Fourth Needle, Whitney Crest – August 21, 2010
I’ve been looking at this line across Pinnacle Ridge for a number of years now, heading up and down the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek with clients on Whitney. The thin spire just south of Third Needle, with an line up through two roofs on the upper section. From the Owens Valley it is distinguishable along the Whitney Crest as the needle just left and essentially part of Third Needle.
This summer Hjördis and our friend Greg Corliss and I went up to take a closer look. It took us three looks, once every full moon, with grandma in tow to watch our 3-year-old son in camp at Whitney Portal and Diane Cattabriga, Greg’s girlfriend, accompanying us on the approaches with Brooks the dog.
The rock gets better and better going up. We used a little aid to get through the roof section, and I have hopes to go back up before the snow to see what might still go free (see update below.) As it stands, the free climbing pitches are good fun and go from 3rd class scramble to about 5.11. We are referring to it as the East Face of Fourth Needle.
The first two pitches are very long and lead up over steep and varied terrain through one massive quartz band. Pitch three leans back with 3rd class to get you to the base of the main pillar. The next three pitches climb the central part of the gray pillar by cracks and off-width up to 5.11. P7 traverses back left a little and goes up a finger crack and arête to an alcove. Then come the two crux pitches through a series of corners and roofs with a very thin crack for micro-nuts and knifeblades followed by another very steep and thin crack smack in the middle of the narrow pillar. One more pitch of easier climbing gets you to the top (10 pitches total.) Two knifeblades went in the narrow seams of the roof and one bolt was placed at the top of the roof pitch.
Greg Corliss, WRoss, and I went back up in August 2011 to straighten some pitches and free the aided section from the first ascent. Below is the updated topo of the route.