The Needles Eye area is located along the Needles Highway next to its namesake spire and the long one lane tunnel. Adjacent to the Needles Eye are several other classic features including the Bell Tower, Hitching Post, and Bloody Spire. From Sylvan Lake, head up the Needles Highway. The Needles Eye is the obvious spire before the tunnel, which is usually easily identifiable by tourists milling around in the summer time. We had it to ourselves for a short period in April before some folks with a real southern accent pulled off and chatted at me the whole time I was climbing the route. I never once responded, except a laugh here or there, but they never came up for air. I am no doubt in their photo album back home. Needles Eye is a granite spire with a slit that is 3 to 4 feet wide and 30 to 40 feet tall.
I did the 5.10 direct face route on the Needles eye, but there are other various routes on the feature itself, Moonlight Rib- lower 5’s, Gold Line- 5.8, White Line- 5.8 and Doody Direct- a 5.8 trad route.
For the 5.10 direct face, there is a bolt 20’ off the ground directly on the face. You can place some small gear early, but not much and in fact one of our pieces did come out. The first 20 feet is the most difficult section. Once you get past the half way point, you have a significant run out section that moves left up the corner of the spire, but the climbing is the easiest through this blank section. Towards the top, you want to traverse back right. There are some pitons to your far left, but you are better served (rope drag) to ignore them and place gear as you traverse over right. You will reach a grove of sorts that makes for some challenging climbing again and that is your path to the summit. There is a rap station on top. You need two 60 meter ropes to rap this route.
Essential Gear/Guide Books2- 60 meter ropes, set of nuts and small cams, helmet, harness, etc.
• Recommended Climbing Routes in the Needles of Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota by John Page and Mount Rushmore National Memorial Climber's Guide by Vernon R. Phinney, both available at Granite Sports, Hill City, SD, 605 574-2425
• Touch the Sky by Paul Piana (Out of print, try to find it used on the internet)