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Weaver's Needle Summit - East c4 Route
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mini location map2019-01-26
10 by photographer avatarDennisWilliams
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Weaver's Needle Summit - East c4 RoutePhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Climbing avatar Jan 26 2019
Climbing8.45 Miles 3,235 AEG
Climbing8.45 Miles   8 Hrs   30 Mns   1.13 mph
3,235 ft AEG   1 Hour    Break18 LBS Pack
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Further adventures in geriatric free solo climbing.

Almost 2 years since my last visit. Took a different route this time. Ascended by the eastern route but brought a rope and gear to rappel off the western side on the way down. You could think of it as a loop going out Bluff Springs Trail and up the Bark's Canyon / Needle Canyon side, crossing the divide between the drainages at the chock-stone on Weaver's with a climb of the summit, then returning via the East Boulder Canyon / Peralta Canyon side and down the Peralta Trail. Solo, naturally.

Like most, I hike and climb because it makes me feel something. The more challenging the objective the stronger the emotions. I write about it to share the experience and to fix it in my mind, and to leave a record of the event so I can recall it later with satisfaction. I write up maybe one in ten adventures when I find I have something to say. Weaver's is such a one.

How fortunate we are to have a natural wonder in our back yard. The dimensions are similar to the Devils Tower in Wyoming, though of lower technical rating as a climb. You can drive right up to the Devils Tower and take a short loop hike around it and use the lodges, restaurants, and visitor's center near the base. A tourist destination, it is visible from miles in all directions. Weaver's, on the other hand, lies distant, enfolded in a vast wilderness. Shielded on the west from prying eyes by the colossal rampart of the Superstition Ridgeline it may be glimpsed from US60 looking north and is visible as part of the grand Superstition panorama seen from SR87 looking south. It is 13 miles at it's nearest to the Beeline, yet stands proud and mighty, brooding in it's isolation. You have to want to visit Weaver's and put in some work to get anywhere close. No person that sees it does not at some point entertain the thought of what it must be like to stand up there, and secretly wish they could some day do so. That thought first occurred to me over 50 years ago. It occurs to me still.

I can't just casually toss off a quick climb of Weaver's. This one stirs me up inside. I guess I'm a little afraid of it. I like to go solo but I feel like this one presents rather thin margins for safety. I am confident hiking alone on established trails even during the week. If something were to happen somebody would likely find me, even before my safety contacts kicked in. I make it a habit to carry extra food, clothes, and first aid kit just in case, and always come out with a liter of water. You never know when you or another hiker will have to spend more time than planned out there. This hike, with the need to carry a pack with rope, helmet, harness, and gear up over the chock-stone, required that I leave all non-essential weight behind. Solo climbing is one thing, climbing with a heavy and bulky pack is another, adding to the risk. This time no first aid kit, no extra clothes, no extra food, no extra water. More of a sortie instead of a campaign. A quick strike from the comfort of my home into the very heart of the wilderness. A raid. If I were to so much as twist an ankle, coming in from the seldom traveled east side, the whole thing goes downhill very quickly. Nervous.

When hiking or climbing in company there is interaction with other people to offer distraction from the impending risk. No such distraction when approaching Weaver's by myself. My mind engages in a series of dialectics that increase with intensity as the climb gets closer:

"Why are you doing this? You have done it before. You're getting older. Grow up for God's sake. What is left to prove?"

"Because if I don't I will wonder if I'm over the hill, and I don't want to grow up."

"Cut it short or head back now. Who will know?"

"I will." And on and on.

Then there is the conversation with the Needle as it looms up ahead:

"Who do you think you are? Puny mortal. Insignificant smudge of nothing. You can neither add to nor subtract from me. Why should I let you do this?"

"I come as a humble supplicant seeking inspiration in your grandest of sanctuaries. Please don't kill me."

That introspection intensifies until the moment when I strap on the harness, helmet, and pack, reach for a hold and take my first step up onto the wall. Then execution mode mercifully takes over. The focus required drives the voices down into the subconscious.

In fifteen minutes I'm at the chock-stone, to substantial relief. I know I can rappel down the western side from here and get out. No need for hairy down-climbing. After a brief minute I hear voices down below. Climbers are coming up. A young woman and young man, both early twenties, soloed up the west side. Like me they carry a rope but are not using it in the ascent. Not yet having the nerve to come up the west side without gear I am impressed. Other climbers up there provides further stress relief, and some disappointment. I won't have the summit to myself, but I'm equally certain that my presence has the same impact on them. We climb up the little wall, the ramp, and the final pitch together, but without gear, bringing the ropes with us. Topping out I enjoy a moment of blessed exhilaration, and then catastrophe strikes. I have forgotten my little bottle of Bowmore 18 years in my pack down at the chock-stone. Damn! Damn! Damn! Now it will have to wait. I spot the summit register entry by jtaylor just the day before. We don't know each other and I don't connect it with HAZ until the next day when I read his trip-log. Well done sir. You said you would not be back but by now you have had another day or two for it to sink in. I'm sure the idea has already crept back into your mind. Who could blame you?

After a few minutes it is time to descend. Together we set up a rope at the rappel rings located on the SW corner of the summit a few feet below the top. A nice 50 foot free hanging rappel takes us back down to the ramp. In fact, this was part of the reason I chose this route and brought the rope: rappelling from the summit of Weaver's. Real Hollywood stuff. We scramble back down the ramp and down-climb the little wall. Back at the chock-stone I finally get to celebrate properly with the Bowmore. Now THIS is living! We again set up the rappel from the rings located on the west side of the chock-stone. The 70 meter rope takes us down in one rappel not to the bottom but to a spot where down-climbing is now safe enough. Off come the helmets and harnesses. We pack up and say our goodbyes and they take off ahead with youthful alacrity. I see them ahead as I descend the west slope, gradually opening the distance between us.

I confess that hiking back out over Freemont Saddle carrying rope is an ego boost. The crowds on the trail simply cannot resist the urge to ask what I have done, and respond in wide-eyed wonder when I tell them, particularly given my obvious advancing age. I know I should not be susceptible to such trifles but it does feel rather good. 62 years, 4 months. Not done yet. Sometime too soon no doubt, but not yet.
Drink deep or taste not the plasma spring!

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