The Spell, 5.10, 3 Pitches

Page Type
California, United States, North America
Route Type:
Trad Climbing
Spring, Summer, Fall
Time Required:
Most of a day
Rock Difficulty:
5.10 (YDS)
Number of Pitches:

Route Quality: 1 Votes

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The Spell, 5.10, 3 Pitches
Created On: Jun 23, 2014
Last Edited On: Aug 13, 2017


rap in from the Howling
rap in from the Howling

The Spell is my personal favorite at the Needles. There is not a more pristine environment in the Needles to hang out than between the Warlock and the Witch. That being said, few climb the Warlock’s west facing routes. On the busiest day at the Needles, you are still likely to find peace and quiet in this gully with the exception of the fighter jets which consider this narrow passage to be the most challenging when doing their banked fly by. There was a peregrine falcon nesting on the upper reaches of the east face of the Witch in June, 2014.
2nd Pitch
infamous 200' second pitch

The Spell is a true splitter from bottom to top of the Warlock and is magnificent to view and/or photograph from atop the Witch. Its second pitch consists of a full 200’ of flaring off-width/chimney which is obviously the crux of the route. The first pitch has an interesting chock stone roof to pull out of as well. The last pitch is a nondescript face climb past bolts to reach the high summit and thus the Howling rap anchor.

Although you can meander in the gully direct via some down climbing and a single 70m rope rap. It is cleaner to climb the first pitch of the Howling (5.9) and do a double 60m rope rap from its first pitch (tunnel through) anchors directly to the base of the Spell.

Route Description

The Spell, 400’+/-, 5.10

1st Pitch- 100’- 5.10/ At the very end of your rap from the first pitch of the Howling you land on a ledge. Traverse right a few meters and run up the easy 5th class ground to the base of the huge chock stone. Pull the right side (C4 #4 crack) via an airy move with little to no feet. Belay in the base of the chimney.

2nd Pitch- 200’- 5.10/ As you begin ascending the huge flared chimney you can get large hand jams for a good distance whilst protecting with C4#3’s. When it gets wider to protect, you go into off-width/chimney mode, kind of switching back and forth as you slide into the crack to place large gear. There are few features on either chimney wall. I faced north, but have seen a picture of someone facing south. The south wall has more moss, but also more features higher up.  Any rest on the upper half of this pitch was on both knees. From time to time you can get a chicken wing and/or one heel-toe as you inch your way up the chimney. Because of those knee rests, I felt I could safely push a single C4#6 until leaving it spaced between my last C4#5 and the exit. The exit will take a C4#.75 before you need to squeeze out via a jug. Belay in the notch between the middle and north summits.

3rd Pitch- 100’- 5.9/ Chimney up the short parallel wall finish and pull the roof with a C4#3. Remove the cam if you can to avoid the rope running on the cam. Move right to the bolted face. The only 5.9 move is if you chose to make the consequential transition move of stemming both summits to the upper face protected by an old button head. Obviously you can aid off of the button head as well. From there, easy face climbing past a few bolts leads to the summit. At the far end is the top rap for the Howling.

Climbing Sequence


If doing the recommended approach, you will have double 60m ropes with you already to make Howling’s two raps. However, if you choose to do the single rope approach gully descent, a single 70m rope does get you down the Howling in two raps as well.

Essential Gear

Double 60m ropes. Doubles from C4#3 to #5. Single #.75 and #6. A lot is made to do about how much large gear one needs to lead the second pitch. I saw one cat suggest triples through C4#6. He is stoned. I placed doubles from #3-#5, one #6 and one #.75 and felt the 200’ was well protected. If you brought anything more, I would suggest another #3. The key protection for the first pitch are two #4’s. And just draws are needed for the last pitch. Bring plenty of slings to give directional advantage to your large pieces in the chimney. Temperature wise, this is the coolest morning spot in all of the Needles, dress accordingly. I consider knee pads cheating and paid the price for not using them, but did wear jeans for this lead and, despite the huge holes, was glad I did.