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Routes in The Needle

East Saddle T Easy 5th 1+ 3 I 5 M 1c
Southwest Ridge T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13
Access Issue: Juan Tabo Canyon is subject to annual access closures from March 1 to August 15. Details
Access Issue: Seasonal Raptor Closure Details


The Needle is a major feature on the west side of the Sandia Mountains near the north end. Aptly known in the past as The Pyramid, The Needle stands just south of The Shield. The Needle is known for some arduous approaches and long routes. Plan your climbs with care.

As noted above, a periodic avian closure affects some portions of The Needle and nearby areas. The Juan Tabo Canyon page may have a map showing the currently closed areas. Also, check with the Sandia District of Cibola National Forest for the latest details.

Getting There

Generally speaking, climbs on the south and east sides are initially approached starting from The Crest, hiking to the saddle at the east side of The Needle, and continuing on approach as needed from there; Mick Schein's guide "Sandia Rock" describes this approach for the case of the Southwest Ridge Route. Climbs on the west side may be approached by hiking up the Movie Trail passing to the south of The Prow and then scrambling to the base of the Needle.

Also, visible from Albuquerque is a partially tree-filled ramp that roughly divides the west face of The Needle into an upper and lower half. This ramp is known as Fifth Avenue and may serve as an exit from the lower routes, as an approach to the upper routes, or as an escape from planned outings spanning the west face.

One Way to Descend from the Summit

In a comment to the SW Ridge route, Daniel T. mentions a ramp from which there are a couple short raps into the ravine that runs along the south side of The Needle. Here's how to get to that ramp.

From the summit head east-ish and down hill through pine-needle duff amongst the trees. Work you way to the 'crown' in this direction by trending slightly north as you head further down and east. Eventually, you will need to drop to skier's left of the 'crown' which is now turning into a ridge that heads east. If you miss the drop to left then back track a little (i.e., no down climbing at this point).

Continue down and east-ish on very easy ledges staying within 20 feet or so of the now well-formed ridge. Within minutes you will reach a minor saddle between the main summit block and a small rock tower to the east (50 feet tall?). Locate a ramp down below on the south side of this saddle. Down climb ~20 feet to the ramp. From there, it's another 20 easy feet or so to a tree with rap slings/rings.

There are two relatively short raps, both from trees, with a short scramble between them. However, if you continue on rappel from the first rap tree to the second then you may want to knot the ends of a 60 meter rope.

2 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at The Needle

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13
Southwest Ridge
Trad, Alpine 10 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Southwest Ridge
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13 Trad, Alpine 10 pitches
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For the descent, yesterday there was fairly new red webbing, with no rap ring, around a rock at the saddle above the upper rap tree; easy down climb to 1st rap tree from here. The 2nd rap station is easily reached with a 60 m rope. Jun 14, 2014

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