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Curecanti Needle

Colorado > Gunnison > Black Canyon of… > Curecanti National Re…
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Approximately 5 miles down river from the Blue Mesa Dam At the dual confluences of the East Fork of Little Blue Creek on the southern side and Curecanti Creek on the northern side with the Gunnison river stands the stately 700' three sided pyramid of the Curecanti Needle. The Needle is easily visible from the Pioneer Point overlook on the Black Mesa road.

Getting There

Driving west on US Highway 50, go 7+ miles past the turn off to the Blue Mesa dam. The highway will make two big turns one to the left and one to the right after which it will head straight almost due west for 4+ miles. As the road takes a sweeping turn to the left, look for a turn off to the right at 50 E Rd. This is a portion of the original Highway 50. If you head down into Little Blue Creek Canyon, you have gone to far. Once on the turn off road, drive around to the far north side of the hill and park off the road. Do not head into the most obvious gully to your left. Rather, head in a NNE direction towards the Black Canyon. Stay on the highest ridge ground until very close to the rim. You should see a steep descent gully heading down almost due west. This approach will deposit you at the river directly across from the now impressively visible Curecanti Needle. Cross the river (not always easy to do) and hike up to the saddle between the South West Arete of Curecanti Needle and the adjoining ridge.

Routes from Left to Right

5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Northeast Ledges
Trad 5 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Northwest Rib
Trad 4 pitches
5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Upper East Face
Trad 5 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Northeast Ledges
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad 5 pitches
Northwest Rib
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad 4 pitches
Upper East Face
5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 5 pitches

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Scan of lst known ascent info from peak register.
[Hide Photo] Scan of lst known ascent info from peak register.
Harvey's notes from 1954.
[Hide Photo] Harvey's notes from 1954.
[Hide Photo] ...more.
Through there?
[Hide Photo] Through there?
E. Foster, just below the summit.
[Hide Photo] E. Foster, just below the summit.
[Hide Photo] Courtesy

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

[Hide Comment] I have done 4 routes on this cool crag. I will try to dredge the memory banks and post up. Feb 29, 2008
Allen Hill
FIve Points, Colorado and Pine
[Hide Comment] I remember doing a route that started on the down river side, and it wound its way around to the US 50 side then up a 5.9 crack. It was three pitches as I recall. Feb 29, 2008
Santa Monica, Ca.
[Hide Comment] Yeah, Allen and Phil (4 routes Phil?), all I remember was a scramble up stuff that reminded me of the Maroon Bells and then a short roped pitch up a crack to the top....don't remember much more than that, I was pretty "peaceful" that day.

I think I did it with Jack Panek and a guy named Mark that used to work at the Alpine Mountaineer .... remember that store?

Allen, that crack was probably "old school" 5.7. Feb 29, 2008
[Hide Comment] After more recall, it was actually 2 routes one done twice and one done with a variation. The best route was with Scottie on the eastern flank. I remember 3+ pitches of good climbing to the summit. The crux of which was a steep right facing dihedral that was really stout. It must have been hard, since Scotty took a winger off of it. Scotty always moved so fluidly that I was taken off guard and had too much slack in the system when he pitched. It was a longer fall than necessary. I would probably call it 10+/11-, and that would be old school. Scottie and I descended by downclimbing the south and western face. Scottie hated to rap. The other route went up the northern flank and had a sweet, left-facing dihedral that went at 5.8/5.9 or some such thing. Mar 1, 2008
[Hide Comment] On September 16, 1975, two other park rangers (Don Hill and Brad Harriman) and I made an ascent of the Curecanti Needle by what we called the Northeast Ledges. We made our approach by small boat from the Morrow Point dam. We started a bit more around on the east side by a short moderate pitch (maybe 5.6), moved around to the right up through some ledges and trees, and finished up a short exposed ridge on the north side. There was room on the summit for only one person at a time. The initial pitch could have easily have been bypassed, making the climb quite easy.

According to the register, the last person to climb the needle before us was Vin Hoeman. He signed in as follows: J. Vin Hoeman, 5 June 1965. A.A.C. applicant. Member-Mountaineering Club of Alaska. Had to get here before water laps the base Climbed from corkscrew ledge to N. face + up after long walk in over Fitzgerald Mesa. (note: Vin was an inveterate mountaineer and peak bagger from the Colorado State Hikers Club and later, the Mountaineering Club of Alaska. He was the first to climb to the high point in all fifty states. He was killed in an avalanche on Dhaulgari in 1969).

Also, according to the peak register, the first recorded ascent of the needle was in 1932. It was recorded as follows: 3:00 PM * What a Thrill!! We the undersigned have on this 19th day of Nov. 1932 climbed this peak. (Sans Ropes) J. Boyd Pearson Robert Wilson Clyde B. Heer Philip J. Larnell? Walter Wagner See attached.

Also of interest in the summit register was this note: Currenti Needle 3000 ft. 775 ft. 18/7/54 West Ridge Route 15 pitons Class III+ Harvey T. Carter Don Sell Ray Northcutt (this is difficult to read - but looks like M&CarTC-CCMC Thunderstorm on the top. (note: the CCMC may be the Colorado College Mountain Club).

On the same day we rangers made our climb, Chuck Tolten, Gary Kocsis and Bob Dickerson, from Western State College, did the 2nd ascent of the West Ridge.

One further note: On July 25-26, 1976, Jimmy Newberry, Robert Stucklen, John Pearson, and Les Choy made the first known ascent of the west (or souhwest?) side of the needle. They were caught overnight on the climb and didn't finish until the morning of the 26th. They were reported overdue, and three rangers from Curecanti NRA were called out. The rangers scrambled up a gully west of the needle to a small saddle between the needle and the adjacent ridge to check on the condition of the climbers. A hugh rock was dislodged by the last climber as he topped out on the summit, which broke into multiple large pieces, falling all around the rangers. It was pure luck no one was hurt or killed.

The register was removed to the National Park Service archives, as dampness in the register was starting to deteriorate the contents.

Tom Griffiths
Kenai, Alaska Apr 21, 2008
[Hide Comment] Tom thank you so very much for that wonderful piece of Gunnison climbing history. CHEERS TO YOU!

Do you have any more stories of those days? If you do please post them up. Apr 21, 2008
Santa Monica, Ca.
[Hide Comment] Tom, what a cool historical comment! Chuck Tolton (proper spelling), Bob Dickerson, and Gary Kocsis are the guys that taught me to climb. I'm sure I'd have been with them that day, but I was serving my country in S. Korea at the time. Apr 22, 2008
[Hide Comment] Just posted a route description for the "northeast ledges". If anyone has any comments/suggestions for it, please contact me. Dec 24, 2008
Allen Hill
FIve Points, Colorado and Pine
[Hide Comment] What ever to Bob Dickerson? He was hardcore. I spent a afternoon at his house in Denver while he was doing his PHD at DU drinking beer on his front porch. Peter Thurston (my absolute role model, even grew the ponytail like his) took me along for the visit. What a great group of guys. Jun 11, 2010
Santa Monica, Ca.
[Hide Comment] Bob is living in Arvada and working for a geological consulting company, mostly working in Nevada. He is the geology guide for several raft trips this summer for Western State, I'm thinking on the Green River, it's offered on the school website.

When the subject of Bob comes up, I have too many stories to tell. He is a very colorful character! Jun 12, 2010
Gunnison, Colorado
[Hide Comment] Wanted to point out some rappeling options: firstly, you can do this with two 60 meter ropes. The top rappel is pretty obvious and on top with two bolts with hangers and rings. The second rappel can be done with the three bolts that have cordelette running through them; but be warned, if the cordelette is not long enough to hang off the ledge and the rope is still on the ledge and not on the side; then you will rappel down and realize that your rope is stuck and you will have to prusik all the way back up the ropes you just rappeled from and replace the cordelette so that it is longer and hanging over the edge. The last bolt anchor is to the west of the second rappel. Just take your time and don't rush. Last time I was on this climb we got stuck on the rappel and got back to Gunnison around 4:30 in the morning. This could also be that we had to do all of this at night with one lighter for light and no moon. Aug 4, 2014