Neddle - North Face Exploratory (Advanced)

  • August 31, 2013 · 7:00 AM











North face of the Needle from the ridge running up to North Peak

THIS IS NOT A BEGINNERS HIKE: Prior approval is needed. If you would like to go place yourself on the waiting list.  The limit is 3.  Please read the the description in its entirety before signing up.

• Physical Level: Advanced

• Technical Level: Advanced

• Distance: 5-6 miles

• Time: 7-8 hours

• NOTES: Mikee and I found a class 4 scramble route up to the summit of the Needle in November 2008. The route is marked in red on the image above. I am looking for a new route to the summit in the area marked in green. That is the objective of this hike.

• Prerequisites: Competent and comfortable scrambling at the 4th class level in areas with serious exposure.

• Caveat: Once we are on the Needle you must agree to follow my instructions unless you deem them unsafe. Generally they will be technical instructions on how we organize the climb and our movements. You could call them rules for safety.


• Assemble at the Smiths located at Central and Tramway.

• Carpool to the Crest House

• Hike to Saddle of the Needle at a moderate pace

• Take the ledge running along the north face of the Needle toward the area known as 5th Avenue

• In the area between the saddle and a fairly large couloir we will explore the area above the ledge. We will do this systematically and safely.

• If we ascertain there is no viable scrambling route we will take the route Mikee and I found to the summit, if we have time.

• At any point, for and reason that anyone wants to turn back, we will, no explanation needed.


There is no doubt that climbing to the top of Needle is an accomplishment. It is one of the most dramatic formations in the Sandia Mountains. The first time I saw it I wanted to get to the top. The problem was that at the time all known routes were technical and I had no training in rock climbing. Mikee and I decided to look for a scramble route. Took us about 6 months find the starting point, but we did. I think it took us 3 hours to find our way to the top and half an hour to get down. We were a little worried we wouldn't find our way back.

The plan Tuesday is to look for a new route east of the saddle. At the saddle point there is one low class 5 route some people do without ropes. My opinion is that route is not worth the risk without out gear but there are other possible routes west of it along the north face. That will be our area of operation. I plan a methodical search and to carefully test potential routes. Observation tells me there is a good chance we can find a safe route to the top. As I said in the nutshell above, we can take the 2008 route if doesn't pan out.

Bring hydration, food, rain gear and a smaller pack. There is always a chance of rain. If we got caught in the rain on the top there will be no climbing down until the rock is dry. Advanced scrambling with exposure is potentially dangerous. It requires focus and a serious mind. It is a lot of fun if done right.


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  • Z

    Glad to have made it to the top of the Needle. Great fun getting up and down from there too. Thanxs Aaron!!

    September 1, 2013

  • Steve G.

    thank you Aaron for taking out there. had some fun

    September 1, 2013

  • Aaron G.

    You can't go wrong having Steve and Z on any hike that requires solid class 4+ scrambling skills. -- Good outing yesterday. The Breakfast Route is probably the only relatively safe scramble to the top. All but the north face requires technical climbing to reach the summit. Even on the north face, as we found out, many of the potential routes cliff out. The route we took down was solid but definitely had sketchy parts. ---

    A more comprehensive exploratory will probably confirm that there are no other routes along the north face that do not require ropes. I'll add a caveat to that. Going up the gully is possible and along the edge on the west rock wall of the gully via the line we contemplated trying. Both those routes have stability or exposure issues. --- Here is a link to the marker Mikee and I found on the summit November 2008. ---[masked] It was probably left to celebrate an awesome technical climb.

    September 1, 2013

  • Mike

    Have fun! I'll be at the crest, La Luz & along the rim. May run into you.

    August 30, 2013

    • Aaron G.

      We will keep an I out for you Mike.

      August 30, 2013

  • Steve G.

    Cool spot lucking foreword for this

    August 19, 2013

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