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North America, United States, California–Sierra Nevada, Keeler Needle, East Face, The Crimson Wall

Keeler Needle, East Face, The Crimson Wall. During the first week of August, Mike Carville, Kevin Brown and I added a new long, free route to Keeler Needle. Possibly the hardest free wall above 10,000 feet in California, the route strikes straight up the center of the east face of Keeler Needle, following an obvious line between the Harding route on the left and the Lowe route on the right. We named it the Crimson Wall (V, 5.12–) due to the incredible pre-dawn alpine glow that colored the face each morning. We ascended ten full pitches before connecting with the Harding route for the final four pitches. We originally intended to finish straight up the virgin headwall but, alas, cracks that appeared finger-width through binoculars turned out to be incipient when we arrived. Short on bolts that would have been necessary to protect the headwall pitches, we vowed to return to complete the direct route. (In fact, as you read this, it is likely that the headwall is virgin no more—we are returning in May, 1992.) The Crimson Wall is characterized by its diversity of pitches; comer systems, blank faces, cracks and dikes lead the eye upward from the base. Three pitches of superb climbing form the soul of the route. The 7th, 8th and 9th link an arching comer, a huge flake and a sustained and steep layback comer that go 5.11, 5.10 and 5.12 respectively. The rock is solid and a full rack is called for. A total of 20 bolts was needed to protect the first ten pitches. Pitch 1 begins at the very center of the base of the wall and ascends to a belay just under a three-foot roof. The line is straightforward from there.

Kevin Steele