American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, California - Sierra Nevada, Warlock Needle, South Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1971

Warlock Needle, South Face. Almost a classic combination of a smooth dome and a pointed spire, the magnificent upthrust in the central portion of the Needles was certainly image-evoking. On my first climbing venture to the attractive group of “new” climbing problems, it was apparent they were not only a physical but an aesthetic playground. It was early April. Surely the three of us, Mike Heath, Dan McHale, and I, had a self-righteous feeling about the region. Among other pleasures, we had the freedom of choice: what to climb? It took little discussion: a continuing crack system seemed to lead up the sunny face of the magnificent central spire. The name, Warlock, came later, when we conspired to adopt names to the various summits. Climbing unroped, we frictioned and squirmed up a gully that bit into the south face, near the lowest rock on the spire. It was apparent that we had to go where the cracks led. With a deceptive start, a chute bore right, to end the lead at a large pine. We continued up a gully, then traversed right to a hard jam-crack; this was ascended to a ledge. Then a right-facing open-book led to the top of a pedestal. The route dropped left, then came a struggle and squirm up a deep chimney. Now the massive upper wall towered above a lofty platform; a recess near the southeast corner provided a spacious belay. The following lead worked up and right on a slab, then into good but awkward nailing. Exciting, exposed free climbing up a long chimney ended at a belay position deep in a cave. A new lead continued up the chimney with some tricky moves, until it was possible to traverse right onto the face-margin; cracks showed the way to a widening gully/trough. Following an awkward stemming start, the gully provided the answer to the slabs under the summit blocks. Here a meandering down-traverse-up method across the upper east face led to a prominent jam-crack that split into the notch between the summit blocks. A struggle with a block that capped its top brought us to the notch. We slabbed up to the south summit block to find an earlier cairn. Approaching darkness did not allow the climb of the higher north block on this venture. It was time to rappel, for the forest beneath was becoming murkey. NCCS III (possibly approaching IV), F8, A2.

Fred Beckey

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