American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Wyoming, South Fork of Shoshone River, Needle Mountain, North Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

Needle Mountain, north face. To climb the north face of Needle Mountain (12,106') has long been a goal of mine. After three unsuccessful attempts I finally made it to the top on September 27-28—7,000 feet from the floor of the South Fork’s valley near Cody, 3,000-4,000 feet of which were vertical rock and ice.

My previous attempts were in the winter and spring; knowing how difficult access is, I decided to try in the fall. After the first good snow we decided this was our window of opportunity. We had three days of good weather to get up and back down. It was nearly 3,000 feet of bushwhacking before we got to put our harnesses on. The route goes up the east side of the north face, following a chimney system. Most of the route was 3rd classed, climbing runnels of ice and steep rock at a moderate grade.

My partner, Dave Elphingstone of Colorado, and I moved light and fast, packing no sleeping bags or tent, only climbing gear and water. All we packed to eat were Power Bars and GU. We began at 6 a.m. on September 27 and were on top of the peak by 6 p.m.

We were out of water by the time we reached the top, and an alpinist’s nightmare became our reality. The stove would not fire up; my bad luck on this mountain was continuing. We worked down the ridgeline for five hours, carrying snow in our helmets and packs, before we found wood for a fire. We rested for a few hours while melting snow and rehydrating. Without sleeping bags or a tent, we had to keep the fire going. We made our way back to the base by the next noon. We were on the move for 30 hours with a few hours’ rest. We traveled about 23 miles with over 13,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. The route has a high level of commitment, being so remote. [Further information on this and other routes in the Cody area can be found at: www.coldfear.com.—Ed.]

Aaron Mulkey

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