Dow leading the 8th pitch above.
The Spell (5.10) is by far the best route on the Warlock and in my opinion the most aesthetic climb at the needles. If you are into off width/squeeze chimneys (which the Spell is), the other side (southeast) of the Warlock has perhaps the 2nd best off width pitch in the area named the S Crack route (5.10). The S Crack route and the South Face (Beckey) route run parallel or can even share the same start to provide the most aesthetic climbing for both routes. We chose to use the S Crack start (5.9+ off width) which accesses the best 5.8/9 pitch variation for the South Face: a right facing corner that is slightly overhung but with stemming (2nd pitch). This long pitch is a variation to the short 3rd, 4th and 5th pitches of the South Face and leads you to the same head wall above. The 5th pitch, crux of the climb and 7th pitch according to the guide, is the exposed bolted start (thus the PG 13 rating) that takes you up to a fun steep corner a full 200’, with no inches to spare, to a comfortable belay in the easy chimney which finishes in another pitch to the summit shoulder. From there the climbing is uneventful to the summit and the eventual rap on the Howling.
Hike into the Needles proper approximately three miles. The Warlock is to the east of the Witch and shares a col with Voodoo Dome. You could approach any of these Warlock south face routes from the same approach some prefer for Voodoo. However, the hike down to the start from where you normally leave your gear up at the main notch is short and simple. Contour around to the col between Voodoo and the Warlock. The first pitch is located about 4/5ths of the way down the south face. Stay on the Voodoo side as you descend a steep climbers trail in the bushy gully and look for the first pitch, a short wide crack (photo). Scramble up to some shade trees at the base of this wide crack and rope up.
Route Description1200’+/-, 8 Pitches, 5.9+ PG13
1st Pitch- 150’- 5.9+/ After scrambling up 3rd class to the base of the short off width, belay off of a platform up and left. I placed a single C4#5 in this crack and ran it out to the tree above. It is true to the grade and involves a variation of off width moves. Then scramble to the back left corner which is the base of a right facing hands corner. Belay off gear. Ants can be bad at this belay. If I did it again, despite poor rope drag, I would climb another 50’ to a small ledge to avoid the ants.
2nd Pitch- 200’- 5.8+/ Climb the corner to its terminus. Plenty of hands, gear options and fun stemming make this a stellar pitch.
3rd Pitch- 200’- 5.8/ There are two cracks above on the slightly lower angled face. A splitter to the left and a left facing corner to the right. I avoided the bushes in the corner by switching to the left splitter, but returned to the corner when the splitter got shallow. Finish on jugs on the upper face to below the massive head wall just right of a void. Gear belay.
4th Pitch- 50’- 5.7/ Descend and stem across the void. Access a wide crack and climb to the top below the south face of the headwall, essentially moving the belay from below the east head wall to the south head wall. Set up belay on a ledge below a face with a bolt about 20’ up.
5th Pitch- 200’- 5.9+ PG13/ Off the deck is the crux move of this route. Side pull your way up onto face features both exposed to the void and the ledge. Once you make a move or two at the grade, you can clip the lone bolt. Run out juggy ground from there into the steep, but featured, corner/chimney. Climb it a full 200’ (without an inch to spare) to a comfortable and usually shaded belay on gear inside the start of a wide chasm chimney.
6th Pitch- 150’- 5.6/ Stem the wide chimney as it curves right to the right summit shoulder, a large flat area.
7th Pitch- 175’- 5.8/ Climb the off width crack on the left that leads to where you top out for the Spell. Make the only move at the grade to surmount the left side of the huge chock stone. There is a large loose block here that should not be yarded on. Once atop here, 4th class it up and right to the middle summit where there is a single bolt to belay from.
8th Pitch- 100’- 5.9/ I down climbed into the notch and then climbed through the two bolts on the right arête (finish of Imaginary Voyage), back cleaning the first and basically soloing through the 2nd. I have never thought this face was 5.9 as the guide lists, definitely more 5.8. By doing this, I could give my 2nd and 3rd a belay from atop the Howling which gave them some tension and a top rope as they down climbed into the notch. There is an old rusty bolt on the south end of the summit that allows you to keep vision of your 2nd or you can just run long belay lines from the Howling’s bolts, realizing at some point you will need to give the 2nd some slack if you are keeping tension. The down climb is no big deal for the competent party.