winding and up. I got to the chilly campsite at the end of the road shortly after sundown, leveled my truck, and joined Jen and Brian for dinner and cards in her spacious camper.
The next morning I got my first view of the Needles. This started with the obligatory 2.5 mile hike up to the Needles lookout (the hike was a good forced warmup and training, but could also be a real pain). The lookout is a spectacular glass walled structure perched on top of the Magician. (each of the Needles has a somewhat magically themed name such as Magician, Sorcerer, Witch, Warlock, etc.) After a short stop at the lookout to admire the view and get a fire permit we headed off trail to the Charlatan-Witch divide and staging area. There they picked up the stashed gear and we planned the climbing for the day. Jen and I were to do a quick ascent of spook book and then we would see what else needed to be done. Well, Spook Book (10d) didn't go particularly quickly. Its other name is Welcome to the Needles, and it involved some thin face on thankfully new bolts, and thin gear up a corner. Jen got the hardest pitch, and I fell while cleaning it, although I shall maintain that it was because I was messing with stuck gear. My pitch did involve a lot of interesting stemming and thin crack climbing up a seemingly endless left facing corner -- very nice. Topping out involved some rather airy unroped climbing up to the summit for a short rappel and downclimb back to the notch.
In the following days I climbed a succession of classics or would be classics anywhere else. The climbs…
Airy Interlude (9+?) with Kevin
Electric Spook(10++) with Rico
Fancy Free (10a), Black Rabbit(10a), Thin Ice (10b) (very nice), Spooky (9+), Inner Sanctum (.9+), Witch Doctor(10a)(1st P), Phosphorescent Flow(10a)(tr), Igor Unchained (.9+), Ankles Away(11c)(tr) with John
Don Juan Wall (11a)(took a good long fall on the second pitch), Atlantis(11c) (with the lost at sea variation), and White punks on Dope (.8/9) with Kristo
Love Potion #9 (.9?) with Dave.
As you can see, I got to do lots of amazing climbs. I was especially impressed with the east face of the sorcerer. Other highlights included seeing friends both weekends I was there and going to the SSCA slideshow at the Ponderosa and of course fresh cookies in the lookout from Margee after our ascent of Atlantis (all around a very satisfying day). The weather in the Needles (about 8000 feet) was a welcome change from the heat of Yosemite. I usually did the hike in shorts and a t-shirt, but was usually climbing in at least long pants. For the belays I usually had at least a long sleeve shirt, and often I wished for more wind protection. Back at the camp the mornings were usually sunny and warm, but the evenings were often chilly and windy. This was especially true when there was a cloud layer streaming over the hillside we were camped on. Sleeping in was very easy to do there. I left the Needles June 25th and Matt's truck was finally fixed June 27th.