This route has a very distinct psychological crux on the 6th pitch leaving the Pedestal; a technically easy but nervy face traverse with plenty of exposure and great position. Lower pitches contain a number of "don't screw this up" moves with dubious protection available, par for the course on the longer routes ascending the south face of the Warlock. There is also a goodly ration of wide crack climbing and some chimneying thrown in for fun.
While the climbing is not technically difficult, the route has the notable distinction of being the first recorded technical ascent at the Needles, and retains a good deal of 'backcountry' feel compared to more popular routes like Igor, Airy, or Thin Ice. After the Pedestal, most of the climbing is easy; the thin face moves on the summit block can be aided if necessary, and the rap from the top of the Howling can be completed with one 70m cord if you are careful.
Your reward for the bushwhacking adventure at the base will be a fine route with excellent position and moderate climbing, which ascends the tallest spire in the Needles by an oft-ignored aspect, and affords much gawking at seemingly unclimbable sheer faces on golden granite, zebra-striped with water streaks, painted with bright yellow and crimson lichen. Beckey did not ignore aesthetics in choosing a first ascent here; this side of the Warlock is visually quite dramatic, and even now these routes are seldom climbed.
The route faces south (duh) and gets plenty of sun, so it is best to climb this in the cooler months before the road opens (April-May) or towards the end of the Needles season (September-October).
Finding the right crack system at the base may be the true crux of the route -- a crack in a left-facing corner/groove which is not without dirt, lichen, and occasional stinging insects. (I will try and post a photo of the start, since it's difficult to describe well -- one attempt can be found here. Note that the small tree at the junction of two cracks near the end of the first pitch is a good landmark regardless)
Approach as for the Howling, Ghostbumps, etc. but keep descending around the base of the Warlock. The top of Voodoo Dome will come into view and then you will keep descending a rather unpleasant talus gully to arrive near the base of S Crack, Shadows in the Rain, and finally the original south face route.
If you have a copy of the guidebook, try to make sure that you don't go all the way around to the Styx (overhanging pillar thing that leans against the Warlock near its lowest point) or, worse, all the way around to the other side of the Pedestal. Good luck!
Full rack to 5" or so, depending on how comfortable the leader is with wide cracks; many slings (the route wanders a good bit on the lower pitches, and I do not recall there being any bolted belay stations on the route). It should be possible to retreat below the Pedestal with a single rope, but you would be leaving a lot of gear behind. Once you have passed the Pedestal, retreat may be problematic.
|By Peter Valchev|
From: Truckee, CA
Aug 31, 2010
Adventure climb... did it on Halloween 2009. I don't know if we found the right start or not, but it was kind of scary in a couple of spots. Ended up doing/aiding the 5.11 variation at "the pedestal" (probably because we were offroute, we traversed left from the right, but not enough). I think we brought doubles to #3 and a #4 camalot. Trip report/pictures at sightly.net/peter/trips/needles2009/
|By Richard Shore|
Jul 2, 2012
A wonderful adventure climb with lots of WIDE climbing. A long line with great position on the Warlock.
Pitch by Pitch breakdown:
P1) Near the top of the vegetated 4th class gully, and just before a large triangular chockstone, head up either a 3-4" jagged flake on the left or a crack system 10 feet to it's right. At a large bush, step right and head up an easy blocky/chimney to a belay at a small oak tree (NOT the massive Pine tree, just down and right from it).
P2) A wild foot, then hand traverse right around the arete leads to a beautiful RF dihedral with lots of fists and hands. Run this long pitch all the way to the top of a small pillar at the end of the corner.
P3) Climb up the crack ~20 feet, then step left/down to the next crack/chimney, and step left to the next crack/OW/chimney once again. Follow this to the top of "The Pedestal".
P4) Exciting face traverse (crux) to beautiful flakes and plates alongside a chimney. After 40 feet or so, get inside and follow it up to a nice large open stance in the chimney.
P5) Continue up the easy chimney as it turns right to nice hands in a tight corner. Belay atop a massive flat ledge on the east face of the Warlock.
P6) A short fists/stemming corner leads to an awkward squeeze move to gain the easy 5th class ridgeline on the middle summit. Belay from a single bolt and slung block.
P7) Rappel 15' (or downclimb) into the notch between the Middle and North Summits. A 3 bolt aid ladder leads to the summit. Alternatively, one may finish via Imaginary Voyage and step right around the arete to freeclimb (5.9) past two bolts to the summit.
Gear: Doubles to #3 camalot was nice. We brought a #4, and placed it a few times, but it was worthless/tipped out in every spot I wanted it. A #5 would be more useful.