Credit for discovering this route and planning it should go to SP member,gjagiels.
He noticed on the map that there was a jeep road that came close to the summit of Needle Benchmark but that it was separated from our desired summit by a cliff and an obstacle which could possibly stop us. As I had already planned an ascent up Cottonwood Wash, I was just a bit relunctant to
spend the time and effort only to be stopped by a cliff we couldn't get past without a rope. However, his enthusiasm for his route was enough to say "lets try it". We could always revert to my original planned route but everything turned out great.
The road that led close to our intended trailhead was really better than I thought it would be. Most of it could be driven by a 2WD vehicle in my opinion although there was one spot that might be a stopper towards the end.
Still, no problem to park and walk from there.
I have provided four maps in the main page picture section (specifically maps 3 and 4) that will get you to the area where we parked. An additional map, an area map is helpful for an overview. The road junction that leads up the ridge is GPS'd (lat/long nad 27)
This road would not be open early in the season due to snow but after the snow melts, it is a good approach road.
The key both ways
From where you park, hike up the jeep road to its end. You will notice a dropoff (the cliff) and it is necessary to hike over to the southwest part
of the jeep road hill. Look for the obvious way down (see pic) and carefully work your way down to the saddle. Nothing harder than high class 2 or low class three. It is 170 vertical feet to the saddle. From the saddle drop down another 50 or 60 feet and look for a way to get to the base of "the obstacles" cliffline. It is fairly easy to work your way along the base of the cliff (no exposure) versus going down a couple hundred feet as we did initially and then working your way through the brush and the talus. Follow the base of the cliff all the way around to where you can see the easy slopes of Needle Benchmark ahead of you. You will need to drop down about 100-150 feet but the way is simple and obvious. Then ascend the easy slopes up to where the summit is located. You'll know you are there when you find the benchmarks, cairn and some bristlecone trees.
Total distance is about 1 1/2 miles and elevation gain (includes the losses both ways) is about 1000 feet. On the way back, reverse your route and remember the route back up the cliff band. You might want to mark your way with some cairns on your descent.
The return route
Route to summit
The usual, good footgear, water, good companions.
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