Lessons Learned On The Needle

Lessons Learned On The Needle

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jul 15, 2006
Activities Activities: Scrambling
Seasons Season: Summer

Before The Climb

Friday night was the day I wanted to head out for camp; but since my Dad had to buy new hiking boots, this was not the case. Me being the ambitous one, wanted to climb the Needle and Humboldt on the Saturday, then climb Crestone Peak on Sunday and leave that same day. At any rate we awoke at ~4:30 a.m. on Saturday and began the long drive. On numerous occasions the climb was almost scratched... lets just say that I almost hit a car on a left turn and almost hist a skateboarder on another left turn. When we finally reached the beginning of the 4*4 road, I hopped out and my dad hopped in to the driver's seat.

The Approach

Wow, lets just say that this road is rough... I can't imagine how rough it must have been before the construction. We rumbled and tumbled our way up the road, I kept insisting that we should have taken the Jeep instead of the truck, but my Dad wasn't listening. We finally reached a place in the road where we could go no further, so we hopped out and suited up. I don't know if the flys are always that bad, but they were horrible for us! I almost became angry with all of the buzzing and the unwanted landings.

We continued up the road and cars continued to pass us. I was tempted to hop on the bumper of a few and hitch my way up to the upper trailhead at 11,000 feet. This was not the cse. We hike for a good while until we crossed the footbridge and arrived at the trailhead packed with cars. We decided not to take a break and continue up to the lake. My heavy pack almost stopped me from looking around at the fantastic peaks. I felt like and ant amist a city of huge steep sandcastles. We contined hiking and kept leapfrogging a couple of fishermen. I wanted to trade my pack for thier fishing poles, but hey what should I be complaining about. All of the sudden... the South Colony Lake was right infront of us. We took our time finding a campsite and found a beautiful spot with a nice flat cooking rock. We dropped the extra weight by setting up the ten and such, so I was feeling great. We made a poor decision for shooting for the summit despite the time being 1:00 in the afternoon.

The Climb

I felt like a new man with all of that weight off of my back. We made our way across the scree to the pass. Numerous parties gave us funny looks being that we were just starting out. To make matters worse, it started to drizzle, but we still pressed on. We soon reached the class 3 climbing to gain the pass. By this time the rain was long gone. As I climbed, I thought about how the introduction has just begun, and contemplated the difficulties ahead. I was a couple hundred feet above my Dad and stopped so I wouldn't be shooting rocks down on him. As I sat there, a party above us we coming down quickly. Suddenly a rock shot passed me and they yelled ROCK, right as it passed me. Luckily no contact was made. My dad met up with me and we talked to the two men, the said that the South Face is like climbing a ladder into the sky. We then continued up a few hundred more feet to the ridge.
Needle Above

We began the approach to the south face which was a lot easier than I expected, with only a few places that facilitated easy scrambling.
Above Brokenhand Pass

As we ascended higher we met a family who was making their descent, and no joke... the boy was no more than 6 years old. They said that the climbing was really easy, with only a few spooky parts. I took their word for it given that they were with a young boy. Unfortunatly my confidednce was over boosted.
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We kept a great pace and we soon reached the tricky downclimb which I had read about. I did it no problem but sure became spooked when I looked to my right side...you will see what I am talking about when you climb the Needle. I was more worried about my Dad's safety than my own. I watched nervously as he made his way down. We should have taken the hint and dropped our packs, and gone to the summit without them. I then noticed to feel that my ankles were being rubbed raw from my Montrail D7's I knew I shouldn't have worn ankle socks! We downclimbed about 75 to the base of the eastern couloir.
Tricky Downclimb

We said a quick prayer before beginning the climb of the couloir. I was pumped, the exposure was low, the climbing was solid and fun, and we were gonna summit! My Dad huffed and puffed his way up below me, and snapped some pics of me when I wasn't looking.
Yours Truly On the Needle

The climbing became more and more sustained and steep, and I looked to my left and saw the cairn for the transition over to the other couloir. My Dad was probably 20 or so feet below me.
My dad On the South Face

Suddenly we hear a large boom of thunder! My mind started to go crazy... Frick, we gotta get the hell outta here. My Dad had me downclimb to him, I sat down and started to shake. He was calm and said told me to eat a snack as we assesed the weather. The dark rain cloud started to move away from us! I eyed the traverse over to the rib and it sure looked steep. My Dad ascended above me and called me to come up with the camera. We left our packs and hoped that the weather would hold out. My Dad took us too high, so he had to downclimb to the "open book" we then carefully picked our way down the "open book."
The Book
The class 4 Book

We made our way over to the traverse and took a more vertical line which involved exposed clas 4 climbing. After he climbed I asked him how it was, he replied that it was "Hard" I then climbed up the pitch. I wasn't hard at all, you just had to be careful not to take a long plunge. We then made an exposed traverse and looked down to another cairn...man my ankles were becoming hamburger meat! We heard another thunder boom, and noticed that the clouds were closing in. Should we make the downclimb into the westerncouloir and ascend the couloir to the summit? We heard another boom and started our way down. The downclimb to the eastern couloir was not nearly as bad as I had thought.
Crazy Marmot

We started to hurry as we reached the couloir. We were in such a hurry that my Dad sent a missle down that hit me in the hand. I screamed out in pain as the rock bounced off of my hand and flew down the couloir. Amazing what being only 15 below your partner can do. My hand started to bleed, but it wasn't as bad as I had thought. We hauled down to the bottom of the couloir, and made our way back up the trail. We were soon back to Brokenhand Pass and dropped down a little bit before taking a break. The skies were becoming darker and we heard more thunder. The funny thing was that up by Humboldt, the skies were clear. We then downclimbed the loose section to the line up below the pass.

When we rolled back into camp the sky had cleared, but we didn't doubt our decesion...better safe than sorry. I learned some important lessons from the amazing climb...

1. Never Underestimate A Climb.
2. Take Bugspray To The Lakes
3. Never Wear Ankle Sock With D7's
4. Wear A Helmet!
5. Expect The Weather Turn For The Worse
6. Descend In A Way That You Won't Rain Rock On Your Partner!


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