A beautiful day, a great group of 6 people made for a promising hike, but the adventure turned out to be more than we bargined for . From the Peralta TH up the Bluff Springs and the Terrapin Trail to the Cross Cut trail was a breeze. We made great time. The Cross Cut trail was well marked and easy to find. But... getting up to the south tip of the Needle was more difficult than we expected. We went farther on the Cross Cut trail than we should have and from where we were found no direct route back up to the Needle. Eventually, there seemed to be an opening that required a lot of climbing and bushwacking but with some creative route finding, we made it up to the shoulder at the south tip of the needle.
Traversing along the Base of the Needle proved to be much more difficult than expected. There was no trail as the 9 year old trail description has recorded. I supposed the terrain has become overgrown making route finding more difficult. As we traversed along the east side to the northern end of the Needle at first it appeared to be a dead in. Some scrambling up some rock eventually revealed the "area of perpetual shade". I chuckled when this finally came into view and wondered how in the world were we supposed to manuver through the brush to that peaceful spot. We found our way by climbing down below a number of large bushes and small trees. It was not easy but we made it. I would tell some in the group were being pushed beyond their comfort zones.
We took a break in the cool shaded north end of this amazing rock. But eventually we had to face the question of how to return down to the Peralta Trail. At first it appeard we were "cliffed out". But then, we found it best to carefully cross over on a narrow ledge and immeciately climb up a 12-15 foot steep crevasse. At the top of this short climb we could see the west side and the much longed for way home. The route down to the Peralta was ardious and tiring. We were all more than ready to end the bushwack and get back on a real trail.
To make matters worse we realized we did not bring enough water. At least two of us were beginning to show signs of dehydration. The last 3 1/2 miles to the trailhead were a very difficult and exhausting return. I was so glad to see my SUV, knowing I could get a cool drink and begin to rehydrate.
In short, the route finding to and along the base of the needle was much more difficult than expected. If we had been there before and were more familiar with the way it would have been better. The description of the "trail" was not very accurate.
Several of us agreed that we probably would not do this one again, in spite of the awesome views. This was a little to precarious and strenuous for us.