The Spell is my personal favorite at the Needles. Sarcophagus (“a stone coffin”…appropriate play on words) is another worthy chimney route to the right of the Spell on Warlock’s west face. There is not a more pristine environment in the Needles to hang out than between the Warlock and the Witch. That being said, few climb the Warlock’s west facing routes. On the busiest day at the Needles, you are still likely to find peace and quiet in this gully with the exception of the fighter jets which consider this narrow passage to be the most challenging when doing their banked fly by. There was a falcon nesting on the upper reaches of the east face of the Witch in June, 2014.
The Spell is a true splitter from bottom to top of the Warlock and is magnificent to view and/or photograph from atop the Witch. This split forms the north and middle summits of the Warlock. The chimney that forms the middle and south summits is Sarcophagus. Its second pitch contains approximately 100’ of much easier vertical chimney climbing when compared to the Spell. The upper reaches of this chimney offer the crux climbing as it narrows and you must pull over a small chock stone roof. The last pitch has a right exit variation that offers a stunningly exposed hand roof crack.
Although you can meander in the gully direct via some down climbing and a single 70m rope rap. It is cleaner to climb the first pitch of the Howling (5.9) and do a double 60m rope rap from its first pitch (tunnel through) anchors directly to the base of the Spell. For Sarcophagus, scramble/hike on down the loose gully to below the next large chimney.
Route DescriptionSarcophagus, 500’+/-, 5.9
1st Pitch- 160’- 5.9/ Only beta I found regarding the start was someone suggesting to avoid this pitch (by climbing a crack to the right) because it might be scary. However, I found the FA’s first pitch relatively straight forward. Angle left to right up intermittent cracks and blocky features. There is a button head bolt up on the left wall at the crux section, a short flaring closed crack. However, there is good pro in the short corner to the right and thus the bolt serves no purpose. Stem over into that corner for a short section of good finger crack climbing. Belay at a small platform below a larger flaring corner above.
2nd Pitch- 200’- 5.9/ This is the crux pitch, a long chimney/off-width, although it is ten times easier than the Spell’s adjacent 5.10 wide pitch. Stem up the flaring closed corner placing off-sets or nuts to the right. Once you enter the large chimney chasm above, the first half is low angled. The start of the steep section offers easy chimney technique. The upper reaches start to narrow requiring more off-width skills (I easily pushed one C4#5 along). Pull the chock stone roof and belay on small gear below the massive roof above.
3rd Pitch- 60’- 5.9/ You have two choices, either enjoy the incredible hand crack/no feet exposure of going right or tunnel through at the top to a one off-width move finish to the lower of three summits on the Warlock. Belay on a fixed rap atop the south face.
4th Pitch- 150’- 5th/ Solo up the easy south face of the middle summit. Down climb to the notch between it and the north summit. Stem across and aid or make a 5.9 face move across a bad button head with consequences. Continue up through several bolts to the north summit of the Warlock with the rap chains for the Howling at the far end.