By: Bob Cates
In the halcyon days of September when I first felt compelled to attempt Weaver's Needle, I did not envision that more than a half dozen friends could be talked into accompanying me on this daring venture. I was woefully ignorant of the drawing power that this peak exerts. It was during the South Guardian Angel climb that I made the acquaintance of Jon Hardt, the studious Loma Linda University Librarian, and discovered he also was planning a Thanksgiving climb of Weaver's Needle. Since Jon had already scaled twice Weaver's Needle, I welcomed the opportunity to join forces. The next factor to balloon our number was the result of the efficient climbers grapevine. As the fateful weekend approached, the list of participants grew ever larger, until I became forced to turn down supplicants, including some (former) very good friends. What had begun as a simple private outing was turning into a Frankenstein monster. I felt an absolute villain.
So it was with some trepidation that I arrived at Peralta Camp to learn that there would he at least 23 of us on the mountain, 13 comprising my party and the remainder in Jon's group. Hardt's party was just rousing from sleeping bags when my appointed departure hour arrived, so after some excellent route advice from Jon, our primed party began the 5 mile amble to Weaver's Needle. The downpour during the night did not seem to have dampened anyone's ardor, least of all those of us pansies who had put up in the local motels ( Ahhhh? Clean sheets and a soft Dry bed/).
Even the heavens appeared benign, with only a few broken clouds hanging about and a warm sun shining upon us, obviously the beginning of a perfect day. "Let's go home.", "There must be an easier way up the backside.", and the more mundane, "Incredible/", "Magnificent/" ,and "You've got to be kidding.", were a few of the comments registered upon our first sighting of Weaver's Needle. Feeling a bit foolish leaving Peralta Camp with nearly 800' of assorted ropes, I now began to think we might need all of it.
About 2 hours of moderate hiking brought us to the brushy flat just east of the peak. From here, per Jon's instructions, we headed cross-country, aiming for the big notch parting the Needle in two. We patiently threaded our way through brush and slogged up the steep cruddy slopes, at last coming up against the abrupt cliffs just below the notch. Much to our amazement, a 1 1/2" manila hauser was dangling down the cliff face. A few stout pulls assured us of its emplacement and Tom Cardina then scrambled up the wall, utilizing a sliding prussik self-belay on the hauser. With an upper belay established, the rest of the party soon followed. This wall presents 60' of 4th class climbing. As the last of my party ascended, the Hardt group began to arrive.
Chutes collect the garbage of the mountain, and the one we had to ascend contained its share. Despite the utmost care, our party loosened a continuos fusillade of rubble on the climbers below, The shout of "Rock" reverberated down the chute, but fortunate1y we had a group of artful dodgers. I would definitely recommend head protection of this peak. Suprisingly, after the first roped pitch the peak seems to offer little resistance. Once the notch was attained we had nothing but clean pitches to the summit.
The register was practically non-existent, but thanks to Barbara Reber, we were able to place a shiny new DPS can and tablet. Most of us retreated to a spacious windbreak west of the summit for a delicious repast and repartee session. The now-gathering clouds dispersed an ominously gray light that accentuated the ruggedness of the Superstition Mtn./Flatiron massif to the west. One could easily picture the difficulties encountered by Bill House when he accomplished that traverse several years ago.
The descent was predictably slow. It took an eternity to complete the rappel down the last 60' pitch, and to add a little something to remember, a steady rain fell throughout the whole affair. Hero of the day honors go to Joe Young, who served as principal belayer. Despite threatening to go into the first stages of hypothermia, Joe maintained his position and dutifully checked everyone's rappel setup before sending them over the brink. He certainly deserves more kudos than he received at the time.
The last view of Weaver's Needle showed it malevolent and angry in the fading light. The Monolith was becoming engulfed by swirling storm clouds and we were relieved to be on easier ground as night drew down. A couple of hours of trail hiking in the dark, rain and dense clouds brought us to Peralta Camp.
I would like to express a special thank you to Bill House. Having lived in phoenix and prowled about the Superstitions for years, he has yet to make it up the Needle. Unfortunately Bill could not be with us, but he provided me with literature (more than I could assimilate) and advice on the Superstition area. He is one of the most knowledgeable locals we have and I advise anyone planning a trip to this part of Arizona to search him out. Thanks again, Bill.
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