While not really a technical climb, this route is included here for reference. Other climbs in the area share the approach. Anyone serious about climbing in the vicinity of the Organ Needle should familiarize themselves with this "trail" as it is currently the best means of egress from the mountain.
A detailed description is also found at Ingraham's Climbing Site. web.nmsu.edu/~amato/ingrahamguide/Needle/Needle_master.html
The climb: Follow the approach of your choice (see below) to the "Yellow Rocks". Cross the gully to the south and follow cairns up the steep slope heading directly towards the grey rhyolite formation known as "the Grey Eminence". the trail meanders along the base of the "Eminence" eventually gaining a grassy saddle at its top, commonly referred to as "Juniper Saddle", owing to the once proud (now dead) Juniper the cut-down remnants of while still lay around.
From Juniper Saddle, hike directly up the slope until a smooth granite wall blocks passage. This wall is surmounted by scrambling up its right side. Traverse back over to the left. Continue up faint trails heading towards a large pine at the base of the Organ Needle. At this point you can enter "Dark Canyon", a narrow canyon formed between the Southwest flank of the Needle and a narrow cliff known as "The Retaining Wall".
At the top of Dark Canyon, a small saddle is passed and you drop down on the east side of the mountain to find the right gully which will take you to the top. Approximately 100ft from the saddle is a corner system which can be scrambled up. Near the top of this is a 15 ft section of exposed rock which must be surmounted to reach the summit. A narrow dike provides good hand and foot-holds, and it is no harder than 3rd class, but it involves some good exposure. A slip during this 15 ft climb would probably result in a fall which would land you all the way at the bottom of the corner-system.
Enjoy the summit!
There are two common places to begin the approach: From La Cueva or from the end of the Modoc Mine Rd.
The approach from La Cueva starts by taking the trail to Fillmore Canyon. Ascend the canyon to its climactic end (if you're lucky a nice waterfall will be here). From here bushwhack to the top of the canyon on the north side and follow a faint and faintly marked trail through a mile of Cat's Claw, aiming for the the "Yellow Rocks". The yellow rocks are a formation near the base of the mountains of yellowish tan decomposing rock. In drier seasons when the creek is not flowing, one can also approach the Yellow Rocks by taking a trail off to the right just before you enter Fillmore Canyon (marked with a cairn). This takes you above the waterfall and ultimately into the canyon, which can be followed until just before the "Yellow Rocks".
The Modoc Mine approach offers less bushwhacking, but can be hazardous to your vehicle. The rd is located a few miles north of Dripping Springs rd off of Baylor canyon. It is not signed, but simply look for the first promising dirt track which breaks off the main rd and heads into the mountains. A few miles of very bumpy rd (high clearance a must) brings you to an unlocked gate. Beyond which, a few more miles ascends increasingly deteriorating rds (4x4 a must. Plus good off-roading techniques)up switchbacks to a grassy knoll. If you've dared to drive up here, go ahead and park. From the top of this knoll, hike down the rd to the south and ascend the next knoll over. The rd ends here. Look for a faint trail heading south. It descends into a gully and continues traversing south where it ends up at the base of the "Yellow Rocks"
Protection is generally not needed. However, some parties may find the 3rd class section too exposed. Often these members of the party get to wait here while everyone else summits, but if you bring a short rope (~20m) and a few slings you can rig up something to give reassurances to these folks.
Learning the landmarks is key. take time during your hike to try to identify these ahead of time, as you will find that the closer you get, the less clear things are.
|By Nick Dolecek|
From: Denver, Colorado
Jan 26, 2011
There is a great trail that goes to the summit starting at the end of the modoc mine road.
|By Robert Cort|
Oct 28, 2011
An alternative to the approach from La Cueva is to follow a good trail on the south side of Fillmore Canyon (turn right before you get to the mine), then once parallel to (or slightly before) the yellow rocks, cross Fillmore Creek and regain the trail by ascending one of the small ridges coming down from near the yellow rocks. (this option avoids the "mile of catclaw")
Jan 26, 2012
This should help with the Modoc Mine Road approach (make sure "satellite" view is selected as the Mine road isn't defined on the standard map view): Google maps link
And a few more tips:
- I pressed the trip meter as soon as I turned off the little loop road (confusingly also called Baylor Canyon road) that runs off the main Baylor Canyon Road, and managed to get a rented Jeep Liberty about .9 miles up Modoc Mine road. Anything more requires a true bad-ass high-clearance 4x4.
- The switchback mentioned above confused me and I missed the turn and had a bit of bush whacking to get back up to the trail. Hopefully the map link above will help.
- The "yellow rocks" also mentioned above aren't visible until a good .2 miles after the Mine road ends. You pass over a ridge trending in a S/SE direction on a faint trail (or another option is a more direct SE direction with no real trail, but a bit more cat-claw). Once you reach them, skirt them to the South and then start looking for a trail (possible cairn) that leads to the Grey Eminence. Also, the trail to Juniper pass stays to the West side of the Grey Eminence and ends at the pass.
- Time: About an hour and 15 minutes from where I parked to the Yellow rocks, then about another hour to Juniper pass. Both times could be easily bettered if you know your way and didn't drink way too much beer in a shitty dive bar in El Paso the night before.
- And finally, if you plan to do this in January, like I did, you can expect snow on the shady spots (there was almost a foot behind the Grey Eminence). So you might want something a bit more rugged than the 5-10 Guide approach shoes I used...especially when you discover the snow-covered agave death plants.
|By Marta Reece|
From: Las Cruces, NM
Dec 28, 2013
The trail has been over-used. Instead of following cairns, you now scramble up loose debris in a trough dug into the mountain by feet and erosion. This goes on for most of the way. The trail may have deserved those stars at one time, but currently it's a slog without much appeal. It does get you to the summit, but that's about all you can say for it.
However, with the exception of Dark Canyon, alternative off-trail routes are possible and a great deal more enjoyable. One way is to take the Fillmore Canyon trail, the one on the south side of the canyon, all the way to where it crosses to the north side and then when a way opens up on the left (at the big stump) go up the slope to the top of Gray Eminence. From Juniper Saddle take the trail only little past where it crosses the canyon, then turn sharp left back into the canyon (the way the trail used to go), and stay in its bottom to the start of Dark Canyon.
Better yet, don't go to the Needle at all. Scramble to the top of Little Squaretop (skipping the turn into Dark Canyon and just going on up, then left). It may not be the tallest peak, but it's a lot more fun.