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The Needles

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Charlatan, The 
Demon Dome 
Magician, The 
Merlin Dome 
Necromancer Needle 
Sorcerer's Apprentice, The 
Sorcerer, The 
Surrounding Boulders 
Voodoo Dome 
Warlock, The 
Witch, The 
Wizard, The 

The Needles  


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Location: 36.1214, -118.5044 View Map  Incorrect?
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Administrators: Matthew Fienup, M.Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer, Justin Johnsen, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Josh Janes on Aug 21, 2006
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Matt Grieger nears the summit of the Magician Need...

Description 

Breathtaking and shrouded in mystery, the Needles are a series of enormous granite spires that stand watch atop a narrow ridge that sits high over the Kern River in Sequoia National Forest. This is a climber's paradise: perfect rock, beautiful scenery, minimal crowds, and adventure in abudance.

The area was originally explored in the early 70's by Fred Beckey and a handful of other Californian climbers, and in the late 70's more and more new routes, including many of the classics, were put up by climbers like Herb Laeger, E. C. Joe, and Dick Leversee. During this time then youngsters Randy Leavitt and Tony Yaniro got wind of the area and in a matter of months some of the hardest and most beautiful lines in the Needles were established. New route development continued into the 80's with these two and their partners, as well as guys like Mike Lechlinski and Tom Gilje. Even today new routes are going up, as well as the updating of aging hardware by Greg Barnes and the ASCA.

Climbs like Igor Unchained, Airy Interlude, Thin Ice, Spook Book, Don Juan, Atlantis, and The Romantic Warrior characterize Needles climbing -- long, steep, and sustained crack lines, but so do outstanding face climbs like White Punks on Dope, Magic Dragon, Love Potion #9, The Howling, and Scirocco. Yaniro also established some of the area's test pieces like Sea of Tranquility, Titantic, and Pyromania.

Unfortunately the only comprehensive guidebook to the area, "Southern Sierra Rock Climbing: The Needles Area," by Moser, Vernon, and Paul, has been out of print for some time now and is a hard to find item. Some details exist in "???", as well as online resources such as this site, Clint Cumming's personal website, and on the Summit Post. You can also find beta specific to the Romantic Warrior and Scirocco in "Fifty Favorite Climbs." A new guide has supposedly been in the works for several years now.

Perhaps the lack of published information has kept the crowds at bay, but more likely it is the hour long approach hike from the trailhead and the steep and intimidating nature of the climbing. Either way, the Needles has a mystique and ambiance that is unlike any other area in the country, and that feel is augmented by the names of the features and routes themselves: The Magician, the Sorcerer, the Witch, the Warlock...

The Magician is the first and largest of the Needles, and when it first comes into view after hiking along the ridgeline it inspires awe. Perched at its top is a historic and beautiful USFS fire lookout tower that is usually staffed through the summer months by the aimiable Marge, who is known for baking cookies for climbers every Sunday morning (note that in an tragic, yet ironic, twist the lookout burned down and is no longer staffed). The central "cirque" of the Needles is the area situated between the Witch and the Sorcerer, and many of the most classic climbs are located here. The crowning tower of the ridge, however, is the Warlock. It is here that the big routes -- the Romantic Warrior and the Sea of Tranquility lie. There are many other smaller formations such as the Wizard, Djin, the Necromancer, and the Charlatan. Separate rock formations such as Dome Rock, the Hermit, and Voodoo Dome lie nearby and can provide a change of pace if needed.

The ideal climbing season at the Needles is May through November, but it can be very hot in the summer months. Early season FS-21S05 is closed due to snow. Call the Ranger Station at Kernville (760-376-3781) or Porterville (559-784-1500) for current conditions.

Camping 

Campsites (Needles Spring area) exist at the trailhead which is at the end of FS-21S05, a three mile dirt road. From this trailhead it is a quick 3 mile hike along a beautiful ridge to the Needles themselves. Primitive camping can be had amongst the formations (you must obtain a fire permit from the Lookout Tower), but it is more common to simply stash gear and hike back out to the main campsites.

Supplies, water, and even cooked meals can be had at the Ponderosa Lodge (559-542-2579), located by the Quaking Aspen Campground, 1/2 mile N of FS-21S05. Please don't dump your garbage in their dumpsters. There are pay sites at Quaking Aspen with pit toilets and water available.

Getting There 

Directions to the Needles proper:

From Bakersfield, CA (and points S, SE, E):
Head NE on 178 (Kern River Road) towards Wolford Heights/Kernville/Lake Isabella. Continue N on 155 around the W side of the lake. This eventually turns into M-99 (Kern River Highway); follow this N through Fairview, then W through Johnsondale where it turns into M-50. After a few miles, turn N on CR-107 (Western Divide Highway). From this turn head 15 miles to NF-21S05. Turn E and follow this unpaved road 3 miles to the campsites/trailhead. A quick, scenic 3 mile hike along the ridge takes you into the formations.

From Ducor, CA (all points S (possibly including Bakersfield), SW, W, NW, N): Head E on J-22 (Avenue 56/Sierra Avenue) past Fountain Springs and past the intersection with M-109. Continue past California Hot Springs; the road changes to Hot Springs Drive and then to M-50. After a few miles, turn N on CR-107 (Western Divide Highway). From this turn head 15 miles to NF-21S05. Turn E and follow this unpaved road 3 miles to the campsites/trailhead. A quick, scenic 3 mile hike along the ridge takes you into the formations.

From Portersville, CA (all points N, NW -- probably slower than the Ducor directions but a great drive): Head E on 190 past Lake Success and then past Camp Nelson. Continue past the Quaking Aspen Campground for 0.5 miles to NF-21S05. Turn E and follow this unpaved road 3 miles to the campsites/trailhead. A quick, scenic 3 mile hike along the ridge takes you into the formations.

From Ridgecrest, CA (all points E, SE, NE): Head W on 178 towards Wolford Heights/Kernville/Lake Isabella. Before reaching Lake Isabella, turn N on Sierra Way and head NW along the E side of the lake. This eventually merges into M-99 (Kern River Highway); follow this N through Fairview, then W through Johnsondale where it turns into M-50. After a few miles, turn N on CR-107 (Western Divide Highway). From this turn head 15 miles to NF-21S05. Turn E and follow this unpaved road 3 miles to the campsites/trailhead. A quick, scenic 3 mile hike along the ridge takes you into the formations.


Voodoo Dome and Dome Rock are two popular formations that are in close proximity to the Needles proper. Dome Rock has an entirely separate approach, trailhead, and camping, as does Voodoo Dome (while Voodoo Dome can be approached via a descent down past the Warlock, it is more expedient to use a different approach (the lower Needles approach). This approach may also be a good way to reach routes that begin on the lower flank of the Warlock.)

Directions to Dome Rock: Click Here

Directions to Voodoo Dome (the lower Needles approach): Click Here


Climbing Season



Weather station 10.8 miles from here

69 Total Routes

['4 Stars',22],['3 Stars',33],['2 Stars',9],['1 Star',4],['Bomb',1]
['<=5.6',0],['5.7',4],['5.8',6],['5.9',9],['5.10',26],['5.11',17],['5.12',5],['5.13',1],['>=5.14',0],['',0],['<=V1',0],['V2-3',0],['V4-5',1],['V6-7',0],['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:
White Punks on Dope   5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13     Trad, 6 pitches   Voodoo Dome
Imaginary Voyage   5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c     Trad, 4 pitches, 500'   The Warlock
Spooky   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 2 pitches, 175'   The Charlatan
Igor Unchained   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Trad, 3 pitches   The Witch
Thin Ice   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 3 pitches   The Sorcerer
Airy Interlude   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 3 pitches   The Witch
Fancy Free   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 3 pitches   The Charlatan
Spook Book   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b R     Trad, 4 pitches   The Witch
Lost at Sea   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Trad, 1 pitch   The Sorcerer
Pinhead   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 140'   The Sorcerer
Wailing Banshees   5.11a/b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Trad, 2 pitches, 250'   The Sorcerer
The Don Juan Wall   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Trad, 5 pitches   The Sorcerer
Ankles Away   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c PG13     Trad, 2 pitches, 230'   The Witch
Terrorvision   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c PG13     Trad, 1 pitch   The Witch
The Emperor aka Pea Soup   5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a     Trad, 1 pitch, 105'   Voodoo Dome
Atlantis   5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a PG13     Trad, 4 pitches   The Sorcerer
Scirocco   5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 150'   The Sorcerer
Romantic Warrior   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b     Trad, 9 pitches   The Warlock
Davy Jones' Locker   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b PG13     Trad, 2 pitches, 100'   The Sorcerer
Pyromania   5.13a/b 8a 29 IX+ 29 E7 6c PG13     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   The Sorcerer
Browse More Classics in The Needles

Featured Route For The Needles
Outstanding second pitch, just like all the rest.

The Don Juan Wall 5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c  CA : Southern Sierra : ... : The Sorcerer
Words cannot describe how amazing this route is. P1: Take the same right-facing corner start as Thin Ice/Ice Pirates. Move the belay to the far left end of the ledge formed by the top of the flake. 5.9+P2: The next two pitches follow the immaculate left-facing corner system. Climb a long finger crack with stemming and progressively harder moves. Belay at bolts. 5.11.P3: Continue up the corner system. Again, 5.11.P4: Climb up a lower angle face and corner with tricky gear, step left and ...[more]   Browse More Classics in CA

Photos of The Needles Slideshow Add Photo
The Witch and the recent fire (7.24.2010).
The Witch and the recent fire (7.24.2010).
From the Lookout
BETA PHOTO: From the Lookout
Mike Lechlinksi on The Parasite (5.13b), The Needles. Photo by Mari Gingery.
Mike Lechlinksi on The Parasite (5.13b), The Needl...
just another nice shot
just another nice shot
Overview of the Needles
BETA PHOTO: Overview of the Needles
East faces of the Sorcerer and Charlatan Needles
East faces of the Sorcerer and Charlatan Needles
Just a nice shot here
Just a nice shot here
The Needles, in rain.
The Needles, in rain.
Leopard Lilies, seen in the meadow at the Needles trailhead.
Leopard Lilies, seen in the meadow at the Needles ...
The Dijin, Charlatan, Sorcerer, Wizard, and...  The top pitch of Igor can be clearly scene.
The Dijin, Charlatan, Sorcerer, Wizard, and... Th...
The West face of the Charlatan and the Wizard...
The West face of the Charlatan and the Wizard...
Remnants of the Needles Lookout.  <br /> <br />Photo: Corey Gargano
Remnants of the Needles Lookout.

Photo: Corey Ga...
Looking north from camp...
Looking north from camp...
The Needles from Dome Rock
The Needles from Dome Rock
An aspiring climber works on her tick-list.  Location: the Needles lookout.
An aspiring climber works on her tick-list. Locat...
Sorcerer and Charlatan
Sorcerer and Charlatan
Good advice for a dry climate...
Good advice for a dry climate...
Lookout on the Needles
Lookout on the Needles
A mostly accurate and intact sign...
A mostly accurate and intact sign...
View of the Needles, CA
View of the Needles, CA
Looking back towards the lookout from the summit of Warlock Needle.
Looking back towards the lookout from the summit o...
The Needles, Voodoo Dome on the far right
The Needles, Voodoo Dome on the far right
The Sorcerer, the Lookout, and the Charlatan from the top of the Witch.
The Sorcerer, the Lookout, and the Charlatan from ...
Bring a stick on hot days - these guys are everywhere
Bring a stick on hot days - these guys are everywh...

Show All 27 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on The Needles Add Comment
Show which comments
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Nov 5, 2013
By C Miller
Administrator
Jul 18, 2007
The following websites have lots of useful Needles information:

www.monsteroffwidth.com/NeedlesMiniGuide/index.html - this one is a link on the Clint Cummings website mentioned above.

www.vertical20.com/Home_Page.html - lots of great info from a pioneer of the area.
By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From: Bend, OR
May 29, 2009
Just returned from my first trip ever to the Needles. Wow! If you haven't been, just find a way to make it happen! A truly magical place.
By Darren Mabe
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Mar 19, 2010
can you get an RV to the trailhead? and camp with one at the campsites?
By ttriche
From: Altadena, CA
Mar 19, 2010
Depends on the RV. Sadly, it may be possible in years when the road is not rutted badly enough. Happily, I've not seen it very often. If you are daring enough you can probably get a small to medium sized RV to the trailhead. The odds are that you will wreck the thing trying to pull a full sized RV into the campground, and/or kill someone(s). Please consider camping at Lower Peppermint Springs or off to the side of 21S05 instead of trying to park an RV at the usual campsites.
By Kurt Burt
Jul 8, 2011
Great alternative to camping in the needles... here is the link to supertopo .

link to the b&b
By ccmski
From: Prescott, AZ
Aug 27, 2012
As of 8-25-12, the road into the Needles is in pretty rough shape. A high clearance vehicle is recommended, although we did see a party with an Audi driving out as we drove in. During the week, the fighter jets were very active, flying low over the domes- ear rattling loud, but pretty cool to see them screaming by in an inversion. They seemed to take the weekend off.
By Peter Franzen
Administrator
From: Phoenix, AZ
May 27, 2013
A few helpful hints for anyone heading up here for the first time:

- There is no cell phone service anywhere close to The Needles
- The nearest place that reliably has gas is Camp Nelson. Even on Memorial Day weekend the Ponderosa was out, so make sure you have plenty before heading up
- The road was no problem for a Subaru with AWD, but you might have trouble in a couple of spots with something less capable

And we thought that driving up Hot Springs Road (M-56) from Ducor, CA was a much better route from Bakersfield than the Kern River Highway route. It is much more scenic and it may even be faster. Here's a map of the route we took.
By Mark Fletcher
Nov 5, 2013
The road into the Needles is getting worse. While it appears that the road has been graded in some places, this grading is going to make things worse because the dirt is very soft and in a 2WD vehicle, you will spin your tires in a few places, creating ruts. Also, I saw places where the grading removed necessary drainage culverts under the road. Now this water will run down the road, creating even more ruts. I would not try taking a low clearance vehicle all the way to the trailhead due to lots of large rocks that have been pulled up by the grader. However, if your vehicle does not have the clearance to go all the way up, there are plenty of turnouts along the way were you can hike to the trailhead from. This only adds about 1 mile or less to the hike in.