Needle Peak, Manly Peak
By: Rob Langsdorf
This San Diego, Sierra Singles trip was scheduled with the purpose of helping Mary Sue Miller reduce to 5 the peaks she needed for list completion. Barton Ward, Barbara Raab, and I met Mary Sue in Baker (Big Bun Cafe) Friday night. After a cold night in the wind tunnel just across the river from Shoshone, we had a good breakfast in the cafe next to the Crow Bar.
At 7:33 am we took State 178 west. 2.9 miles past Asford Mills ruins we turned left onto the West Side dirt road. After 3 miles another left put us on the Butte Valley Road. This is a good dirt road for 13 miles to a sign pointing left proclaims "Butte Valley 6". The next 4 miles up the wash had a spot or two where 4-wheel drive was nice, but not required. 26 miles after leaving the paved road we turned left. This road descends toward Willow Spring. Just before it crosses a small wash there is a jeep track that goes to the right about 100 yards to a parking area just west of Willow Springs. (9:40 am)
From this parking (3620) (10:20 am) we followed burro tracks south and then east for a half mile through a saddle (3820). From here the best route follows bits of burrow paths east on easy grades (2-5%) to a main wash. We followed this wash up to the park boundary ridge (4430). As we climbed the ridge the rock ahead sometimes looked forbidding, but the burros have tromped out nice switchbacks for those who want to go first class. (There is only a few 100 of real class 2.) Just above the boundary marker, where you reach the chute tops (5500) there is a burro trail around the south side of the false summit to the saddle (5590') west of the peak. We were on the summit of Needle Peak (5805) by 1:36 pm. The cold clear weather provided us with views of snow covered Charleston several ranges to the east. This was Bart's first DPS summit.
Back to the cars in 2 hours. A nice fire provide us with a cozy night in the cabin at Anvil Spring in spite the winds flapping loose pieces of plastic & tin. Unfortunately no one brought a generator to power the electric lights.
Sunday morning we parked near Greater View Spring (4350). This cabin was occupied by two men who had been living in it for about a month. Declining their invitation to come in and stay warm, We headed (8:09am) towards Russell Camp. At the top of the ridge (4440) between the two camps we turned right on a burro path. Just past a large boulder we took the left fork and continued SW up the canyon. This trail faded out about 200 below the park boundary ridge. Once on top of the ridge (530V) we found that the best desert sheep tracks tended to be on the west side of the ridge (out of the cold wind) up to about 5760, and then east of the ridge to 6200. About here the ice cold wind froze the sweat on my beard. It didn't thaw out until we got into the vehicles for the drive home.
The desert sheep paths continue up the ridge to the 6600 level. From there we contoured and climbed to the saddle
(7020) just NE of the summit. There was a slight dusting of snow for the last 100 yards of the climb. (11:09)
The write-ups I had read were not clear on the best approach to the summit block. Some indicate a jump across a foot and a half wide, 30' deep gap on the north west side. I didn't like the prospects of missing with out a rope. We ate lunch, signed in, and studied the rock.
Another block leans against the southwest side of the summit block. By approaching these two blocks from the north we found a chimney formed where they meet. At the base of this chimney there is a 5' high rock. It provides a good start point for climbing up the knobs of the summit block. We used the chimney to use counter force with back and feet to allow the bare hands a break from the subfreezing rock. At the summit block ridge there was a flat spot where we were able to stop and put gloves back on for the last 10 feet to the top.
We started down at 12:30. By leaving the ridge about the 6400 mark we were able to scree eastward back to Greater View (1:49 pm). The jeep trail over Mengel Pass was reported to be in good condition. But we chose to go out the way we came so we could visit Tecopa HOT Springs. Unfortunately, due to the cold weather, they turn out to be a lukewarm 105 degrees.
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