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The Needles / Kern River

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Bald Eagle Peak 
Bart Dome 
Church Domes 
Dome Rock 
Elephant Knob 
Gym, The 
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Kern Canyon Dome 
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Kernville Rock (a.k.a. Kern Slabs) 
Lower Kern River canyon bouldering 
Needles, The 
New Directions 
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Rest Day:
Nearby Mountain Bike Rides

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From MP's sister site: MTB Project

The Needles / Kern River 


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Location: 36.1214, -118.5044 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 1,024,198
Administrators: Matthew Fienup, M.Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer, Justin Johnsen, Kristine Hoffman
Submitted By: Josh Janes on Jun 18, 2006
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The Needles, as viewed from Dome Rock

Description 

The upper Kern River Valley, in Sequoia National Forest, is a true outdoor paradise. The area is home to outstanding white water kayaking, fishing, mountain biking and hiking. Natural wonders include the "Grand Canyon of the Kern River" (a scenic waterway cut by the mighty Kern), the southern-most stand of old-growth Giant Sequoias and countless waterfalls, natural water slides, and plunge pools.

AND THEN THERE'S THE CLIMBING.

The area is home to the world famous Needles and several other truly outstanding formations, including Dome Rock and Elephant Knob. It has been said that the Needles themselves are home to the highest density of classic routes anywhere. This is not an overstatement. The overshadowed lesser formations are worthwhile destinations in their own right and should not be overlooked.


Getting There 

The Kern River Valley is quite large, so for directions see the description for the specific sub-area you wish to visit


136 Total Routes


['4 Stars',29],['3 Stars',59],['2 Stars',33],['1 Star',11],['Bomb',1]
['<=5.6',9],['5.7',8],['5.8',15],['5.9',17],['5.10',46],['5.11',27],['5.12',5],['5.13',1],['>=5.14',0],['',0],['<=V1',0],['V2-3',1],['V4-5',5],['V6-7',2],['V8-9',0],['V10-11',0],['V12-13',0],['>=V14',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for The Needles / Kern River:
The Lieback   5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a     Trad, 2 pitches   Kernville Rock (a.k.a. Kern...
Tree Route   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Trad, 4 pitches, 500'   Dome Rock
White Punks on Dope   5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13     Trad, 6 pitches   The Needles : Voodoo Dome
Imaginary Voyage   5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c     Trad, 4 pitches, 500'   The Needles : The Warlock
Spooky   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 2 pitches, 175'   The Needles : The Charlatan
Igor Unchained   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Trad, 3 pitches   The Needles : The Witch
Anti-Jello Crack   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Trad, 4 pitches, 550'   Dome Rock
Airy Interlude   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 3 pitches   The Needles : The Witch
Thin Ice   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 3 pitches   The Needles : The Sorcerer
Fancy Free   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 3 pitches   The Needles : The Charlatan
Spook Book   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b R     Trad, 4 pitches   The Needles : The Witch
Tobin's Dihedral   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 3 pitches, 380'   Dome Rock
Pinhead   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 140'   The Needles : The Sorcerer
The Don Juan Wall   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Trad, 5 pitches   The Needles : The Sorcerer
Ankles Away   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c PG13     Trad, 2 pitches, 230'   The Needles : The Witch
The Emperor aka Pea Soup   5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a     Trad, 1 pitch, 105'   The Needles : Voodoo Dome
Atlantis   5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a PG13     Trad, 4 pitches   The Needles : The Sorcerer
Scirocco   5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 150'   The Needles : The Sorcerer
Romantic Warrior   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b     Trad, 9 pitches   The Needles : The Warlock
Pyromania   5.13a/b 8a 29 IX+ 29 E7 6c PG13     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   The Needles : The Sorcerer
Browse More Classics in The Needles / Kern River

Featured Route For The Needles / Kern River
One smooth granite face

Lost at Sea 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b  CA : Southern Sierra : ... : The Sorcerer
Lost at Sea is a totally amazing variation to the fourth pitch of Atlantis. Very much worth the time and effort if you're up there. Step off the right end of the ledge atop Atlantis' third pitch and into the obvious left-facing flake. Ascend this flake as it gradually thins and becomes more difficult, eventually arching delicately to the right. The wall is steep and blank here, and at certain points one begins to wonder if gear behind the top of the flake would just rip it right of...[more]   Browse More Classics in CA

Photos of The Needles / Kern River Slideshow Add Photo
Just past the crux. Anon.
Just past the crux. Anon.
Dome Rock and the Needles...They don't look quite as intimidating from this angle.
Dome Rock and the Needles...They don't look quite ...
Josh and I standing atop the Charlatan, photo taken by Margi (she works in the lookout)through the telescope on the lookout.
Josh and I standing atop the Charlatan, photo take...
Horned Lizard--another of the extraordinary creatures who make the Upper Kern River Valley home.
Horned Lizard--another of the extraordinary creatu...
Black Bears are a common sight throughout the Kern River Valley.  Proper food storage is a must.
Black Bears are a common sight throughout the Kern...
The Needles and Kern drainage.
The Needles and Kern drainage.
The Needles, pictured from the summit of dome rock.
The Needles, pictured from the summit of dome rock...
gone, but not forgotten, pt. 1
gone, but not forgotten, pt. 1
The Needles at dawn as seen from Dome Rock.
The Needles at dawn as seen from Dome Rock.
Mother-daughter spring break lead climb "Dirty Dishes!" Outstanding day finishing with a stop at the Kern River brewery for veggie burgers and 2 Class-5 stouts! Great day!!!!
Mother-daughter spring break lead climb "Dirty Dis...
The Needles
The Needles
Needles lookout sign
Needles lookout sign
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, spotted near the Fire lookout in the Needles, California
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, spotted near the Fir...
Here I am at the Rectory...on a Herb Laeger route, 5.10c
Here I am at the Rectory...on a Herb Laeger route,...
secret swimming hole... <br />
secret swimming hole...
gone, but not forgotten, pt. 2
gone, but not forgotten, pt. 2
Photo from inside the lookout showing the resupply helicopter. <br />I fly the helicopter and climb Needles on my off time.
Photo from inside the lookout showing the resupply...
My son Josh standing atop the Charlatan when he visited me this Summer.
My son Josh standing atop the Charlatan when he vi...
white punks on dope
white punks on dope
Pono, thinking about getting back into climbing
Pono, thinking about getting back into climbing
Try the Kern "Just Outstanding IPA". <br />Photo by Blitzo.
Try the Kern "Just Outstanding IPA".
Photo by Blit...
Try the Kern "Anniversary Ale". <br />Photo by Blitzo.
Try the Kern "Anniversary Ale".
Photo by Blitzo.
The Upper Kern River Valley is home to the southern-most stand of old-growth giant sequoias, making the Trail of a Hundred Giants an excellent rest-day activity.
The Upper Kern River Valley is home to the souther...
Comments on The Needles / Kern River Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Apr 7, 2014
By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From: London (sort of)
Sep 14, 2011

"There is a God, and, obviously, he climbs." - Sam Lightner Jr.

He said this about a route in Thailand, but I can't think of a better way to describe the Needles. I could give 4 stars to pretty much every route we did there. Far and away the best climbing area I hit on my CA road trip and in my top three locals of all time.

Igor Unchained
Airy Interlude
Fancy Free
Thin Ice
Spooky
The Howling
Lost at Sea
Atlantis

ALL CLASSIC!

By Eric T.
From: St. Augustine, Florida
Sep 21, 2011

How early in the spring can you start climbing here?

By Zappatista
Oct 14, 2011

Elephant Knob is not worth the hike, for those who are considering it. The cliff got burnt up in a wildfire a few years back and it is DONE. Started up a couple of the "classics" but it's all kitty litter rock now and the hardware has been cooked and isn't trustworthy either.

By Ryan Kempf
From: Boulder, CO
Apr 3, 2012

Anyone know when the earliest the needles area is climbable in the spring? Trying to plan a mid May trip.

By ttriche
From: Altadena, CA
Apr 3, 2012

This year, with snow levels as low as they are, it is entirely possible that the trail could open in May or even later this month. Up-to-date conditions at the Ponderosa down the road can be found at www.ponderosaca.com/wx.htm if you want to try and time it.

The area itself is climbable year round, but the main approach is gated and the hike in becomes about twice as long when the road from 190 to the campground is blocked by snow. Expect 60-90 minutes then.

You could always camp at Peppermint Springs and climb on Voodoo Dome if nothing else seems to be workable. Unless it's pissing down rain, there's almost always *something* climbable up there.

By ryan albery
From: Cruisertonfieldville
Jun 18, 2012

I spent last week climbing at the Needles, and when I stopped at the Ponderosa Lodge for a few beers and asked to see the guidebook they used to have, they told me it was stolen a few years ago. I decided to leave my old copy there for all climbers to use, so they now have this hard to find book if you're needing some info on the area. Hopefully it stays put for many years to come.

By Salamanizer
Administrator
From: Vacaville Ca.
Jun 20, 2012

^^^^^^^^^^^^

Way super cool on you as I don't have the guide, won't pay out the ass for one and love to climb less traveled routes at the Needles.

Now I can draw topos on their napkins again. THANKS!!!

By J. Albers
From: Colorado
Jun 21, 2012

Agree with Sal. Thank you Ryan for leaving the guide at the Lodge. Very kind of you.

By Fat Dad
From: Los Angeles, CA
Jul 23, 2013

I was at the Ponderosa the last week of June and didn't see the guide hanging on the wall where it formerly was. Did they move it behind the counter?

By joedeltron
Dec 3, 2013

Guide is still there hanging on the wall, thanks for leaving it.

By Seth Finkelstein
From: Boulder, CO
Apr 4, 2014

Can anyone comment on whether two ropes are necessary for the needles? On that note, can i get by with just a 60m?

By Matthew Fienup
Administrator
From: Ventura, CA
Apr 7, 2014

Retreating from most routes would be exceedingly difficult without 2 ropes. Retreating from a few routes would be impossible without 2 ropes.

I once had to make a harrowing descent down the side of the Magician, using a single 60m rope. Since there are spots on the Magician where descending with a single rope is impossible, we had to do a long, improbable traversing pitch to gain a crack system that allowed for a single-rope descent. Everything worked out in the end, but life would have been vastly easier with a second rope.