Ice Pirates

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 36.10920°N / 118.484°W
Additional Information Route Type: Technical rock climb - trad
Additional Information Time Required: Less than two hours
Additional Information Difficulty: 5.11b
Sign the Climber's Log


Follow the standard needles approach out to the tower, around the 3rd class scramble on the north side and continuing around to the main notch, where you are looking down between the Witch, on your left, and the Sorcerer to the right. Head down this notch for about 400 feet until you can walk across to the right on ledges and scamble onto the big platform at the base of the east face of the Sorcerer. This is where Thin Ice, Atlantis, and through the notch to the south, Scirroco have their starts.

Route Description

Ice Pirates offers a classic but not too committing Needles climbing experience. Essentially a more difficult variant to Thin Ice, the route climbs two perfect pitches of steep and exposed cracks featuring a variety of unique and amazing holds formed of fine strong granite. Ending at a hanging belay, two rappels return the climbers to their point of origin, making this a perfect choice if the weather is dicey or you just have to squeak in one more route at the end of the day.

Ice Pirates begins by climbing the first pitch of Thin Ice until the point, about half or two thirds of the way up this pitch, where Thin Ice breaks to the right. Here climbers doing Ice Pirates will continue climbing straight up into immediately more difficult moves. A short bit of 5.10c will bring you to the bolted belay.

The second pitch of Ice Pirates is stellar. Begin by moving up and right from the belay and climb a pair of thin cracks which feature amazing fins along their sides for holds. The protection here is small to medium stoppers, and the section ends when you reach a wonderful jug. From here continue straight up some easier moves heading for the right facing corner above (there is an extraneous bolt along here to the right - it could be used to protect a traverse over to Thin Ice - but unless you are using double rope technique I would advise against clipping it as it is off line and will cause the rope to exert outward pul on the gear that matters.) Finish the pitch by climbing the right facing corner, which features a thin crack and these fantastic little "ears" of perfect rock in the corner for holds. A couple of small nuts and tcu's protect the corner. The crux comes at the very end as you power up the last move in the corner and step gingerly up and left to the bolted belay.

The route ends here, and most climbers rappel back down to the ledge (I suppose if you have your heart set on topping out you could figure a way to get over to Thin Ice to do so.)

Essential Gear

I like using two 8.5 or 9mm x 50 meter ropes for this route. Double rope technique allows one to rig nice pro in the first section of pitch two, where double cracks a few feet apart offer alternating thin placements. These ropes are ideal for the raps as well.

Take a double set of tcu's up to about 1 inch, a good selection of tiny to medium stoppers with some extras in the 1/4 to 5/8 inch range, and a single set of cams from 1-3 inches.

Most climbers will be pleased if they have reserved two or three of their smaller tcu's and a couple of small to medium stoppers for the last part of the second pitch.

Miscellaneous Info

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