Fancy Free is considered one of the classic must-do moderates located at the Needles. It is no doubt the best route on the Charlatan in terms of length and sustainability at the grade. Although Spooky (5.9) is the most climbed route on the Charlatan, typically climbed in combination with Thin Ice from the Sorcerer, Fancy Free is much longer and more in line when compared to other exceptional routes at the Needles like Thin Ice and Airy Interlude. Fancy Free is not in my top three or four, but it is still a worthy objective.
Some web sites have Fancy Free listed as four pitches but we easily did it in three with a 70m rope and I would not have a problem using a 60m rope to accomplish same. Bottom line is that Fancy Free breaks up quite naturally into three pitches. For those familiar with how short Spooky is on Charlatan’s south face, Fancy Free in comparison is the tallest route on Charlatan running up the entirety of its east face and thus much longer than Spooky. Some seem to compare the first two pitches in difficulty, but there really is no comparison. The sustained nature of the thin corner on the second pitch is definitely the crux of the route. This thin awkward crack of the second pitch offers quite the challenge in terms of trying to avoid lay backing on lead. The first pitch has an interesting flared section towards the top, but for the most part offers plenty of rests at the grade. The final pitch turns out to be more fun than one might think. From its fast and easy beginning, it trends right up a hand crack into a challenging pull over a bulge to the summit.
Descend from the col between the Witch and the Charlatan/Sorcerer. You will have to descend lower than the start of Fancy Free and ramp back up right to its start. It follows an obvious crack system from bottom to top, but often times the first pitch is wet and dirty. Even in late August it was a bit wet, but not at the harder climbing on the first pitch.
Route DescriptionFancy Free, 450’+/-, 5.10
1st Pitch- 60m- 5.9+/ This is a thoughtful pitch but has plenty of rests compared to many of the steep cracks at the Needles. The crux comes towards the top where the crack gets slightly flared. Pull a roof lower down, follow some moderate climbing at the grade and climb the 5.9+ slightly flared corner up to a ledge below the obvious 5.10 thin corner. Move right on the ledge and sling a horned feature for the belay.
2nd Pitch- 40m- 5.10/This is one of the more challenging 5.10 pitches at the Needles. Move back left and up into the flared corner with a finger crack. Grope and maneuver (layback for many) your way up the sustained but well protected corner. There will be a foot rest on the arête mid-way, otherwise a sustained flared corner.
3rd Pitch- 50m- 5.9/ This pitch starts out and moves fast, trending up right (5.7). You arrive at a perfect arching hand crack. Follow it up and right to a juncture. I chose going left over the bulge (crux of the pitch) which landed me at a singular belay bolt on top of the summit.