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Routes in Needle's Eye

Needle's Eye T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c X
Stitching The Seam V3 6A
Threading the Needle T 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Unnamed Fenton Route T,S 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
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Type: Trad, 100 ft, 2 pitches
FA: Rich Goldstone and Don Storjohann
Page Views: 11,446 total · 61/month
Shared By: Brad Schildt on Aug 19, 2002
Admins: Andrew Gram, Peter Gram, Greg Parker, Andy Busse, Mike Madsen, Mark Rafferty

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One of the Needles classics, you can't leave here without climbing it. But, it is serious and if you are not very comfortable leading 5.9, you might want to wait.

P1: Start down the hill from the parking lot in the eye. Chimney up to the right and face climb to the arete. You might be able to get a stopper in for protection before you start face climbing. Wrap a runner around the knob and belay.

P2: Head straight up on knobs, using the left edge to counter-balance. There is no pro for 25' until you reach a horizontal crack. Clip the piton, traverse right to another piton (a TCU will fit in the crack), then stem up the gully (crux) to the chains. A

Rap: a single rope gets you down to the parking lot.


medium stopper, 2 quick draws, 1 long runner (for belay), possibly a TCU to back up the pitons.


  5.8 X
  5.8 X
Definitely deserving of the 'X' rating, this thing is a do or die. The 5.10 start in the parking lot was very cool, the runout to the pitons is nothing special, and the finish is okay. Felt like we were celebrities with all the tourists and questions, which was pretty special. Nov 14, 2016
Ron Bull
  5.8 X
Ron Bull  
  5.8 X
I slung the flake on the arete, just to make me feel better, even though I knew it wouldn't hold. :) Very heady climb. Jul 31, 2015
Rich thanks for the history that was a classic story to go with a classic climb.

This one is certainly not for the faint at heart. I doubt it really matters how hard you can lead. More important is how hard can you solo. If you have the balls to lead this one or the 5.10 direct start you will be very popular indeed.

While I was living in the area it seemed every one wanted to climb the Eye but few had the guts to lead it.

To avoid rope drag at the top I always used a double runner on the first pin. I got this beta from a CO climber named Mike. He recommended that I girth hitch two runners and then clip one biner to my rope below the knot and then wrap the slings around my head and clip the other biner into the sling. That way once you reach the pin you can make the clip in one quick motion and it's already on the rope. Then use a regular shoulder sling on the second pin the two biners will come right together and let the rope feed smoothly.

A lot of people balked at the sling around the neck theory. And I remember that people used to back up the first pin by reaching around behind. I also see here that someone wasted time and energy slinging a knob along the way.

In my honest opinion its all a waste of energy if you don't feel up to soloing 5.8 better to find something else to do.

Like Rich said in the FA story it's best to get an early start. You are still quite likely to have a crowd. The only time I ever felt nervous on the direct route was the one time I climbed it right after 5 pm. I was trying to get to the Ten Pins but the traffic was all backed up so. Bob's not between 8 and 5 deal didn't apply as it was after 5 so I went for it.

The only time I did the 5.8 start was to take my then girl friend now wife up for her first time. She was only following 5.8 at the time. That was my 13th time up that season and no one else wanted in on the 13th. I didn't have any trouble getting a belayer or a crowd of 2nds for that matter any other time.

It's not that hard one year a guy from back east who claimed to have no interest in anything harder then 5.8 let it with no problem. My guess is he could have climbed a lot harder if he wanted too. I also met a 5.12 sport climber who wouldn't even consider it. Feb 28, 2011
Poughkeepsie, NY
rgold   Poughkeepsie, NY
Hey guys, since history has come up here, some of you might find my account (link) of the "first" ascent of the Needle's Eye in 1964 and the ensuing discussion on SuperTopo to be interesting. Aug 2, 2008
Dan G0D5H411
Colorado Springs, CO
Dan G0D5H411   Colorado Springs, CO
Awesome route! Did it in one pitch, and even though I was very liberal with long slings, I had horrible rope drag by the top...5.8 is a lot harder and scarier with a 50lb monkey on your back! Probably an 'R' route but not 'X'. Long distances between good gear but it is definitely there. The starting chimney is easy to protect with one traverse out to the arete that is exposed/runout. Once there, you can throw in a #3 and #5 Camalot. I slung a horn on the arete(bit cracked, but why not....) and up higher slung a crystal with a large cam hanging from the sling to make sure the sling did not pop up and off. To the left of the first piton, you can place a very good red tri-cam in a pocket underneath a roof, and back up the second pin with an absolutely Bomber blue alien. It's runout to the top but that alien would definitely hold a fall. Sep 4, 2007
Awesome route. Be damn sure you can lead 5.10 in the Needles before you touch this(but it is 5.8 climbing). Tried to get a cam around the corner at the horizontal to back up the pitons but it was in crumbly rock, probably wouldn't have held. I didn't see a place for a TCU in the seam. Pins are rusty and will probably break on a fall. Screamers are a good idea, if you are an ice climber and have them.
Maybe to stay true to the first accent and stay relatively safe, the pins should be replaced with new ones?
No need for two pitches, but be aware, there was a bit of rope drag at the top. I used a 70m 9.4 rope and started on the back side. Plenty of length for the rap to the parking lot. Jul 22, 2007
Aaron Costello
Rapid City, SD
Aaron Costello   Rapid City, SD
Thanks, Andrew. The first bolt looks newer, but the two pitons are all you have up top. May 1, 2007
Andrew Gram
Salt Lake City, UT
Andrew Gram   Salt Lake City, UT  
Its the unnamed Renn Fenton route that is the other submitted route on the formation. Very fun 5.10ish. Did that awful bolt ever get replaced? Apr 30, 2007
Aaron Costello
Rapid City, SD
Aaron Costello   Rapid City, SD
What is the route that starts on the south side, right in the parking lot? Apr 30, 2007
Tony B
Around Boulder, CO
  5.8 X
Tony B   Around Boulder, CO
  5.8 X
Great pitch, but big crowds can come out of nowhere to swarm your belayer, even at sunset. The horn half-way up is junk, I think I could rip it off with my bare hands without even loosing my balance, still I tied it off for humor (and my partner did gawk at it).
One rope gets you down just fine. Jul 30, 2006
So how hard is the route that goes up through the eye and then goes to the climber's left? I did this on my way through there a couple years ago, thinking it was the regular route. It went as one long pitch from the bottom, and I think there were two bolts along the way. the stems in the eye were cool, but man, was that thing run out. Definitely felt harder than 5.8(?) Apr 17, 2003
Dennis Horning did that lead? I've seen a photo of a climber stemming the eye chimney- same climb? Is there any pro? Looked pretty wild to me! Oct 9, 2002
Brian Milhaupt
Golden, CO
Brian Milhaupt   Golden, CO
It may, or may not be worthless. I've seen worse withstand falls, but I'm not testing it. Oct 7, 2002
That flake is totally worthless, it is cracked most of the way. I don't even stand on it. The easiest climbing of the climb is getting to the pins, it's just that your are getting a little ways off the ground. Just remember the moves do get harder as you get higher with the last moves to the pins being about 5.6 Sep 2, 2002
Brian Milhaupt
Golden, CO
Brian Milhaupt   Golden, CO
It is possible to sling a flaky horn halfway between the belay and the pitons. Whether this would hold or not is questionable, but it's better than nothing. Sep 2, 2002
You are correct, Rich Goldstone did the first free ascent of the Needles Eye along with Don Storjohann. The direct start from the parking lot was first done by Renn Fenton. Vern Phinney didn't know that Renn did it first when he did the route and placed the bolt. Now Dennis Horning did the real scary route of going to the top of the eye itself and exiting towards the summit. This route is real scary, if you feel brave go for it. To lead it once was enough for me.

But the First ascent of the Spire itself goes to Ray Harris and Lavern Emery who drilled a bolt line on the west face. They drilled the holes and placed 1/2 inch sleeves into the rock. So if you want to aid the route go to the hardware store and buy some 1/2 inch machine bolts and just screw them in. This aid route ad been climbed free. I did the FFA with Kevin Bein and Barbara Devine back in 1979. Aug 30, 2002
Andrew Gram
Salt Lake City, UT
Andrew Gram   Salt Lake City, UT  
Also, I know at least Rich Goldstone was involved in the first ascent. There is a direct start straight from the parking lot that is easy 5.10 with one bolt that joins the normal route at the shoulder. Done this way, this is one long pitch. Aug 30, 2002
Andrew Gram
Salt Lake City, UT
Andrew Gram   Salt Lake City, UT  
Screamers are probably a good idea on the pins as well. They weren't great last time I was there, and a fall on the tricky 5.8 moves above them would be catastrophic if they failed. Aug 20, 2002
When you get to the fixed pitons long runner both of them or the rpoe drag will get you. If you long runner both pitons the rope will run a lot smoother. Aug 20, 2002

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