New Line on Fourth Needle | Whitney Crest, Sierra Nevada

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.

The new line through binoculars.

Boy and grandma at the whitney portal campground.The Whitney Crest with new line drawn in.The new line through binoculars.Climber in front of tent with big granite spires behind.Dawn on the Needles of the Whitney Crest.Climbers below the new line in alpenglow.First try on the new line, climber Greg Corliss.Belaying early in the morning on Fourth Needle.Flaking ropes before rappeling.Last light on Pinnacle Ridge.
Second pitch on a more direct start up Fourth Needle.Looking up the steep pillar of Fourth Needle.Belay ledge on pitch 4 below the difficult off-width pitch.Dawn on the southern Whitney Crest.Climbing the fourth pitch on Fourth Needle.Greg Corliss starting up pitch 5, the off-width pitch.Greg Corliss following pitch 7 to the Alcove on Fourth Needle.Half way up the roof pitch, stepping into the middle dihedral.Pulling the second roof on pitch 8.Starting up pitch 9, very exposed and getting cold.
Climbers view of pitch 9 and the entire pillar below.Self portrait on pitch 9.Greg Corliss following pitch 9 with shadows of the Needles below.Hjordis Rickert near the top of pitch 9 with shadows of the Whitney Crest below.Hjordis Rickert leading the last pitch to the top of Fourth Needle.Summit photo of Bernd Zeugswetter, Hjordis Rickert and Greg Corliss.Walking down the Whitney Trail.The switchbacks on the Whitney Trail.The Whitney Crest on fire at sunset.A cold near-full moon.




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.


Steve Edwards - Nice work, Bernd!

Looks beautiful.


Mike - Wow, love the quick video from the top! I’ve spent 2 years in Bishop CA and loved every minute. I haven’t been to the top of Whitney or had much experience on High Altitude climbing yet, but plan to sometime see the great views from atop the Whitney range!