This one has been on the my list for a couple of a years. Hence the long trip report---forgive me! Broken toes, bad weather and just "stuff" have kept me away until recently. Having just recently completed AMC's Basic Outdoor Technical Climbing class and the Anchors class I was more ready than ever. My good friend Pete offered to help me accomplish this little goal.
We started from the Peralta trailhead at 6:30am and finshed around 6:30pm so it was a full day, indeed. Looking at Weaver's Needle from Fremont Saddle tends to leave me feeling a bit overwhelmed about the task of getting to the top. That darn thing looks huge! Pete was good about reassuring me that I have climbed things that are much more challenging and possibly more exposed. He was correct. As we approached the Base of the Needle it seemed to get smalled......or perhaps more "do-able". I think the most challenging part for me was the scramble after we left the Bluff Springs Trail to reach the base of the Needle "the Notch" between to the two halves of the Needle. It was steep and full of loose kitty litter type scree with strategically placed cactus and cat claw.....I hate that stuff.
Pete tossed our rope up over a boulder for the first technical part of the climb. I've seen this rated lots of different things but will agree with the 5.4. My job here was to keep Pete safe (and myself should he take a fall while I was tied into the rope) and belay him while he managed the rock and rope. The tricky part for me here was not being able to actually see him while he climbed. I had to carefully watch the slack in the rope and keep it tight enough but not too tight....and feed him rope as he moved. I had already done a bit of lead belaying both in the gym and outdoors so I felt comfortable and ready to assist Pete. Falling here is a REALLY bad idea. Pete had the hard job. This is where I changed into my climbing shoes.....gotta love that sticky rubber! and my climbing harness. Pete quickly set some anchors and I was on my way, too! I had some friends doing the Superstition Ridgeline on the same day so I kept looking over to see if I could spot anyone but I couldn't. Pete broke down the anchors and I scrambled up the next part of the Needle. I made a couple of wrong route choices and cliffed out a bit. After back-tracking once or twice I found the correct slab to climb under. It was a smidge tight to squish through with a pack on so Pete had to take his pack off and some how drag it behind him. Thankfully he was prepared for this. This is about where I saw the first set of bolts. I stepped over to them and hooked up my personal anchors to take a good look over the edge.....this is where we would do the last rappel on the way down. Wooowee it was sure awful down looking.
Pete pointed out the next direction of the climb and sent me on the way. I tried to talk him into being finished right at this spot but that wasn't going to work. In the next section there was a little outcropping of rock that I had to get around that spooked me a bit but Pete reassured me there were plenty of hand holds and big jugs to use.....again he was correct! I absolutely love this type of climbing/scrambling. We made it to the top at 12:30pm----actually a respectable time considering all the dilly-dallying that I do. We both worked diligently to stay adequately hydrated all day. Climbing and cramping can be a really bad thing....prevention is really the best option.
At the top we took off our packs, grabbed a bit to eat, soaked in the amazing views, wrote in the summit journal and snapped a few pictures. After a few minutes another guy popped up on the top.....no rope, small pack............. We were sort of shocked to see him. Turns out he was a frickin animal! That guy---Brian was his name---had climbed up from the base in 20 minutes. I think he made it to the whole journey from the car to the top in 1.5 hours.......now that's HARDCORE. We offered him a rap down on our rope....he turned it down and then after sizing up the descent he showed up having decided climbing down is a lot different. Pete set the anchor, I did the first rap on a double rope....that first step off the cliff is a little scary but then I'm good. Pete gave Brian his harness and the came next. Pete reset the anchor so he could pull the rope and came down. Brian left and scrambled the rest of the way down without us......crazy! I'm sure he was back at the trailhead before we were completely off the Needle.
We scrambled a bit and made it to the next pitch for our final rappel. Pete set the anchor and tossed the rope for a long single rope rappel. We had radios with us so we could communicate a little easier.....it was a good idea. While I was on my rap I looked back and notice a massive KNOT in the rope. I quickly recognized that this would significantly complicate things! Thankfully, I was appropriately prepared for this scenerio in my climbing class although I had not had the best success with the options in the gym....but I knew my options and that kept me pretty calm and focused. I took the rope and wrapped it behind my back and around my left thigh a couple of times so I could release my brake hand. Now I had both hands free to pull up the rope and begin the process of untangling the darn knot. My other option would have been to take a prusik cord off my harness and prusik around it....that would have been a long and involved process. In my mind I was gearing up for that possibility. I got the knot out and was pretty excited that I could continue the rappel. It's always good to realize that the simple things in life like untieing and knot can bring such joy! The rope was pretty kinked and twisted so it was slow going but I was excited to get to practice some of things I had learned in my class........real-life stuff with a view woohooo! I reached the end of the rope and got my feet securely on the ground. Not much I could do at this point except wait for Pete. Things got a little more complicated for him with the twisty rope....perhaps he'll explain. He had to do the rap down as a multi-pitch so that was a little more slow going, too. Once he was down I packed up the rope while he rested and hydrated.
The scramble down the base was my least favorite part......that darn loose crap again.....only fell three times.....but one of those doesn't count. My climbing shoes smell horrible after they have been used.....who would think girls could have such stinky feet....but mine were! I big gust of wind came along and gave me a good whiff of my stinky shoes, complicated even more with my body odor at this point and I think the combination of those two nasty smells just blew me right off my feet! (so I'm thinking that fall doesn't count as a fall!) The rest of the hike out was on the trail and went as trail hiking tends to go....pretty status quo there. We watched the sunset on Weaver's Needle from Fremont Saddle. I had my point and shoot camera and no tripod with me so the photos are far from remarkable. (haven't yet figure out how to manage the camera while climbing and with all the gear) We did the hike down Peralta in the dark which was rather enjoyable after such an amazing day. Pete showed me that my headlamp could be worn around my waist and that I had a wide angle lens on it. These two things made the night hike great fun because the light was stable and I could move my head around without losing the light.
Great day, amazing adventure.................I feel reconnected with the Superstitions once again.
Thanks Pete---you rock!