2nd Pitch- 45m- 5.10-
My favorite moderate pitch at the Needles
in California is the second pitch of Airy Interlude
, the less common (more difficult) sister route to Igor Unchained. And I am not alone in that assessment. They share the final pitch on Airy which is a portion of Igor’s final pitch located on the west face of the Witch
. This wall is no doubt the most common at the Needles if for no other reason than Igor Unchained, the easiest classic of this area. Airy Interlude deserves every bit the same attention. Steres and Laeger established Airy Interlude in 1976
As before mentioned, the second traverse pitch is my favorite at the grade in the Needles. The first pitch is rather non-descript but still offers decent granite crack climbing. The second pitch is just amazing. It starts up a fist/hand crack which turns to fingers. Then traverses below a roof out right in a small-hands horizontal crack with minimal feet. The third section of the pitch involves a fun mantel up to an arching finger crack which ties into the middle of the final pitch on Igor Unchained. The final pitch runs up the last 2/3rds of Igor via decent hands and fingers.
Descend from the col between the Witch and the Charlatan/Sorcerer. The first major crack system (from top to bottom) on the left (north end) of the west face of the Witch, is Airy Interlude. The traverse on the second pitch is an obvious landmark high up on the wall. This is the next route up the hill from Igor Unchained.
Airy Interlude, 450’+/-, 5.10-
1st Pitch- 60m- 5.8/
A fairly non-descript pitch by Needles standards, but worth doing versus some of the beta suggesting that you traverse in from Igor. Just jam your way up to a decent stance on a sloping ledge below the obvious beautiful corner crack above.
2nd Pitch- 45m- 5.10-/
The traverse pitch of Airy Interlude is my favorite 5.10 pitch at the Needles
. Climb the wider crack (C4#2 and 3) via hands until it clamps down to fingers. Continue to just below the roof on this finger section (5.10-) and traverse out right via a hand crack with minimal feet (5.9). There is a slight varnished knob (feet) that gives you a rest at the other end of this traverse.
Mantle (5.10-) up to a jug that allows you to continue traversing right via a right arching finger crack below another roof. Follow this finger crack (5.8-9) below the roof to the middle of Igor Unchained’s third pitch. Set up a hanging belay with small gear. You read that some are lay backing quite a bit at the Needles. This is one of many pitches that I read about it but never found it necessary with proper crack skills.
3rd Pitch- 35m- 5.8/
This is a decent pitch to finish on, but does lack the best climbing of the final pitch of Igor Unchained. In other words you tie in at about half height of Igor’s final pitch. Mostly hand jams, but one interesting section of switching corners from left to right. Rap chains at the top of the route.
Rap with a single 60m rope to a ledge to the north. Down climb a few easy 4th/5th class sections down and climbers left to a treed ramp. Follow the ramp back to the col.
I led the crux pitch with tons of gear, as my partner who had climbed it before forgot what gear we might or might not need. I personally would not take anything larger than a C4#2.
Double rack to that plus nuts or a small selection of off-set and micro cams. I used three small off sets in the final section of that second pitch (where many would use nuts). If you want to sew up the traverse, save or bring extra #.5 to #1’s.
The gear belay at the top of the second pitch took .5’s as well. Best piece to triple up on would be that size. This face is west facing and mid-August provides ample cool shade in the morning. Dress accordingly. We climbed the route with a 70m rope, but a 60m should make the pitches no worries and is all that is needed for the quick descent back to the col.
Interesting option to camping at the end of the road (which is nice, but no internet or phone service). I have friends (professional saddle makers) who live in Ponderosa, the small hamlet just one mile south of the Needles turnoff. They are one of the few full time residents and would like to offer climbers three options for accommodations. Cabins, trailer and/or tent sites. They own a beautiful private piece of land bordering the National Forest. Can prob figure out a hike to the Needles from there, I have not taken the time to do that yet. Bathrooms, internet, showers, fire pits, great company, etc. They already operate as a BnB and VRBO but will take campers as well.
They own that entire meadow!