Weavers Needle (4,553′) via West Chimney (4-pitch 5.5 Trad Climb)

Looking southeast at Weavers Needle from the summit of Boulder Peak.

Looking southeast at Weavers Needle from the summit of Boulder Peak.

Weavers Needle is a 4,553-foot (1,388-meter) peak located in the Superstition Mountains of central Arizona. It is actually composed of two adjacent towers, but their alignment when viewed from the north and south (the most common viewpoints) gives the appearance of a solitary dagger of dark brown rock piercing skyward from the sagebrush canyons. The fact that it stands 1,000 vertical feet clear above its surroundings is remarkable when one considers that it is simply the erosional remnant of a once-larger volcanic formation. Interestingly, its slender shadow was once rumoured to indicate the location of the famed Lost Dutchman gold mine.

Although it may seem difficult to believe at first sight, it is indeed possible to reach the summit of the tallest tower by a moderate, yet adventurous, rock climb. Four miles of hiking up and over Fremont Saddle (the classic viewpoint), lead one to the base of the west face. A prominent chimney separating the two needles holds two pitches of insecure climbing mounted by a 5.5 chockstone crux. Trad placements are scarce but present when needed. From the top of the chimney, the route turns left and rambles up the south face of the main needle. The third pitch (short class-4 face) and fourth pitch (solid 5.5 crack) are separated by a couple hundred feet of class-3 scrambling, which can be navigated unroped.


SUMMARY: I climbed Weavers Needle with Giselle in mid December of the year 2015 during our 5-day backcountry adventure through the Superstition Mountains. We returned to the trailhead at the end of the third day in order to restock our supplies of food and water. On the morning of the fourth day we hiked four miles up and over Fremont Saddle to the base of the needle, reaching the summit by the adventurous 4-pitch West Chimney route and rappelling in the afternoon. To make the journey a complete pilgrimage, the following day we circumnavigated the entire needle, detouring to climb Palomino Mountain before returning to the trailhead over Bluff Saddle.


FIRST VIEW: Our first view of Weavers Needle comes on the first day of the trip when we climb to the summit of Miners Needle. Even from several miles away, the needle is easy to identify because it towers so high above its surroundings.

Looking northwest at Weavers Needle from the 3,648-ft summit of Miners Needle.

Looking northwest at Weavers Needle from the 3,648-ft summit of Miners Needle.

Looking northwest at Weavers Needle from the 3,648-ft summit of Miners Needle.

Looking northwest at Weavers Needle from the 3,648-ft summit of Miners Needle.

Looking northwest at the silhouette of Weavers Needle in sunset glow.

Looking northwest at the silhouette of Weavers Needle in sunset glow.


19 December, 2015

The beaming Arizona sunrise stirs me from my thin sleeping bag. Giselle and I prepare instant coffee and oatmeal while standing in awe of the kaleidoscopic sky overhead. The huge escarpment of the southern Superstition range gleams in honey-dipped hues, gathering fresh sunlight and also beckoning us to the wilderness.

Sunrise panorama at the Lost Gold trailhead area.

Sunrise panorama at the Lost Gold trailhead area.

Looking north at the Acropolis bathed in the first rays of dawn.

Looking north at the Acropolis bathed in the first rays of dawn.

It’s just past 8:30am when we set off from the Peralta trailhead, skipping briskly up the popular trail through Peralta Canyon with loaded rucksacks.

Giselle trekking north up Peralta Canyon.

Giselle trekking north up Peralta Canyon.

Panorama looking south down Peralta Canyon from just below Fremont Saddle.

Panorama looking south down Peralta Canyon from just below Fremont Saddle.

Two miles of ascent bring us to the family-favorite Fremont Saddle, which presents the onlooker with the “classic” Weavers Needle view.

Looking north at the author in front of Weavers Needle from Fremont Saddle.

Looking north at the author in front of Weavers Needle from Fremont Saddle.

Looking north at Giselle in front of Weavers Needle from Fremont Saddle.

Looking north at Giselle in front of Weavers Needle from Fremont Saddle.

Looking north at the author and Giselle in front of Weavers Needle from Fremont Saddle.

Looking north at the author and Giselle in front of Weavers Needle from Fremont Saddle.

Leaving the gaggle of wide-eyed day-hikers behind at the saddle, Giselle and I continue straight north down Boulder Canyon under the imposing figure of Weavers Needle.

Giselle trekking north down Boulder Canyon below the west face of Weavers Needle.

Giselle trekking north down Boulder Canyon below the west face of Weavers Needle.

After four miles of hiking since the trailhead, the two of us decide to stash our rucksacks below a boulder and start bushwhacking up to the base of the great western wall.

Giselle jogging up to the west face of Weavers Needle.

Giselle jogging up to the west face of Weavers Needle.

Giselle scrambling up to the west face of Weavers Needle.

Giselle scrambling up to the west face of Weavers Needle.

Soon, our chimney comes into view and we find ourselves among the colourful volcanic strata of the formation, still more than 500 vertical feet below the summit.

Giselle scrambling up to the west face of Weavers Needle. The west chimney makes the deepest notch along the crest.

Giselle scrambling up to the west face of Weavers Needle. The west chimney makes the deepest notch along the crest.

Looking north from the colorful cliffs of the lower west face of Weavers Needle

Looking north from the colorful cliffs of the lower west face of Weavers Needle.

The two of us start scrambling up the shallow gully below the west chimney. It’s littered with loose rock, and the angle of the slope is enough to give concern for a nasty fall.

Looking down at Giselle scrambling the class-3 slabs in the lower west chimney.

Looking down at Giselle scrambling the class-3 slabs in the lower west chimney.

Looking down at Giselle scrambling the class-3 slabs in the lower west chimney.

Looking down at Giselle scrambling the class-3 slabs in the lower west chimney.

There is a group of six (!) climbers at the base of the route; I don’t hesitate to request that we climb past them even though half of them are already up the first pitch. With a token amount of brashness, I link the first two pitches of steady 5.6 climbing, placing only three pieces of gear in addition to the two fixed iron pipes already present. Near the end of my rope, I squeeze through the chockstone chimney and belay from inside the alcove. Giselle swiftly follows my lead, and before we know it, we’ve left the big bumbling group in our proverbial and literal dust.

Looking down at Giselle climbing through the chockstone tunnel at the top of the second pitch.

Looking down at Giselle climbing through the chockstone tunnel at the top of the second pitch.

The chockstone at the top of pitch two marks the upper terminus of the west chimney, which is actually the deep notch between the two separate towers of Weavers Needle. We turn left to ascend the south face of the main tower on loose, junky class-4 terrain.

Looking down at Giselle nearing the top of pitch 3 on Weavers Needle.

Looking down at Giselle nearing the top of pitch 3 on Weavers Needle.

The third pitch ends at a broad vegetated ledge, at which point we coil the rope begin simul-climbing the scrambly class-3/4 section up to the base of the fourth and final pitch.

Looking west at the author and Giselle enjoying a break between pitches 3 and 4 of Weavers Needle.

Looking west at the author and Giselle enjoying a break between pitches 3 and 4 of Weavers Needle.

Looking up at Giselle leading the class-3 scramble between the pitches 3 and 4 of Weavers Needle,

Looking up at Giselle leading the class-3/4 scramble between the pitches 3 and 4 of Weavers Needle.

Near the bottom of the fourth pitch there is a striking pedestal that makes for a phenomenal “King of the Superstition Mountains” photo opportunity.

Looking southeast at the author atop an airy spire on the south face of Weavers Needle.

Looking southeast at the author atop an airy spire on the south face of Weavers Needle.

Though steep, the fourth and final pitch looks rather easy. This turns out to be true, as I find myself hauling up a juggy face to a offwidth crack adorned with a lifetime worth of handholds. The sequence feels like 5.5 difficulty, at most.

Looking west at the author leading the 4th and final pitch of Weavers Needle.

Looking west at the author leading the 4th and final pitch of Weavers Needle.

Looking up the 5.5 crack on the 4th and final pitch of Weavers Needle.

Looking up the 5.5 crack on the 4th and final pitch of Weavers Needle.

I belay Giselle from a large natural horn just below the top of the needle. When she arrives to my station, the two of us scramble the remaining distance to the 4,553-foot summit and soak in the unrivaled panoramic views of the mystical Superstition Mountains.

Panorama looking north from the 4,553-ft summit of Weavers Needle. The two small crags separated by Boulder Canyon (center) are Palomino Mountain and Black Top Mesa. The tallest point on the right horizon is the Four Peaks massif.

Panorama looking north from the 4,553-ft summit of Weavers Needle. The two small crags separated by Boulder Canyon (center) are Palomino Mountain and Black Top Mesa. The tallest point on the right horizon is the Four Peaks massif.

Looking northeast down Needle Canyon and out to the distant Four Peaks massif from the 4,553-ft summit of Weavers Needle.

Looking northeast down Needle Canyon and out to the distant Four Peaks massif from the 4,553-ft summit of Weavers Needle.

Panorama looking south from the 4,553-ft summit of Weavers Needle. The tall peak on the right is Superstition Mountain itself.

Panorama looking south from the 4,553-ft summit of Weavers Needle. The tall peak on the right is Superstition Mountain itself.

Looking south at the author and Giselle on the 4,553-ft summit of Weavers Needle.

Looking south at the author and Giselle on the 4,553-ft summit of Weavers Needle.

Howling winds on the exposed mountaintop encourage us to begin our descent, starting with a rappel from a fixed anchor station on the southeast cusp of the summit plateau.

Looking east along the southern cliffs of Weavers Needle at Giselle rigging the first rappel.

Looking east along the southern cliffs of Weavers Needle at Giselle rigging the first rappel.

Looking down at Giselle rappelling from the summit of Weavers Needle.

Looking down at Giselle rappelling from the summit of Weavers Needle.

The rest of the south face down to the notch contains no fixed anchors, therefore we are forced to downclimb the easy class-3/4 terrain, including the third pitch of steep class-4 face climbing.

Looking down at Giselle descending the class-3 terrain between pitches 3 and 4 of Weavers Needle,

Looking down at Giselle descending the class-3 terrain between pitches 3 and 4 of Weavers Needle,

Giselle downclimbing the short class-4 face on pitch 3 of Weavers Needle.

Giselle downclimbing the short class-4 face on pitch 3 of Weavers Needle.

A fixed anchor station at the notch gives us the opportunity to rappel the remainder of the route. We do so in three separate rappels, stopping to rig the rope at both of the fixed iron pipes.

Looking back up the west chimney of Weavers Needle on the descent. Another climber rigs a rappel from the top chockstone while Giselle gets organized at an intermediate station.

Looking back up the west chimney of Weavers Needle on the descent. Another climber rigs a rappel from the top chockstone while Giselle gets organized at an intermediate station.

Looking down at Giselle rappelling the slabs below the west chimney of Weavers Needle.

Looking down at Giselle rappelling the slabs below the west chimney of Weavers Needle.

By the time we get back to the location of our stashed rucksacks, the late-afternoon sun is beaming directly on the gargantuan 500-foot walls on the west face of the needle. We continue heading north (away from the trailhead still) in order to perform a pilgrimage around the mountain that we just finished climbing. The formation looks absolutely majestic from every single angle, with no exceptions. It is the undisputed king of the Superstition needles, and I’m rapt in full gaping awe.

Looking up at the west face of Weavers Needle from Peralta Canyon.

Looking up at the west face of Weavers Needle from Peralta Canyon.

Giselle trekking northward down Boulder Canyon towards Boulder Peak (left), Yellow Peak (center, distant), and Black Top Mesa (right).

Giselle trekking northward down Boulder Canyon towards Boulder Peak (left), Yellow Peak (center, distant), and Black Top Mesa (right).

Looking up at the west face of Weavers Needle from Boulder Canyon.

Looking up at the west face of Weavers Needle from Boulder Canyon.

The two of us decide to make camp in the lower reaches of Boulder Canyon, immediately below a 100-foot rock formation that I name Boulder Peak because it is simply a peak composed of large boulders. We can’t resist trying to climb the thing before the setting of the sun. It turns out to be quite the adventure, as we negotiate a lengthy slot canyon to the base of a class-5 chimney, soloing up to the summit and basking in the divine view of dusk-kissed Weavers Needle.

Looking down at Giselle climbing a class-5 chimney below the summit of Boulder Peak.

Looking down at Giselle climbing a class-5 chimney below the summit of Boulder Peak.

Looking down at Giselle climbing a class-5 chimney below the summit of Boulder Peak.

Looking down at Giselle climbing a class-5 chimney below the summit of Boulder Peak.

Looking down at Giselle spanning an exposed traverse to the summit block of Boulder Peak.

Looking down at Giselle spanning an exposed traverse to the summit block of Boulder Peak.

Looking southeast at Weavers Needle from the summit of Boulder Peak.

Looking southeast at Weavers Needle from the summit of Boulder Peak.

Looking southeast at Weavers Needle from the summit of Boulder Peak.

Looking southeast at Weavers Needle from the summit of Boulder Peak.

The author looking southeast at Weavers Needle from the summit of Boulder Peak.

The author looking southeast at Weavers Needle from the summit of Boulder Peak.

We observe the sunset from atop Boulder Peak before returning to rig the tent and construct a campfire.

Boulder Canyon

Looking north down Boulder Canyon at Palomino Mountain (craggy peak on left) and Black Top Mesa (broad plateau on right).

Boulder Peak

Giselle downclimbing the class-5 chimney on Boulder Peak.

Weavers Needle

Looking southeast at Weavers Needle below the moon at dusk.

Looking north down Boulder Canyon at dusk. The two closest peaks are Palomino Mountain (left, small crag) and Black Top Mesa (right, broad plateau).

Looking north down Boulder Canyon at dusk. The two closest peaks are Palomino Mountain (left, small crag) and Black Top Mesa (right, broad plateau).

Campfire in Boulder Canyon.

Campfire in Boulder Canyon.


20 December, 2015

We use the morning to complete our pilgrimage of Weavers Needle, following Boulder Canyon a couple miles north until the junction with Upper Black Top Mesa trail, which whisks us up and over Black Top Mesa Pass.

Giselle trekking northeast down Boulder Canyon toward Black Top Mesa.

Giselle trekking northeast down Boulder Canyon toward Black Top Mesa.

Looking south at Giselle in front of Weavers Needle.

Looking south at Giselle in lower Boulder Canyon, with Weavers Needle standing behind.

We drop our rucksacks at Black Top Mesa Pass, eyes set on a quick ascent of Palomino Mountain. It’s a cubic fortress of orange volcanic tuff with sheer hundred-foot cliffs flanking all sides. We don’t know if there is a way to the top, but it seems like a worthwhile challenge for us to undertake.

Giselle scrambling up to the south face of Palomino Mountain.

Giselle scrambling up to the south face of Palomino Mountain.

We wrap 180-degrees around the mountain, searching desperately for a safe passage to the summit plateau. Running out of patience, I solo a spicy class-5 face measuring 40 feet tall, which leaves me stranded on a ledge with no way to go but upwards. Giselle balks at the thought of following me, so we arrange to meet on the summit, hoping that we can find a way for her to get up that might also double as a way for me to get down.

Panorama looking northeast at the western cliffs of Palomino Mountain.

Panorama looking northeast at the western cliffs of Palomino Mountain.

Just before reaching the summit, I discover a deep notch in the cliffs that looks to be a straightforward gully climb. I holler this down to Giselle, unbeknownst to her location, but she hollers back that she is already halfway up the gully. The two of us unite on the flat summit, which happens to have the coolest register I’ve ever seen: a mailbox. What’s more, the mailbox contains two old sketches dated 1927 that show the location of a supposed gold mine. Pure magic in the Superstition Mountains!

Looking north at the author opening the mailbox on the summit of Palomino Mountain.

Looking north at the author opening the mailbox on the summit of Palomino Mountain.

Looking southeast at the unique mailbox on the summit of Palomino Mountain.

Looking southeast at the unique mailbox on the summit of Palomino Mountain.

Treasure map (dated 1927) found in the summit mailbox of Palomino Mountain.

Treasure map (dated 1927) found in the summit mailbox of Palomino Mountain.

The two of us are overjoyed at the opportunity to descend the easy class-3 gully from the summit, but it means that we must follow the gully all the way down to the main canyon and then backtrack nearly half a mile to the location of our rucksacks. The gully develops into a deep canyon decorated with fantastic purple towers and bulbous golden boulders.

Looking north at Giselle in Palomino Canyon.

Looking north at Giselle in Palomino Canyon.

Looking north at the author in Palomino Canyon.

Looking north at the author in Palomino Canyon.

Giselle trekking south up Boulder Canyon beneath Weavers Needle.

Giselle trekking south up Boulder Canyon beneath Weavers Needle.

Looking north at Palomino Mountain from lower Boulder Canyon.

Looking north at Palomino Mountain from lower Boulder Canyon.

Back at the rucksacks, we savor our very last piece of tortilla before starting the 6-mile return to the trailhead with growling stomachs. We follow the Terrapin Trail all the way back, coming up and over three separate 3,200-foot passes: Black Top Mesa Pass, Terrapin Pass, and Bluff Saddle. The gargantuan east face of Weavers Needle dominates over this particular drainage to such an extent that it’s called Needle Canyon.

Giselle trekking eastward down into lower Needle Canyon.

Giselle trekking eastward down into lower Needle Canyon.

Giselle trekking southward up Needle Canyon below the east face of Weavers Needle.

Giselle trekking southward up Needle Canyon below the east face of Weavers Needle.

Looking east at the author and Giselle in Needle Canyon.

Looking east at the author and Giselle in Needle Canyon.

Giselle trekking southward up Needle Canyon beneath the striking east face of Weavers Needle.

Giselle trekking southward up Needle Canyon beneath the striking east face of Weavers Needle.

Giselle trekking southward up Needle Canyon beneath the striking east face of Weavers Needle.

Giselle trekking southward up Needle Canyon beneath the striking east face of Weavers Needle.

Giselle trekking southward up Needle Canyon toward Bluff Saddle.

Giselle trekking southward up Needle Canyon toward Bluff Saddle.

The highpoint of the day is 3,400-foot Bluff Saddle, the dividing point between Needle Canyon (north) and Barks Canyon (south). The Barks Canyon drainage is decorated with some of the tallest cliff faces and some of the most inexplicable rock formations in the Superstition backcountry.

Looking northwest at Weavers Needle (distant center) framed by two unique rock formations at Bluff Saddle.

Looking northwest at Weavers Needle (distant center) framed by two unique rock formations at Bluff Saddle.

Looking northwest at Weavers Needle from Bluff Saddle.

Looking northwest at Weavers Needle from Bluff Saddle.

Looking northeast at Giselle crossing a small stream in upper Barks Canyon.

Looking northeast at Giselle crossing a small stream in upper Barks Canyon.

Giselle trekking southward down Barks Canyon from Bluff Saddle.

Giselle trekking southward down Barks Canyon from Bluff Saddle.

During the last mile of the trail, the southern Superstition landscape spreads out before us in full glory. We savour the now-familiar views of our five-day adventure in simultaneous anticipation of the hot burritos that await us down in Phoenix.

Panorama looking southeast over the southern Superstition Mountains. The peak on far left is Miners Needle.

Panorama looking southeast over the southern Superstition Mountains. The peak on far left is Miners Needle.

Giselle hiking southward down the last stretch of Barks Canyon to Peralta trailhead.

Giselle hiking southward down the last stretch of Barks Canyon to Peralta trailhead.

 

THE END

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