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Yellow Brick Road

5.9+, Trad, 300 ft, 3 pitches,  Avg: 3.3 from 17 votes
FA: Smith, Clark, E. Laeger, 6/76
California > Southern Sierra > Needles / Kern… > Needles > Wizard

Description

Face traverse (somewhat exciting) into a handcrack splitting the obvious streak of yellow lichen. You will come across the remains of a salad oil bottle as the handcrack widens into an offwidth (lieback this, lest you need a similar bottle), terminating onto a huge ledge. (Rap anchors for a Brian Jonas sport route are at the left end of this ledge if you need them for some reason -- you do not want to be on top of the Wizard in a storm, for example.) The next pitch is the business -- thin dihedral to an exciting overlap. Rap off of some nasty slings (can also do a short rap to massive chains which may reach the deck), then 4th-class out of the notch to top out on the Sorceror and rap from there; or, with two ropes, you can rap the Demon and end up below the Sorceror's Apprentice. Classic route at the grade; I've climbed this route with several different partners of varying abilities, and all were amazed at its relative obscurity. Even among the many fine routes at the Needles, this is a gem.

Location

West face of the Wizard. The route starts at a large bush which is reached by descending a gully from between the Charlatan and Djinn formations; the start of this gully is reached by chimneying through a notch with a somewhat beaten footpath to it. If you screw up and go too far west, you can rap in from any number of points and rejoin the gully. A line of bolts going up and left from the bush is the aforementioned Jonas route, rumored also to be fine climbing. The "Yellow Brick Road" is a huge yellow streak of lichen visible from the lookout, split by the crack system which you ascend.

Protection

Cams to 4" (#4 or #5 C4 size is useful in the 30' offwidth section); nuts small to medium are crucial for the dihedral. Aliens are helpful for protecting the initial face traverse and the smallest may come in handy when protecting the pie-slice dihedral, especially if you run low on small to medium size nuts.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Salad bottle on Pitch 2. Legend has it a member of the second-ascent party, while following, lodged his knee in the wide crack and could not get it out. His partner rappelled and ran to the nearby fire lookout, got a squeeze bottle of salad oil from the tower attendant, and used this to help free his partner's knee. The bottle remains wedged in the offwidth to this day.
[Hide Photo] Salad bottle on Pitch 2. Legend has it a member of the second-ascent party, while following, lodged his knee in the wide crack and could not get it out. His partner rappelled and ran to the nearby…
Pitch 1, quite a nice position. Andrew on lead
[Hide Photo] Pitch 1, quite a nice position. Andrew on lead
Corner starting off Pitch 3. This took small cams (red-yellow offset and blue alien were particularly useful) and small stoppers (brass offsets were particularly useful).
[Hide Photo] Corner starting off Pitch 3. This took small cams (red-yellow offset and blue alien were particularly useful) and small stoppers (brass offsets were particularly useful).
Roof on Pitch 3.
[Hide Photo] Roof on Pitch 3.
Pitch 2.
[Hide Photo] Pitch 2.
The offwidth on Pitch 2. It takes #4 and #5 cams (we had one of each, and walked them on lead). I climbed it mostly as a layback and face-like moves using the edges and nearby knobs, and only did a few offwidth-type moves. My partner climbed it more as an offwidth using some hand-stacks and knee jams.
[Hide Photo] The offwidth on Pitch 2. It takes #4 and #5 cams (we had one of each, and walked them on lead). I climbed it mostly as a layback and face-like moves using the edges and nearby knobs, and only did a…
The somewhat exciting face traverse at the start of Pitch 1. This can be protected with offset cams, aliens, and nuts.
[Hide Photo] The somewhat exciting face traverse at the start of Pitch 1. This can be protected with offset cams, aliens, and nuts.
The base of the route. The start can be a bit difficult to identify but look for this tree. You start Pitch 1 by climbing through the tree.
[Hide Photo] The base of the route. The start can be a bit difficult to identify but look for this tree. You start Pitch 1 by climbing through the tree.
Rob Beno nearing the top of the crux corner on P2.
[Hide Photo] Rob Beno nearing the top of the crux corner on P2.
Rob Beno following the beautiful P2 tips dihedral
[Hide Photo] Rob Beno following the beautiful P2 tips dihedral
First pitch of Yellow Brick Rd.  The climber in yellow has just finished the initial traverse.  The route starts in the bush behind the climber.
[Hide Photo] First pitch of Yellow Brick Rd. The climber in yellow has just finished the initial traverse. The route starts in the bush behind the climber.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

[Hide Comment] I vaguely remember bringing a #4 Camalot and not using it, the climbing seemed easier than I expected ( any face holds around the crack ). I do remember feeling like the second pitch was very continuous. Oct 19, 2006
[Hide Comment] I found a #4 and #5 useful. A short rap from the summit leads to a chain anchor. With a single 70m rope you can just barely rap into the gully where you started. Be careful when pulling the rope, there is a rope-grabbing constriction. Jul 9, 2010
Richard Shore
  5.10-
[Hide Comment] Unless you are confident running out 30+ feet of 5.9 fists and OW, do yourself a favor and bring a #4 and 5 cam. Plan on walking them a ways up too. There are face holds, but it doesn't really bring the grade down.

The second pitch dihedral is classic! Sustained stemming with a tips crack. I placed a #1 tcu, 2 x #0, a #00, and my three smallest nuts in the corner. Oct 17, 2011
Paisley Close
Mojave, CA
  5.10-
[Hide Comment] The traverse into the crack was definitely exciting. A #5 was necessary for the wide section, and you can definitely lieback and/or climb plenty of face features without needing any offwitdth technique.

p3 (or p2 if you link 1 & 2, which you can easily do with a 70) sucked up three small nuts, and we used doubles from #00-#1, 1 #1 and a small offset nut was useful too. Roof move felt burly to me!

The tatty slings on top leave much to be desired for rappel. There's a 'biner (held shut with climbing tape) connecting a quicklink and a rap ring to the slings. It looks like if you pulled up on the slings hard enough they'd just pop off the horn, but once weighted they seem to be ok.

There is a second rap/sling station in the gully between the Wizard and the Sorcerer. We added a new sling to the lot and a second 'biner so you can have opposed gates. From there you can easily make it to the ground with a 70. Aug 26, 2013
[Hide Comment] A little bit more beta for this great climb:

We approached by rapping down Spooky (1x 60M rope needed), then doing another 30M rap off of a tree. As previously mentioned, the route starts in some bushes-- look for a bolted line above you to make sure you are in the right place. You should also be able to see the OW.

Pitch1 features a 5.9 traverse that would lead to a ground-fall if you messed up. Don't mess up. The rest of the pitch follows a wide crack. Need a #4 and #5 cam to protect. It does not really climb like a true offwidth, because of all the face features. The salad oil bottle (apparently used to free a climber's stuck knee) is still deep in the crack.

Pitch2 follows a thin seam in a corner-- super fun! Most useful gear is small to medium nuts.

We did a 30M rap off the top to get to the col between the Wizard and the Sorcerer. It's more like low 5th class climbing to get to the top of the sorcerer. Aug 26, 2014
nathanael
Riverside, CA
 
[Hide Comment] offset aliens could be helpful on the dihedral, though it's ok without. brass nuts are good.

the climbing from the sorcerer-wizard notch to the summit of the sorcerer is not really "4th class" but is actually really cool jamming and stemming (5.4 maybe?), fun bonus pitch Jul 24, 2017