Type: Trad, 10 pitches
FA: Carlos & Leversee - 1976
Page Views: 13,142 total · 84/month
Shared By: Josh Janes on Jun 18, 2006
Admins: Matthew Fienup, Muscrat, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Magic Dragon is supposedly the longest climb in the Needles at 10-12 pitches and very enjoyable.

From the approach trail into the Needles, split off to the right at the saddle before ascending up to the foot of the lookout tower stairs. Follow a decent trail down and generally south and east. It's worthwhile to stay on the trail which is marked by little faded red bows tied in various trees and bushes. Eventually you will reach the sheer west face of the Magician (which, incidentally, has a few short, nice-looking crack climbs). Continue to descend until it is possible to traverse all the way around to the southern foot of the formation. Pick your line at this point: The climb generally follows the ridge for several pitches until a key (fairly obvious) point where the right side cliffs out and you can cross over to slabs on the left side. This is a little past halfway. The first of these upper slabs is the crux - a wandering, mostly unprotected journey up 5.8+ rock, 20-40 feet left of a long, left-facing corner system (which, if you don't want to run it out, can be climbed at 5.10 with gear). Continue up slabs to a headwall below the lookout tower. This can be surmounted on the left (west) via a number of weaknesses. Follow the ridge to the tower, hop the handrail, take in the view, and descend the steps.

A few notes:

  • I didn't lead this climb or break it into pitches, so my description is pretty vague, but the route is fairly easy to follow and I suspect a standard rack would be just fine.
  • Several of the pitches, especially the upper slabs, had bolted belays (generally old bolts at stances) that you can use as landmarks.
  • Remember not to approach the lookout tower before 9 AM or after 6 PM as the resident values her privacy!!!
  • I can't say I recommend this climb as a secure free solo.


Standard rack.
Matthew Fienup
Ventura, CA
Matthew Fienup   Ventura, CA  
The preferred start to Magic Dragon is via Black Magic. This variation starts in a gaping left-facing corner/chimney and follows cracks/gully up the western face of the Magician for two long pitches (5.7). The top of Black Magic intersects Magic Dragon at a sprawling ledge.

From here, be sure to TR the outstanding "Silence of the Clams" (5.10+). This can be TRed as one long pitch with a 60m rope. Jul 24, 2006
Matthew Fienup
Ventura, CA
Matthew Fienup   Ventura, CA  
The clear crux of Magic Dragon is on the 3rd pitch, in a massive left-facing corner above the sprawling ledge where Black Magic converges. With decent 1/2-3/4" gear (and a hopelessly stuck cam) below you, pull up over an awkward, sloping bulge.

One more long crack/corner pitch leads to endless slab climbing (although some stay right, pull a few slab moves, and take another corner system--this time, right-facing--up for a long pitch to a small pine tree).

From here, the route finding gets interesting. Long pitches of unprotected 5.5 slab climbing connect hard to find three-bolt anchors. All anchors were 1/4" bolts at last check. Each successive pitch gets lower-angle and easier.

The final short, 5.8 offwidth pitch protects with a single 4" piece.

The single best descent information can be found at ASCA Jul 24, 2006
Michael Schneiter
Glenwood Springs, CO
Michael Schneiter   Glenwood Springs, CO
This is a great route to do on a Sunday when the fire tower lady is serving cookies. Feb 22, 2008
Grand Rapids, MI
ttriche   Grand Rapids, MI
There is a great variation (many of them, actually, but at least one of them keeps the grade at 5.8 and restores some excitement to the latter half of the route) near the top, which (I think) everyone should try. Instead of hemming to the left near the end of the route, if you instead aim for the ships-prow formation and go around to the right, a very exciting move protected by a craptacular girth-hitched knob (no feet; jump, heel-hook, and mantel to get going) will put you right on top of the rock and level with the lookout. Great way to wrap up a leisurely route with a bit spicier finish.

This and other variations are described at EC Joe's site, vertical20.com/Some_Mo__Cla… if you like.

Also, Eddie is now selling old copies of the 1st edition guidebook on eBay. Personally, I'd go for Randy Vogel's "SoCal Select" but there's not near the amount of history in that tome as Eddie's. Jul 8, 2008
Oakland Park, Florida
Floridaputz   Oakland Park, Florida
We did the black magic start. P3 is the business with a thoughtful little overhang. This climb is a lot of fun. The position and exposure on the huge slab is great, and the views of the other needles. The finish, we took the east side, is the sh*t, climbing right into the watch tower. That really makes it classic. Sep 2, 2008
Jordan Ramey
Calgary, Alberta
Jordan Ramey   Calgary, Alberta
There are two great new ASCA bolted rap stations on the West side of the formation (away from the other Needles) directly under the fire lookout. Down about 15 feet on a great shelf. One 60m rope and two raps down and towards the approach stairs put your right in a gully near the base of the stairs past the locked stairs gate.

safeclimbing.org/areas/cali… Oct 5, 2009
Dave Daly
Kernville, CA
  5.8 R
Dave Daly   Kernville, CA
  5.8 R
Want some spicey variation action? Try the second pitch of 'Strange Brew'. As per the topo from Clint Cummings on 'Strange', climb tree, get onto the slab and move up and left. Find the one and only "so-so" knob to sling (20 feet off the belay).....that's it! As for the bolt that is shown on the topo......forget it! It's long gone. I spent a good 5 minutes looking for it along the way. You want an "X" factor....here you go. Run it out for 65 feet, passing the 5.7/5.8 moves past the mid way point of the pitch. Yeah baby!!

Highlights (IMO): The 5.7 finger crack and the short 5.8 finish at the tower. Aug 23, 2010
Some fun and varied climbing, long, but quite a few unmemorable pitches. My least favorite route to date in the Needles. Clint cummins topo has some errors regarding pitch lengths, beware. P2 and P3 can be linked into a long pitch with a 70m. P5, the RF corner to the bolted belay, cannot be less than 70m - be prepared to simul here, or build a natural anchor at the top of the corner. Also, P5 belay has one bomber ASCA bolt and one 1/4". There is no protection bolt on P6 as shown on the topo. Also, the anchor at top of P7 consists of one 1/4" and a rusty buttonhead with a leeper hanger. These need replacement! Oct 3, 2010
Simon Thompson
New Paltz, NY
Simon Thompson   New Paltz, NY
Love the route description. Sounds like you had a fun time. Can't wait to do this one! Dec 3, 2011
Matt N
Santa Barbara, CA
Matt N   Santa Barbara, CA
I think we ended up with 7 pitches. Apparently the Black Magic start P1-3 can be combined into 2 w/ a 60m - I realized this when faced with the crux bulge on our P2. Some simul on a couple pitches higher up and it all went by pretty quick. Just wander upwards. Beta didn't clear much up.

Okay route. Best for its location and position. Oct 22, 2012
Chattanooga, TN
  5.8 R
Manderson198   Chattanooga, TN
  5.8 R
Climbed this route with Garrett a few days ago. We did it in 8 pitches, using the Black Magic start, and rapping off into the gulley afterward. We had a 70m, and would have finished in 7 pitches, if not for rope-drag issues. This is roughly how we pitched it out:

P1: Climb Black Magic's left leaning chimney/crack system to the tree-covered ledge.

P2: Climb to the clean ledge, right after the cruxy bulge move.

P3: Climb to the base of the right-facing corner, linking the horse-head with the unprotected slab. Full length, maybe 210 feet?

P4: Climb the right-facing corner, transferring onto the slab, following the wide crack, passing the pine tree along the way. Belay from a small crack on the right side of the slab. Another long pitch. 220 feet?

P5: Climb past the bolt to the bolted anchors.

P6: Link the next two pitches and climb to some cracks at the headwall/ledge. There is a small horizontal crack where you can place a piece of pro/directional for your second. 215+ feet.

P7: Traverse to the left, and belay on the ledge wherever is most comfortable.

P8: Pick your line to the firetower/rap station. Rap off if after 6pm. If earlier, climb to the firetower and walk down the stairs.

This was a very enjoyable route, with mostly moderate climbing, albeit a few stout moves.

The approach is straight-forward and fast, IF you follow the correct trail down. It is very well-cairned, and like the description says, starts immediately before the ascent to the firetower stairs. We made it from the trailhead to the base of Black Magic in ONE hour. The Cooper and Cummins topo in the is amazing, just remember that there is another section of rock below, so you do not start at the very base of the formation. Aug 22, 2015
Matthew Fienup
Ventura, CA
Matthew Fienup   Ventura, CA  
With the fire tower gone, it is now possible to descend the stairs at any time, 7 days a week. The gate that blocks passage of the stairs has been removed. Sep 14, 2015
Tod Gunter
Hailey, ID
Tod Gunter   Hailey, ID
So anyone done this finish? Stay on the ridge all the way and follow it underneath the "ships prow". It will dead end at a wall about 20 feet back. Seems hopeless from there with the only option being to rap left (we found a bail anchor: 3 cams and lots of biners!). If you back up a few steps you can see a 1-2 foot gap between the top of the wall and the ceiling (the bottom of the prow) creating a horizontal squeeze chimney. Climb up to the horizontal crack and with an awkward bellyflop you can climb into it and belly crawl 20-30 ft popping out on the left side of the ridge within spitting distance of the lookout. I was humming the theme to Mission Impossible while leading it! Dec 8, 2018
Yep, finished it that way. Thought that entering the dragon's jaws was the appropriate finish.

The clue was Margorie's cat was peering down at us from the horizontal ledge.

No cookies that day though. Dec 9, 2018