Tricouni Nail in all its glory. Photo by Dow Williams.
Unfortunatley I cannot say this is the best route in the Ten Pins area since this is the only one I've done, but rest assured, it's freakin' awesome! Tricouni Nail is a spire in the Ten Pins area, in the Needles, in Custer State Park. The easiest route up the spire is called "Cerberus", yet it's also just referred to as Tricouni Nail. The route begins by following a crack system on the west side of the spire that leads to exciting, exposed face moves on the south face. The climb is about 70 feet tall, yet quite runout and exposed, like many routes in the Needles. Some pins and a couple bolts are all there is for fixed pro. The summit is very small, but has a unique view of the area, among the other granitic spires. The descent is what is probably most unique about this route; the rope is placed between a notch in the summit, while you and your partner simul-rappel off opposite sides of the formation. Good communication is key here.
Tricouni Nail is locate din the Ten Pins area, along the Needles Highway. Follow directions to the Needles as stated on Dow's Needles page. Once on the Needles Highway, head east, past the Needle's Eye and the tunnel. Soon after the tunnel, the road will begin to descend some switchbacks. About 1/4 mile past the Totem Pole, you will see the Ten Pins on your right, just after a tight switchback. Parking is available just a bit past this on your left, at the trailhead for Catherdral Spires. Hike back up the road toward the Ten Pins, and walk into the formations. The Ten Pins area is not very big, and with Tricouni Nail so recognizable, it won't be long until you see it. Scramble up around the south of it, then scramble north to up easy slabs to the base of the west face.
The route begins by following the crack system that heads of the west face. Three fixed pitons protect the crack, yet you can back them up with small nuts if you want. Climb the crack for about 30 feet or so to the top of a pillar that is detatched from the Nail itself. Use a double-length runner to sling this horn, and climb onto it. Here is were it gets really fun. Stick a yellow/green alien into the crack to your left, and climb onto the face. Move gingerly up the tiny, yet positive holds to a bolt. Now move slightly up and right, making your way onto the south face. Clip another bolt, and make some exposed moves upward. The holds get bigger as you go up. Soon you will be on the summit. Using more double legths, sling the three nobs at the summit and belay your partner up; there are no fixed anchors at the summit!
Descent: Place the rope through one of the two notches that the three large nobs form. Very carefully, you and your partner will get ready to rappel and weigh the rope at the same time. You are each others' anchors. Rappel off a single strand, one person off the west face down to where the climb started, and one person down the east face. The east face is taller, so whoever is going down the west face, be careful not to unweigh the rope before your partner is down on the other side. Communicate!
How to set up the rap.
Not much, really. Nuts if you want to back up the fixed pins, but it's not neccessary. One small cam to protect the move off the detatched horn. Other than that, just draws are needed for the bolts and pins. At least two double length runners, if not more, one for slinging the horn, and one/two for slinging the nobs at the summit. A 60 M rope makes the rappel just fine.