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Routes in Superpin

Barber Route T 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b X
Pete Cleveland Route T 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c X
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Type: Trad, 160 ft
FA: Henry Barber, Dennis Horning, Chip Lee, 1977
Page Views: 7,577 total · 56/month
Shared By: Kris Gorny on Jun 18, 2007
Admins: Andrew Gram, Peter Gram, Greg Parker, Mike Madsen, Mark Rafferty

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Starting from the base of the north side of Superpin (the side facing Cathedral Spires) climb up a dirty vegetated 5.8 crack (bad pro) which widens into a chimney. Go up the chimney and step left onto a comfortable ledge between Superpin and Tent Peg. Alternatively (and safer), the ledge can also be reached by a short scramble from the landing between Tricouni and Superpin. The proper climb starts from the ledge. Take a step across the chimney onto Superpin. Sling a flake (or place a large nut behind it), go up and pull the crux bulge. Continue on fun but run out 5.7 crystals to a finishing section of 5.8 face climbing that leads to the top.

The X-rating is given because the route has a potential for a serious fall to the ground with no protection.

Barber has pleaded for years to remove the bolts and finally returned in the summer of 2011 and removed them; as they were not added by him or with his permission.

"Touch the sky" , Paul Piana
"The Needles" , Zach Orenczak and Rachel Lynn


From the pull off by the End Pin, walk down along the road, roughly 10 yards past the trail for Tricouni Nail. Locate a faint trail going down from the road. A short walk down the trail leads to the flat area by the starting chimney at the base of Superpin.

The best way to get off the Superpin is to drop one end of the rope on the west side of the Pin (towards the start of the climb), and the other to the east side, to the landing between the Superpin and Tricouni Nail. Rap the west side and clean the route while the belayer holds the east end of the rope. There is a small groove on top of Superpin, which makes this rappel very safe. Do not leave any slings on top. Thanks to Dave Groth for the rappel beta.


Currently none. After removal of the retro-bolts in summer '11, there is now no protection above the crux bulge.


Chris treggE
Madison, Beersconsin
Chris treggE   Madison, Beersconsin  
Kris- which section specifically makes this route "R"? Chris Mar 31, 2008
Kris Gorny    
Chris -- going between 1st bolt at the crux and the pair of bolts higher up is R. It's not particularly hard but it gets your attention and whipping from there will definitely hurt. It's also little tall between the bolts and the top but after the first runout you hardly notice. Mar 31, 2008
randy baum
Minneapolis, MN
randy baum   Minneapolis, MN
The R rating could be debated. But I agree with Kris. To fall from right below the second and third bolt would result in some type of injury. At least the first bolt is bomber. Jul 15, 2008
Kris Gorny    
Hi Randy, the "R" rating for this route (or any other; see discussion under Vertigo where I got my ass royally chewed :)) is not written in stone. I think difference between "PG13" and "R" is rather subtle and "R" can be a matter of perception, which may vary depending on climber's ability. I guess I'd give "R" to a route with a possible fall, in which, even if all gear holds, the climber may get seriously injured. That's how I understand "R" for Superpin. I am pretty sure though Barber or Cleveland would not bother with these ratings. Jul 21, 2008
Brent Kertzman
Black Hills, SD
  5.10a/b X
Brent Kertzman   Black Hills, SD
  5.10a/b X
The Barber route on Super Pin doesn't see much traffic due to the fact that the runout after the crux is 5.8 X. In my opinion the route is definitely a candidate for an "X" rating. A death fall is possible before gaining the second bolt. To me this equates to "X". Paul Duval died recently from a 30' or less fall while rappelling at Moonlight Ridge. You can debate this all you want but I believe many locals will concur with me on this. Jul 21, 2008
Kris Gorny    
Brent, how about I update the description and clarify what I mean by "R" ? I agree that the possible huge fall from the second bolt (bolts), although not a ground fall, could be very nasty. I think this should be agreeable to everybody regardless of their opinion on differences between "PG13", "R", or "X". Jul 22, 2008
Dave Rone
Custer, SD
  5.10 X
Dave Rone   Custer, SD  
  5.10 X
Nice photo! One can also traverse right after clipping the upper bolt(s) and finish up the right hand side of the spire. This finish seems easier to me. Oct 4, 2010
Kevin O'Connor
Jacksonville, AR
  5.10 X
Kevin O'Connor   Jacksonville, AR
  5.10 X
Well here is actually documented information from the ASCA to settle this, "R runout, where a fall would likely result in serious injury
R/X very runout, where a fall at the wrong place will likely result in at least serious injury and possibly death
X extremely runout, where a fall at the wrong place will likely result in death."

I climbing the route just last week, and I can attest to the fact that a fall below the double anchors would result in death unless a miracle happened. So with that information I give it an X, but who cares anyways?. One hell of a route, we can agree on that. Jun 21, 2011
Brent Kertzman
Black Hills, SD
  5.10a/b X
Brent Kertzman   Black Hills, SD
  5.10a/b X
Despite the lengthy on going debate about R vs X on Superpin I must thank you for doing the research on this matter. I've always thought the Barber Route too be an X rated outing based on climbing X rated routes elsewhere. Climbs that require the leader to edge into the death zone know no magnitude... Death is dead. By the way nice send on Superpin last Saturday when we were there. Jun 23, 2011
1Eric Rhicard
1Eric Rhicard   Tucson
Figured I would die if I fell off when I did it in the 80s. Just have to make sure you are ready to catch yourself if one of those nubbins breaks near the top. Jul 8, 2011
Josh Hamling
  5.10a R
Josh Hamling  
  5.10a R
Last I looked (8/2/11), there are no bolts on super pin. I think that might just make it an X. Aug 15, 2011
Byron J. Hastings
Mystic, SD
  5.10- X
Byron J. Hastings   Mystic, SD
  5.10- X
Why after nearly 35 years did Henry Barber come and chop the bolts on this route???

One night while hanging out at Paul & Loretta's house Henry, overheard Mike Todd and Mark Smedley talking about a new route they had been working on Super Pin. The next day Henry went on too steal the route from them. America is a free country and none of us owns the rock. Henry was a notorious route thief and he pissed off local climbers almost everywhere he went due to actions such as his on the FA of this route.

At a later date Mike Todd went up on the route to repeat it and was a bit freaked out when the local community of that era (1977) were able to lasso the summit of Super Pin from Tricouni Nail and Tent Peg giving Mike a piece of protection to clip into at which point he was able too get it back together and drill the recently chopped bolt. Everyone else seemed too be okay with the bolt that Henry chopped.

Many climbers have repeated the route with bolts. Many more climbers are now deprived of one of the Needles most unique summits due to Henry's need too be a legacy building egotist. Nothing good was accomplished by the senseless chopping of these bolts especially after 35 years.

My other questions to Henry are: Did you clip the bolts the day you chopped them? More importanty did you remove them on the lead? Or did Eric Sutton do your dirty work? Was Eric partly to blame for this whole episode as he seems too like to keep things stirred up?

Enough for now, back to more positive things. Sep 6, 2011
Kris Gorny    
Holy crap ! -- without the bolts it is just a solo. You haul the rope behind just for rappel and reach the top or die. Now, I guess all the 4-star "classic" ratings are off, too. Dennis Horning and Chip Lee are also listed as the first ascenders -- do they know about it? Was it their decision as well? With all due respect, does Barber even climb still? He's gotta be in his 70's or close. Sep 9, 2011
Barber....WTF? This route has evolved to be classic as it is! Yes bolts were added by locals but who cares. Pete Cleveland has the first assent anyways (with no bolts)....are you so sure he did not climb your line? He could have came back and chopped your bolt but choose not to.

I have repeated your routes all over the country and have great respect for the FA's you did but this mystifies me...

Dave Groth Sep 9, 2011
Josh Janes    
If true, I think it's great! Good job Henry!

Last I checked, there were hundreds of other needles to climb in the Needles - some well-protected, some terrifying. Henry faced his fear on the FA and set a precedent. You can do the same or find another route that fits your ability - but what you shouldn't do is retrobolt to create a "classic." Climbing is selfish, period - no need to put on a pretense by catering to the masses. And that baloney about "stealing a route" from someone... that would be equivalent to me being unable to keep my mouth shut about my project around the campfire only to have a Honnold or Potter onsight solo it the next day. I'd have no one to blame but myself.

I don't see this as a case of Barber changing an established classic - I see it as a case of a classic being restored to it's classic status after 35 years of adulteration. Sep 21, 2011
I did this route on toprope a few years ago and always wanted to go back to lead it. It is probably much more exciting now, however, without the bolts and probably a little outside my comfort zone.

While I support leaving routes in the state the first accessionist left them, I am interested in your thoughts about the following:

According to my sources, the first ascent was done with a fixed pin which was later replaced by a bolt. This bolt was recently chopped. (Forget the other bolts.) As I recall, the fixed pin has broken off and gear (be it another pin or nuts or whatever) cannot be placed unless the remnants of the pin can be extracted from the rock. What is the conventionally accepted ethic in this case? Place a bolt where the fixed pin existed? Will that restore the route to its original condition? Or forget the bolt and now treat the climb as a free solo (where the original climb was not)?

I am very interested in the consensus on this. Thanks! Sep 26, 2011
Brent Kertzman
Black Hills, SD
  5.10a/b X
Brent Kertzman   Black Hills, SD
  5.10a/b X
No denying Henry did get the F.A. of the route in question. It is a tragedy that Eric Sutton and Henry Barber removed the bolts after nearly 35 years. As for Sutton he has the route so wired that he could solo it blind folded. Nothing good has come out this. The rock and the community are the losers. It is true there are many routes in the same grade but why after 35 years did Barber wait to take action.

For the most part the community accepts pins being replaced with bolts when there are no clean protection options. The pin was in place when Henry did the F.A. of this route as Clevland placed the piton. To me it seems like the local community needs to get their ducks in order and make a decision about the bolts being replaced or not. Henry doesn't live here and climb here plus he snubbed some local boys in the process of his F.A. (typical Henry).

People like Henry hold the climbing community hostage in a round about way. I've heard some rumors of his route becoming a sport climb with 10 bolts on it and a chain anchor... I guess some climbers believe drastic actions require drastic corrections. In my opinion the bear minimum that needs to happen is the bolt needs too be replaced next to Clevland's original piton placement out of respect for Peter. I accept and stand by what ever the community decides to do. Sep 27, 2011
1Eric Rhicard
1Eric Rhicard   Tucson
Kind of hope it stays as it is. 10X isn't that hard. I like that only a few will get to the summit. I like that there are things I will never do as I don't have the head for it. I also like that there are things I will get up if I am willing to work at it and willing to risk it all. Sep 27, 2011
Dave Rone
Custer, SD
  5.10 X
Dave Rone   Custer, SD  
  5.10 X
Add 10 bolts and make it a sport route?! God, I hope not. That kind of short-sighted reaction would be worse than the removal of the bolts in the first place.

I can understand Henry's motivations, but 35 years later?! I also wonder about the local who helped out. I don't know who it was, but I would bet that on some, if not all of their ascents, they clipped the very bolts they removed. Henry's summons was apparently irresistible.

Where to go from here? I first climbed Superpin in the early 80's, when the fixed pin protected the start (crux). It didn't inspire alot of confidence, it wasn't all the way in and it was bent over pretty good. According to a post by Rich Goldstone on Supertopo, Pete Cleveland clipped this pin on his first ascent, and if that's the case, Henry certainly clipped it. But since then, the pin was broken off and replaced by a bolt, I can't remember when. It's been a good number of years.

If a case could be made for any bolt(s) to be replaced, it could best be made for that one. Other than that, I guess I too would kinda like to see it stay the way it is. Sep 28, 2011
1Eric Rhicard
1Eric Rhicard   Tucson
If the fixed pin was used during the FA then replace it with a bolt. The FA was done with a pin in good shape. No need for the rest of us not to have a solid piece as they did.

If modern gear will work where the pin was then don't replace it. Sep 29, 2011
Andy Busse
Rapid City, SD
Andy Busse   Rapid City, SD
There are similar formations in abundant supply through out the southern Hills and there seems to be possibilities of other lines on the same formation. Why play into Mr. Barbers' theatrics for this one particular route? I haven't met any developers who don't condemn the modification of their work without their consent.

The route is classic because it is Mr. Barber's, it was spicey (now super spicey), and it is next to the road in the Park. Had Mr. Horning had the original FA without Mr. Barber's name on it; would it still have the same status? Probably not, Dennis has numerous classic, scary FAs out there that no one knows or cares about??

This route has served as a measuring stick since before its inception, and its reputation for that is what continues to compel us to discuss it.

These discussions aren't positive nor are they building up our community. Lets move on, respect the FA parties' wishes, and find new classics to develop and talk about.


Oct 2, 2011
Jeff Howard
Hales Corners WI
Jeff Howard   Hales Corners WI
Re: first ascent and why Cleveland should be listed

HB: Pete Cleveland's ascent of his route on the Superpin [Needles of South Dakota] has not been bettered. He led that in 1967, and the route has never been repeated on lead. Every year that passes without an ascent makes his climb that much more impressive. What he did was so inconceivable. It was a statement to the world. When I climbed my route on Superpin, in 1977, I actually thought I was doing Pete's route. It wasn't until I climbed past the mangled pin and got higher that I realized I wasn't.

HB: I didn't have the cojones to do his route. And I was a good climber then-nothing in the world stopped me. Mar 17, 2012
I've lead the route over a dozen times, one of my favorites. I believe the lower bolt that replaced the broken pin should be replaced that part of the route was done before HB. The upper bolts we not necessary. I did it several times without using them.

Just a comment on Jeff Howard's post from an HB interview. I lead Pete Cleveland's route in the early 2000's. And to keep the tradition alive I had my belayer(Mike Ranweiler) go off belay after I was too far beyond my last piece to matter. He made it up to the road to take my picture. Anyway, someone recently told me that the local knowledge and HB mentioned in his interview that no one has repeated it. I don't know when that interview was done but I can't be the only one to have repeated that route!

Anyone know someone who has done Pete Cleveland's route on Superpin? May 25, 2012
Poughkeepsie, NY
rgold   Poughkeepsie, NY
There was a big debate about this, with passion on both sides on Supertopo.

The "stealing" claim is bogus. The idea that Henry "stole" the route from someone who couldn't repeat it is itself a stretch. And you didn't have to overhear anyone's secrets to know about Superpin. I'd spoken to Henry about Pete Cleveland's amazing feat long before Henry arrived in the Needles. Henry didn't steal anything, he thought he was repeating Cleveland's route and realized as he got higher that he wasn't on it.

The bolts were placed in one of the most epic botches ever, after the leader became too frightened to continue, was the subject of a highly ingenious rescue, and then with the aid of a toprope, placed the bolt or bolts. At the time the route had already seen numbers of onsight repeats. There were plenty of climbers around with both the skill, desire, and mental discipline to do the route safely, so there was absolutely no reason to bolt it other than to make it accessible to someone who couldn't do it as it was.

It would have been totally appropriate to chop the bolts immediately. Even better, the rescuers could have prevailed on the failed climber to leave the route alone until he was ready for it, as many others had already proved to be. If the Needles had been the UK, those bolts would have disappeared before the day was out. But all that said, I think it was a mistake to chop the route 35 years later, after it had acquired an identity.

All these points have been passionately contested on Supertopo by Dingus McGee, who was there with Henry on Henry's ascent and was the architect of the rescue that lead to the bolting. I think I understand where Dingus is coming from but I'm not going to present his side of the case here---I obviously have my point of view---but anyone who wants to see potential refutations should read the Supertopo thread,… . Aug 20, 2013
From that discussion on Supertopo that Rich Goldstone refers to, “ I think I understand where Dingus is coming from but I'm not going to present his side of the case here” I will present my case not for the sake of another bolt on this pin but in hopes that most climbers understand that my case is built using Henry Barber’s own logic and beliefs about an areas’ sovereignty.

Now Henry was the man to preach about the greatness of Dresden climbing and its rules. He thought it would be great if the Needles could become such a place. He felt the Needles had the closest style to Dresden of any place in the USA. Bear in mind this was his perception of the Needles verses how things were or could become there. Henry took the time to explain to me how at Dresden the climbers [local to that area and of the past] had made a set of rules for working on first ascents. It is important to understand that nowhere else in the world were the rules like those of Dresden but Mr. Barber being not from that area accepted those local ways and made the claim that this is what they wanted.

From his behavior and statements we could rationally infer that Henry held that local standards and that local’s new, present or past choices determine the way climbing is done in each and any area.

The bolt on Superpin had some 34 years of local acceptance and .. it had acquired an identity (from Goldstone). But if Goldstone believes in local determination like Henry professed to believe in, should not this bolt be held by them as totally acceptable? Perhaps they have a locality problem with the extent and boundaries of their local domain of self sovereignty. Henry was not a local of the Black Hills Needles and Rich is a great admirer of the Needles. Or is it all they see and want is an homogenization form of the Californian Rules (Kamp’s doctrine of climbing) throughout the whole USA [where trad rules still hold]?

But Henry came back to the Needles 34 years later, contrary to his earlier professing of beliefs in local standards and chopped that Super Pin bolt.

Really now, the locals of the Needles and I were just choosing our style of how we wanted things done at HOME. The times were fun.

And so I conclude Henry doesn't believe in local self determination but has let his selfishness prevail. The chopped bolt was legitimate and it may return. Dec 5, 2013
Bryan G
Bryan G   Yosemite
The beginning of the route (where the piton/retro-bolt used to be) takes some small gear - I placed a #00 C3 and a nut, each of which I tested by hanging most of my weight from and they seemed solid enough. You could maybe even fiddle in some additional micro-nuts and get it all equalized into a little nest of gear if you want; you're at a great stance, so you have all the time in the world to decide for yourself if the gear is up to your liking. You pull the crux with this gear at your knees, then do some easier 5.10a/b moves to gain the arete out left and here the pro is a little below your feet. In the upper part of the climb (where the other retro-bolt used to be) is a body length or so of 5.8 climbing which is a bit thin and insecure, and steeper than it looks from the ground. If you blow it here you will almost certainly die, so I would only recommend this lead to climbers who are comfortable onsight-freesoloing 5.8's on a regular basis.

Personally, I think the route is great as it stands, with no fixed pro anywhere on the formation - just a proud granite spire as created by nature. The FA didn't drill any bolts and the FA has made it loud and clear that he doesn't want any bolts added to it. Replacing the pin with a bolt seems unnecessary given that protection can be had there with modern thin gear, and it would do nothing for you on the runout at the top which is, in my opinion, the mental crux of the climb. Plenty of other bolts to clip in the black hills and more going in all the time.

Just 2c from a non-local. Aug 14, 2014
  5.10 R
  5.10 R
I found similar gear as stated above. No need for the bolt, keep it classy South Dakota Aug 31, 2015

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