by SCMA Member
In June of 1988, Greg Vernon
organized and led one of his many trips to the Needles Area of Southern
Sierra. As usual our party was small, but it allowed us not only to climb,
but also to explore this magnificent place. I was somewhat confused by the
geography of the area and couldn’t remember on which spire we did many
of the great crack and face climbs that are so abundant here. But there
was one spire, clearly visible across the valley from our approach to the
Needles, that really stuck in my mind. The Hermit from a distance looked
high, sharp, and solitary. Miguel Carmona and I decided right there on the
trail, that we would come back to explore and climb the Hermit.
Over the July 4th Holiday
(while I had to work), Miguel and Bob Lindgren went to the Hermit and
climbed the longest existing route "A Pitch and Nine Takes
Time", a 5.10 crack climb that follows the obvious left facing
dihedral of the South Face. Miguel came back with a proposition of
climbing a new line to the left of the above route. Miguel felt that a
right facing dihedral, about fifty feet left of the "Pitch and
Nine" could be connected with the upper buttress, and to the actual
summit of the formation. In late July of 1988, Miguel and I climbed this
line, an eight pitch crack and face climb which we named
"JAZZING", III, 5.10A.
During our second trip to the spire, we found a large face to the right of
the 1969 Beckey climb. The Southeast face merged into narrow buttress two
pitches up, and ended at the base of a clearly visible ramp. The ramp cut
sharply left to the shoulder of the spire, and two more pitches led
to the summit. The route turned out to be a nice, moderately runout,
seven pitch climb. Seven bolts were hand drilled on the lower face,
protecting three pitches of esthetic, 5.8 face climbing. We called the
route "EUROPEAN BLEND", III, 5.9.
In early August, Miguel and I decided to explore the East Face of the
needle. The gem of the area are two existing routes that follow twin
crack of the lower East Face. "The Falcon" II, 5.10A and
it’s variation, 5.10B were climbed in 1979. Looking at the face to
the right of the Falcon cracks, we were awed by a large roof splitting the
face in mid height. There was a possibility for a route there, although
the roof and the face below it looked very difficult.
For two weekends we worked
on the second pitch of the face, where seven bolts were drilled,
protecting hard 5.10 climbing. The roof pitch turned out to be "a
wild" 5.10B, with two bolts and many RP placements. Above the
roof we decided to connect the four pitches to the summit, and two more
pitches of 5.10 climbing were done. The last pitch takes the summit block
of the needle head on (5.10B) and ends on the top of the summit boulder.
The route is well protected, but sustained seven pitch face and crack
climb, III, 5.10D/11A. We named the climb "WATER FROM THE MOON"
as it looked to us (or maybe just to me?) as an impossible undertaking at
In late October, we
reclimbed the Falcon variation, 5.10B, and from the large belay ledge,
placed four bolts up the smooth face (10B). This second pitch also ended
at the base of the large roof. The third pitch (10A) goes up a serrated
flake and over the left edge of the roof. We named the complete three
pitch climb "THE SNOWMAN", II, 5.10B.
In June of 1989, Miguel and
I climbed "MORNING STRETCH" I, 5.10A, a one pitch new face and
finger crack just right of the "Water from the Moon" roof. To
the left of the Falcon Crack, we found a two pitch flake, "LEFTY’S
REVENGE", I, 5.9. We endured sustained left hand jams and underclings,
especially on the second pitch. Also climbed was a delightful
5.7 variation to the first pitch of Lefty’s. The variation starts about
twenty feet left of Lefty’s and climbs a line of steep buckets and a
For those of you who might
consider repeating these climbs, I have included a topo of the Southeast
Face. The Spire is seldom visited by climbers, we didn’t meet anyone
during the nine weekends we spent there. The approach is easy twenty
minute walk from your car With more that a dozen routes on the formation,
the Hermit could keep you busy for at least a couple of trips.
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Southern California Mountaineers Association. All Rights Reserved.