Hermit, South Face, 5.8+, 6 Pitches

Hermit, South Face, 5.8+, 6 Pitches

Page Type: Route
Lat/Lon: 36.16890°N / 118.5133°W
Route Type: Trad Climbing
Season: Summer
Time Required: Most of a day
Rock Difficulty: 5.8 (YDS)
Number of Pitches: 6


4th Pitch
Dow leading the crux 4th Pitch
2nd Pitch
Dow leading the 2nd Pitch
1st Pitch
Dow leading the 1st Pitch

Mountain Project (MP.com) has this classic Beckey route listed as 5.8R. But the new guide (2016) does not label this route run out, nor do I think it is. The guide does have it at 5.8+ and I concur there could be a move near the top of the main corner (4th pitch) that is stout for 5.8. MP.com also has this route at 7 pitches, but it is clearly only 6 as the guide and my notes suggest. This is by far the most popular route on Hermit Spire. There are a ton of routes on the Hermit that see little to no traffic. Beckey established this route in 1969.

This route is defined by thirds. The first two pitches get you to a traverse ledge that leads to the main event of the climb, a large right facing dihedral. Two long pitches up the dihedral get you to a walk off shoulder near the summit. Two more pitches get you to the top of the summit block. The 3rd and 4th pitches are the crux and main attraction of the climb, running 400’+ up a large right facing dihedral. The 2nd pitch could be the crux for those not familiar with wide climbing, but I found it a lot tamer for the grade than the discussion on MP.com would lead you to believe. The start to the route is hidden and difficult to spot on your first trip. The descent is short and sweet via one single rope rap off of the summit block back to where you would have left your backpacks on the approach trail. If you are efficient, you can easily do this route in half a day and get on something else. There are a ton of routes of all lengths and grade, shade and sun, on Hermit Spire.

Hermit Spire, as the name implies, is truly a loner at the Needles with its separate drive and approach. The funny thing is that it requires half the approach on foot than the main Needles area but you are still likely to have it to yourselves even on a Saturday (2017). The drive from the free camping at the main Needles area is significant although you could free camp/easily bivy back here as well. If you have a shiny new vehicle, you might get a few scratches from the overgrown brush along the old logging road. You also probably need a SUV or truck for clearance on the final logging road, although you could easily hike in from there.

You need to locate the paved road off of Highway 190 that heads for the Golden Trout Wilderness which as of 2017 still harbors a pack station which marks your turn onto the final logging road. According to the guide this road is labeled 21S50 but some of the numbers we had for the roads were incorrect or had changed. Bottom line is that approximately 400 yards north of where you would turn west for the Quaking Aspen Campground, you turn east for Golden Wilderness on a paved road. After approximately 5 miles the pavement ends and you turn right at a sign for the pack station. After another mile or two you continue right following the signs for the pack station. After another mile or two, you continue right again following the signs for the pack station.  Just after the pack station, you turn right on an unmarked logging road that was overgrown in 2017.  If you passed this old logging road, you will soon dead end into a large trail head area for fishermen and can easily turn around.  Once on the overgrown logging road, it is slow going but in less than a mile, you can park where there are signs of camping (clearing). The trail is not obvious from the road. You need to angle south and east to gain a faint climbers trail (some cairns-2017). This trail continues southeast until you reach the western col of Hermit Spire. Leave your packs here and descend the broad gully below the impressive western face of the Hermit. We saw no one on a good weather Saturday in July with the exception of a pair of hunters scouting out deer for the fall hunting season.

To actually get to the start of the route, contour east to the southwest face. You don’t go very far, but it is difficult from a sighting perspective to see the route. I included a photo labeled “scramble approach”.  When you are below this chimney like alcove area, scramble up the right side to where you eventually will get vision of a clean twin corner wall on your left. Start up the left crack and traverse to the right corner. I have also included a good photo of the start of the 1st pitch that shows exactly what these twin corners look like.  Do not start up the dirty twin cracks on the left down below, in other words you have to scramble up and right before you start climbing.

Route Description

Hermit Spire, Beckey Route, 900’+/-, 5.8+

1st Pitch- 160’- 5.8/ The guide calls this 200’ but it is closer to 160’. From the base of the alcove, scramble up right and then you will find a great hand crack to the left of the curved corner you need to attain. Jam and stem up to the corner in the right and climb it up to lower angled ground that they call the “flared vegetated chimney”. It is really not a chimney but is vegetated. Easy low angled climbing leads up to a nice belay ledge below twin wide cracks above. Belay off of a chock stone.

2nd Pitch- 135’- 5.8/ I did not take anything larger than C4#4 and this pitch actually protects fairly well with small gear if you stay in the left wide crack which also offers the better climbing. There were at least three small gear placements in the left wall. There is a gold colored flake that makes the climbing much easier than if it were pure off width. Top out, climb another short wall below the grade and set up a gear belay above.

Move the belay left across a large ledge to the base of the large right facing corner/dihedral via 3rd class.

3rd Pitch- 215’- 5.8/ Climb up the beautiful corner. Face climb up right below the grade to access easier crack climbing in the corner itself. This is mostly a hand crack the whole way with features galore. At about 5 meters left in the rope, you will find a decent stance below a dirty steep section (crux).

4th Pitch- 215’- 5.8+/ The finish of the steep section in the corner (30’) is the crux of the route. As you lose face features out right, the crack goes wide and dirty. Still climbs well within the grade though.  At the top it becomes much lower angled for the remainder of the pitch. Belay off of a stone up on the summit shoulder.

5th Pitch- 115’- 5.6/ Climb the obvious dog leg crack system on the left up to the summit ridge.

6th Pitch- 50’- 5.6/ Traverse right with some exposure and micro gear placements to positive hand jams and keep traversing to a 5.6 crack that leads to the summit. You do not pass a 5.10b off width option as the guide suggests, that is actually on the other side of the summit block. There is a fixed belay at the summit.

Climbing Sequence


Go to the north end of the summit and locate a fixed rap where a full 100’ rap down the low angled toe returns you to your packs.

Essential Gear

Single rack to C4#4 including some micro cams or wires and a few off sets if you have them. MP.com speaks of a #5 and triple #3’s and #2’s. If you are competent at the grade, that would be overkill to haul in there for this route.  Ten shoulder length slings ought to do it. This is a south facing route with a western twist. If you get up there early and move efficiently, you can avoid much of the sun. Decent clearance vehicle (SUV or pickup) saves one mile worth of mostly level hiking.