Type: Trad, 450 ft, 3 pitches
FA: Laeger & Clark - August, 1976
Page Views: 38,521 total · 251/month
Shared By: Josh Janes on Jun 18, 2006 with updates from nathanael
Admins: Matthew Fienup, Muscrat, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

You & This Route

313 Opinions

Your To-Do List:

Add To-Do · View List

Your Star Rating:

     Clear Rating

Your Difficulty Rating:

-none- Change

Your Ticks:

Add New Tick


A classic introduction to the Needles. 5.9++.

Descend into the main amphitheater and locate the first obvious crack system that splits the entire Witch ground to summit. This system is immediately right (and well below) the obvious traverse crack of Airy Interlude.

P1: Climb a really long, sustained hand crack through bulges to a belay stance. 5.9+

P2: Climb a really long, sustained hand crack through bulges to a sloping ledge system. 5.9+

P3: Take off from the right end of the big, sloping ledge up a wild crack system that breaches a roof using jugs. Run this all the way to the summit on easier terrain. 5.9+

Descend north - see the Witch description for more info.


Double set of cams (possibly triples) to #3 Camalot.


Darshan Ahluwalia
Petaluma, CA
Darshan Ahluwalia   Petaluma, CA
This is one of the best 5.9s in the galaxy. Jun 11, 2007
1Eric Rhicard
1Eric Rhicard   Tucson
I have to second the previous statement. It was a blast! Jul 18, 2007
The meaning of the route's name should become clear after a couple hundred moves. Aug 14, 2007
Shaun MkyCrb  
Good news for climbers on a budget: with a little confidence, I'd say this route is easily done on a single set of cams. I brought doubles in the 1"-3" range, as suggested, but never used them. On the third pitch, I used almost entirely nuts. May not be the best idea, however, if you're not comfortable with the grade or not used to crack climbing. When I did it in fall, pitches 1 & 2 remained almost completely shaded (brrrrrrr) while pitch 3 got sun in the afternoon. Oct 16, 2007
Standing at the bottom of pitch 3, it was hard to believe it was going to go at 5.9. But it did, and with good stances for placing pro. Jul 2, 2008
Grand Rapids, MI
ttriche   Grand Rapids, MI
P1 and P2 are really 5.8+ ... especially if you normalize the grades against the wild and wooly pitch 3. In my opinion the "correct" way to do the first pitches is to chain them together and have your belayer simulclimb for 10-20 feet as you finish the lead. Don't fall on the slippery slab move if you use this strategy. Whoever mentioned that P3 protects with almost exclusively nuts is spot on -- you barely need any cams, maybe a few 0.5" to 1" pieces if you like, for the last pitch. Just sack up and fire the moves and you will feel like a hero, especially if you are a 5.9 leader! A few brass nuts are helpful for some of the thinner placements towards the top of the 3rd pitch. Jul 3, 2008
andy patterson
Carpinteria, CA
andy patterson   Carpinteria, CA  

I found P1 and P2 to be the physical crux of the route. Perhaps I'm silly. P3, while cerainly a smorgasborg of steep jugs and jam-cracks, seemed to have myriad stances to rest and place gear. Of course, I'm not out to bicker about grades. The whole route is sustained, both in brilliance, location, and incentive (awesome summit). I agree with previous suggestions to double up on cams, and to bring a full set of nuts. P3 swallows stoppers. I think I only placed one or two cams on the entire pitch.

Also, Margee made some unbelievable mint cookies that day. Sep 29, 2008
I agree with Andy, I'd say the grades of all three pitches are about the same, and although you can do it on one, having the two sets isn't a horrible idea - especially if you want to do it in about two pitches. And, best of all, Margee is amazing as are her mint cookies. Aug 24, 2009
Kristian Solem
Monrovia, CA
Kristian Solem   Monrovia, CA
Just for perspective, the FA party graded this route as 5.8 when they did it. The name of the route came from the lyric "Igor Unchained by his Baying Hounds" from the song "Monster Mash."

IMO the crux is the bit on P1 where the crack gets shallow. Some folks find it to be the slabby section on P2, which is also kind of cruxy. I'd say the upper pitches are 5.8. I've soloed the upper pitches many times but never had any interest in being ropeless on the first two. Dec 17, 2010
Grand Rapids, MI
ttriche   Grand Rapids, MI
Most of the people that I've ever held a fall for on Igor, fell on that slippery bit before the ledge at the end of pitch 2 (end of pitch 1 if you simulclimb). It's hard to protect the part where people seem to grease off.

The last pitch is intimidating, but in my opinion it is actually very hard to screw up. The blind reaches and big moves make everyone feel like a hero. Dec 18, 2010
Chris I
Fort Collins, CO
Chris I   Fort Collins, CO
Each pitch had a distinct crux for me. The right leg pump on P1 burnt me out. The blank corner with so-so nuts on P2 was a little tricky, and P3 was full of thrills, with some very shallow finger locks being the toughest part. For pro (understanding I'm new to this game and like to feel comfy at all times) I would take double .5-.75 bd (especially handy on the last pitch) and triple 1-3 bd for the first pitch. One #4 was used on P1 and P2, and a single set of nuts sufficed. A few smaller cams were handy throughout, especially for setting up anchors when I didn't want to use up all my hand sized pieces. Pitch 3 was definitely the highlight- steep and burly, with amazing movement throughout, incredible exposure, and good gear. What a climb! Jul 11, 2011

you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a stupendous route in this area. my wife linked the first 2 into a really long pitch. even with an 'oversized' 70m, i was just about to start simulclimbing when she yelled 'off belay'. she said it was, hands down, the best 9 she had ever done. there are several spots in the first 2 pitches that aren't particularly easy for the grade. for somebody at their limit on 5.9, this route would be a satisfying achievement that they wouldn't soon forget. Jul 12, 2011
With a 70M rope and about 20' of simulclimbing, the first two pitches can be run together into a mega-classic enduro 250' pitch to the big ledge. Triples in hand-size gear is recommended for this. Jul 16, 2012
Matt N
Santa Barbara, CA
Matt N   Santa Barbara, CA
Awesome, awesome route. Remember that people poo-poo'ing lots of gear aren't leading near their limit. Cams come out quicker when following on P3, which I appreciated.
Triple #2 size was nice for the first pitch and use small cams down low to save your hand sizes. A #4 can be used on P1&2, but easy to get by without. Oct 22, 2012
Peter Franzen
Phoenix, AZ
Peter Franzen   Phoenix, AZ  
Triple #1s and #2s would be good, but I wouldn't bring more than 2 of anything else. Great route. May 27, 2013
J Mo
Tucson, AZ
J Mo   Tucson, AZ
Possibly the best sandbag .9 in the world. Incredible! Jun 25, 2013
First pitch felt like 5.9. Second - 5.8 with one or two 5.9 moves. Third was harder but nothing to be scared of. I'd give it 5.9+ - 10a. Eats nuts. Sep 2, 2013
Stan Pitcher
Stan Pitcher   SLC, UT
Had to pause once on this to let Michael Reardon solo in above from Airy Interlude. He stopped for a moment to changed tunes on his Ipod and say hi. Nov 20, 2013
Colonel Mustard
Sacramento, CA
Colonel Mustard   Sacramento, CA
The Needles Novitiate Climbs

Twas' not unchained by Igor
nor slipped upon Thin Ice
Fancy Free went with ease
And Airy was just as nice Dec 2, 2013
Fat Dad
Los Angeles, CA
Fat Dad   Los Angeles, CA
Under the category of 'ratings are totally subjective', I can't imagine how someone would find the last pitch harder than the first two, particularly the second. The first pitch is pretty straightforward, just a little weird in places. But the second, with the awkward wide bulge and the thin face moves to the belay I found substantially harder than anything on the third pitch. There, if you don't have a solid edge or a bomber jam, you aren't looking hard enough. Jun 16, 2014
Kristian Solem
Monrovia, CA
Kristian Solem   Monrovia, CA
FWIW the FA party called the route 5.8. How times change. Dec 30, 2014
David S.
San Francisco, CA
David S.   San Francisco, CA
Can affirm the 'triples' comment, especially in the #1-#2 range.

What a stupendous climb! I've been quoting Darshan Ahluwalia's comment to everyone who asked me about it: 'This is one of the best 5.9s in the galaxy.'

So grunty and relentless and exposed (on the 3rd pitch) and brilliantly colored with green lichen and, ultimately, deeply satisfying in a vocally unbroachable way. Jun 12, 2017
Berkeley, CA
rafael   Berkeley, CA
pretty sustained at the grade. The low crux in the blank corder doesnt protect super easily, but with good skills its fine... prob not the best route for a new 5.9 leader, and def bring extra hand (blue and yellow BD cams) if you arent comfy running it out on sweet hand cracks.
Super fun 3rd pitch. Aug 21, 2017
Colin Brochard
Colin Brochard   Austin
Wow, what a hand crack, maybe the best jamming I've ever done, all due respect to Sons of Yesterday. Aug 23, 2017
As described here we linked P1 and 2 to the big belay ledge with a 70m, barely. I took doubles of cams to #3 and did a bit of walking them as I went. The next pitch off the ledge is the $. Oct 16, 2017
Mark Straub
Berkeley, CA
Mark Straub   Berkeley, CA
This is one of the best cracks I've ever climbed! Every pitch is excellent. The name is also quite fitting. Nov 13, 2017
Brice Pollock
Oakland, CA
Brice Pollock   Oakland, CA  
Linked 1-2 with 20 ft of simulclimbing and linked 3-4 easily. Definitely a few moments of pause to figure out sequence when the crack flares out. Jun 5, 2018