BETA PHOTO: Little Squaretop (left) and Little Squaretop Massi...
Little Squaretop is the next major peak North of the Organ Needle. As viewed from Organ Needle, it actually appears to be two peaks divided by a gully running North-South between them. The peak to the left is refered to as Little Sqauretop and is the peak that is seen when gazing at the Organs from the West. The peak on the right is referred to as Little Squaretop Massif and is similarly the only peak visible when gazing at the Organs from the East. To make these names even more confusing, Squaretop Peak (or Big Squaretop) is the square-like cog further north along the mountain ridge, but it only resembles a square-cog when viewed from the west.
There are a number of old mountaineering routes up to these summits, as well as steep technical climbs which can be found on the myriad of faces, ridges, and pinnacles which surround these peaks. These include the Tiger Fang formation, found low on the northeast side of Little Squaretop Massif, which is a stunning shark-fin-like pinnacle first climbed in 1956.
To get to the summit of Little Squaretop (that is the western and lover of the twin Little Squaretop peaks) go up the trail to the Needle to the bottom of Dark Canyon, but instead of turning into it, continue straight up the main canyon between the Needle and the Squaretops almost all the way to the saddle between those peaks.
From there you want to go north up the gully between Little Squaretop and Little Squaretop Massif. If you can do this by scrambling pretty much directly from the saddle, good. If that's a bit much, go up the southern flank of Little Squaretop to a large, flat, vegetated shelf. Walk on this shelf right to a tree, and climb up the next step just above the tree.
Go up the gully to where where it narrows to its normal width and start up the rocky slope on the left. It's low fourth class with not much exposure but an occasional step or two that takes some thinking. (Easier way to the top than the Normal Route as described, I believe). You are trying to get just left of the summit block as you see it from the east. The summit register is up another little scramble up, and then there is the summit boulder, if you happen to feel like it.
A really nice trip, but one which starts by a high-fourth-class scramble, is to get around the summit boulder on the left and rap down off the other side of it (the rap station is in the smaller chock stones on the right). From there you follow the narrow, very airy, and hugely scenic ridge line to the base of Big Squaretop. Remarkably enough, you can stay on the ridge almost all the way and for the most part the scramble will be third class easy. The exception is one place where you need to drop to the left down a short chute to a tall tree and use the tree to get down. From there head back to the ridge again.
From the saddle south of Big Squaretop, go down west under the huge boulder and continue on a sharply inclined ramp along the west side of the base of Big Squaretop and then S1-Spur to a rap station on the right wall. It does not seem possible, but a single-rope rap will take you to an easy enough ground. The next rap, also single rope, is short distance after in the gully boulders. Continue down the gully, now scrambling (or still rapping if you prefer. Do take some rap-station material with you just in case) to the big gully north of the entire Squaretop formation.
Go down this gully just a bit, then blast your way through the vegetation barrier on its north flank to a more open area above. Look for trail markers. There is a faint trail here going over the field of house-sized boulders to the base of the Tooth and from there, now as an easy-to-follow trail, to the Modoc Mine Road.
The normal approach to Squaretop is by reversing this rap. The gully to go up in is fairly obvious and points directly at the base of Squaretop. The climbing is mostly fourth class with some roping up likely on the steeper sections.
This formation sees far less traffic than its cousin to the south. Allow plenty of time for approaches and wear clothing appropriate for bush-whacking through high desert scrub.
The summit of Little Squaretop is a great place to be. Barely large enough for two people, it is just exposed enough to keep you nervous, but not jaw-droppingly exposed where the average adventurous hiker wouldn't ascend it. Getting there requires more scrambling than the popular Normal Route of Organ Needle, but most climbers will find it comfortable without any ropes or gear....[more]Browse More Classics in NM