The guide discusses this route going “nicely in three long pitches”
but we easily did it in two. This route was actually established by Fred Beckey
and company in 1974 and was one of the last “classic” routes for me to get on at the Needles. The first pitch is one of the best at its grade at the Needles with a stout move at the grade mid-way up.
This is definitely a worthy route to get done on the Witch.
We combined it with Gorilla Warfare (5.10c)
which made sense, climbing Gorilla, rapping, then climbing up to the top of the formation via Inner Sanctum.
Descend from the col between the Witch and the Warlock (what they call the main notch in the guide). I offer a good photo showing the start of the route. It is to the right of Igor Unchained. Again, combining it with nearby Gorilla Warfare makes for a decent day out. Doing Gorilla first when we were fresh, which does not go to the top, rapping and then cruising Inner Sanctum to the top. 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. Inner Sanctum is the next route down the hill from Igor.
Route DescriptionInner Sanctum, 450’+/-, 5.9
1st Pitch- 215’- 5.9+/
One of the better 5.9 pitches at the Needles. Start up the obvious hand/finger crack that runs through a dike. When it peters out, move left up and over a shallow roof (cruxy move). Continue trending left up improbable (at the grade) climbing and stemming with intricate pro. Continue to a comfortable belay at 215’.
2nd/3rd Pitches- 250’- 5.9/
Not as sustained as the first pitch, most of the climbing is less than 5.9. Continue up a crack system with a few fun features. One I remember is hugging a large boulder from below to pull it. If you extend your pieces, you can simul climb the last 20’ (with a 70m rope) without much rope drag. The start of this long pitch and the finish are both well below the grade. A C4#4 crack awaits on the shoulder of the summit for a gear belay.
Scramble up to the summit. Locate a block skiers left to down climb a short move, then down to the fixed rap. Single rope rap gets you down to blocks. You can down climb from here or use a slung rap underneath a roof for another single rope rap back to a gully that returns to the notch (the standard descent off of the Witch.
Essential GearDon’t discount small pieces and/or off sets and wires.
Pro is intricate at the crux moves. You do not really need anything larger than C4#2 except for the summit belay where other options exist. Single from micro cams to #2. Double from C4#.3 to #2. Set of wires or off set cams. Plenty of slings to extend your pieces if you want to do this in two long pitches.