Infamous Salad Bottle on 2nd Pitch
The best available enchainment at the Needles is linking the Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Love Portion No. 9, 5.10a), with the Wizard (Yellow Brick Road, 5.9+), Sorcerer (via a 5th class scramble), the Charlatan (Spooky, 5.9) and Our Lady of the Needles (5.7) for a five peak link up.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice “Apprentice” is the lowest granite spire at the main needles area and is easily accessed by descending the same popular gully used to access most of the Sorcerer and Witch routes. Love Potion No. 9 “Love Potion” starts at the very tip of the southeast buttress
of the Apprentice. Yellow Brick Road is located on the Wizard’s west face
and unless you combine it with Love Potion No. 9, it can be a hassle (by Needles standards) to get to.
The available beta for Yellow Brick Road to date is quite poor in helping you find the start. There is also quite a bit of conversation about how scary the first pitch might be. In reality, the first pitch traverse off the deck protects well and I did not find it R or X.
I combined the first two pitches allowing us to complete the route in two pitches total. Both pitches were stellar crack climbs at the grade. I thought the crux was if you chose to do the final off-width section straight-in to the summit.
However, it can easily be avoided by climbing up and left. The off-width section where the young man stuck his knee (Needles lore) is not hard climbing for the grade and is mostly climbed via features to either side of the crack. The salad bottle is still there but one has to use their imagination on how he got his knee so stuck. The topo and other beta sites consider the first pitch on this route 5.9+, but if I were handing out a +, it would be for the short wide crux on the 3rd pitch unless you climb it to the left which is easier.
From the summit of the Sorcerer’s apprentice, it is a short 5th class scramble to the base of Yellow Brick Road. Scramble some bushy 5th class up a short section of the gully at the start of the west face for the Wizard. Hike up to another 5th class ramp/crack in the gully located about 30' from the base of the wall. At the top of this gully there is a tree with rap slings (2015) right next to the wall. You never have good vision of the route from below. Start up behind this tree and traverse right until you can follow several flakes and cracks up and into the main wide crack of pitch 2. These first two pitches can be easily combined. From the col between the Charlatan and Djin you scramble down a chimney and into a gully. Continue down past the Sorcerer on your left to the base of Yellow Brick Road at the northwest arete of the Wizard. From the Charlatan and Sorcerer col, you can rap down and then scramble down to the base of the route. My preferred access is from climbing Love Potion first and then scrambling up to the base of the route.
Route Description1st/2nd Pitches- 200’- 5.9/
Combining the first two pitches of Yellow Brick Road makes for an aesthetic pitch. Much is made to do about the left to right traverse at the start of this route in relation to being run out, deck potential, etc. In reality it protects adequately to avoid any hazard. Start traversing right through the trees. There are several points of small-medium sized protection before making the crux stem/balance move of the traverse that gets you into the start of the crack system. Climb up and right over a short arête to enter the splitter proper. This fun hand/finger crack quickly leads up to a wide crack that protects with C4#4’s and 5’s. I felt comfortable with one each, but it was run out. Pass a small belay ledge and continue up the same wide crack using face features on either side of the crack as much as the crack itself. Eventually pull over easy ground to a significant ledge. Head to the opposite end of this ledge and belay in the base of the right facing finger corner.
3rd Pitch- 100’- 5.9/
This final pitch is an excellent finish to Yellow Brick Road. Head up the arcing right facing tips corner (with good stemming). After about 40’-50’ you can see the roof that forms the cap the Wizard which is a dramatic feature when viewed from the north. Easy ground leads to just under this roof. The crux of the whole climb is pulling this C4#4 slightly overhanging roof. Stem and arm bar to where you can get a foot up high. Taking the roof straight is probably harder than 5.9, even by Needles standards. There is a much easier pull just one meter to the left and perhaps that was the intent of this route originally, but the #4 roof is a classic off-width problem and protects well by punching a #4 ahead of you. Belay on top of the Wizard via a fixed slung rap.
If continuing on with the five peak link up, take a single rope rap to the col. If rapping to the western side gully, take a shorter rap to a bolted intermediary rap with a single rope with another single 70m rope rap to the ground.
Single 70m rope. Single to C4#5. Double on a few small pieces for the 3rd pitch corner. This is a west facing wall, dress accordingly.