For me, only having two days off a week means that my adventures be close and have only a moderate chance of turning into an epic. So a hiking/climbing trip into the Supes made perfect sense for the season, only reinforced by the forecast of rain and snow up here in Prescott.
Our intent was to hit the REI member sale and merely "recon" the Superstitions for later trips. I had heard of Weaver's Needle and thought I'd at least get a look at it before heading north again. After a mild hike to Fremont Saddle, and getting a look at the impressive size and asthetic beauty of the needle, I knew we would have to climb it then and there.
Another hour brought us to the needle's west face (strikingly different, and more like a butte than what you originally see from the saddle). We then decided to bushwhack up the 40 degree talus slope to the base after not being able to find an established trail off the Peralta trail. It being late in the afternoon, we knew we'd have to bivy before climbing the next day. The caves on the NW side looked tempting enough to lure us into a bit of free soloing with our packs. We were rewarded with a relatively low angled place to lay our bags and incredible morning views to the north and west. After spending the night in the cave, I would recommend this to anyone that would repeat our plan: rope up for the climb into the cave, and sleep with harnesses on and anchored to cracks found within. They will take small cams and nuts. Bivying here runs a close second to sleeping on a porta-ledge. In the morning rappel as far as the rope will take you past a lichen covered rock band (V or spoon shaped). This will cut down on your travel time to the base of the gully route.
Despite being loose and chossy, the route up the West Chimney is simple and straight forward. If you have the Arizona Climber's Guide (Falcon) you will have no trouble with the route finding, with only one exception. It is difficult to determine where the beginning of the first pitch starts, so use your best judgement as to when it is time to put on the shoes and rope. I am not the world's most accomplished climber, but after five years or so, I am not easily frightened away from a big climb. This having been said, there were moments of fear for me on the route. Mainly on the "easy" class 3 section between the chockstone and the headwall. There are unroped, unprotected sections that are not lengthy, but require careful climbing. One step onto a loose rock or a broken hold and you might take a quick ride to the bottom. Use caution. I think that myself and my partner placed only four pieces of pro and tied off the two fixed pipes, and that was it for the whole route. Know that you aren't plugging in cam after cam the whole way up. It is more or less on you to get it done. Also, we made the mistake of forgetting our helmets and second rope in Prescott. This was not smart. I dodged several projectiles kicked off by my partner, and he dodged several of mine. When it came time to get down, we managed three raps, one of which was off of one of the sketchy pipe "anchors" in the gully. Bring a second rope and save yourself a little anxiety.
We found our cushy trail on our way down the slope and followed the cairns back to the Peralta trail. It was like a four lane highway compared to the bushwhack from the day before. The two, maybe two and a half hour hike back to the car was uneventful except for the guy that told us we needed a big bong to climb the needle. I don't think he meant a big piton...
The two of us agreed after summiting that the climb is definately a classic. We also agreed that we expected to cruise it, and therefore were not as prepared as we could have been. If you are planning to climb Weaver's, know what you are getting into and bring your helmet. Possibly you will not here the whispering voice of "epic" in the back of your head.
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