The Needle is a sharp craggy spire at the far western edge of the Neve Glacier icecap. It was first ascended by the same party which climbed Snowfield Peak August 1st, 1931, William A. Degenhardt and Herbert V. Strandberg. Unfortunately the USGS maps have labeled The Needle incorrectly, placing it immediately west of Snowfield Peak. The actual location is about a mile northwest of Snowfield Peak.
West Faces of The Needle, Snowfield Peak, Horsemans Pack
The Needle is one of only about 200 peaks in Washington State which rises above 8000 feet. Since it lacks prominence it is rarely the primary objective of any climbing expedition, however it is one of several worthwhile destinations in the Snowfield group. Those who have come to climb Snowfield Peak would do well to explore some of the other interesting sub-peaks on this massif, such as Snowfield Peak
, The Horseman, Horsemans Pack
, Cats Ear, Neve Peak
, Colonial Peak, Paul Bunyans Stump
, Pinnacle Peak, and Pyramid Peak.
Neve Col Camp
By old standards, reaching the summit of The Needle requires nothing more than easy glacier travel and some exposed scrambling. More cautious climbers might choose to protect the final ridge before the summit. There is at least one unavoidable low fifth class move. In any case, rappelling from the summit is highly recommended. Views from the summit of other Snowfield group peaks as well as the Picket Range, and Eldorado group peaks are extremely rewarding. You can also look directly down upon the small hanging glacier 700 feet below the north face.
Neve Glacier Crossing
Follow the standard approach
for Snowfield Peak. Traverse from Snowfield Peak westward along the edge of the glacier. After passing Horsemans Pack and The Horseman (incorrectly labeled on USGS maps), stay near the edge of the glacier to avoid steep snow. After passing The Horseman, turn north and continue to follow the edge of the glacier until you come to the southeast ridge of The Needle.
Approaching The Needle
This next part has been described by Beckey as a “snow arete”. Ascend the steep snow ridge or “snow arete” to gain access to the rocky ridge. Follow the ridge north and then west around a corner, until it becomes sustained class 3. Beware of loose rock. Some parties might prefer to protect this part of the route.
The Needle Pitch 1 (class 3)
40 feet of steep class 3
will take you to some dirty ledges below a gendarme. The final ridge to the summit is less steep but more exposed. Stay on the north side of the ridge where there are more ledges and somewhat less exposure. Traverse below the ridge crest for 10 or 15 feet to get past the gendarme and then climb back up to the ridge crest. This is where the 5th class move is.
The Needle Pitch 2
Once back on the ridge crest, you will be faced with a knife-edge section
of ridge right below the summit. This can be crossed à cheval or by making an awkward mantle traverse. There is a large flake on the summit for the rappel anchor. To descend rappel down the north face
about 25 feet to a big ledge and then walk back over to the dirty ledge below the gendarme.
On The Summit
Please see the Snowfield Peak page
for approach route descriptions and driving directions. Also, keep in mind that the Colonial Glacier is melting and turning into a new lake, so later in season it might be necessary to scramble over the rocky rib just east of the lake.
The Needle is located in North Cascades National Park. Camping permits are required and must be obtained from the Ranger Station in Marblemount. The trailhead is small (easy to miss) and there are no toilet facilities.
The Needle At Sunset
The best spot is at Neve Col where there is running water all year and room for two small tents, but several other spots exist along the route below the glaciers.
Video Trip Report