Type: Trad, 700 ft, 4 pitches, Grade II
FA: Harvey T. Carter, Don Sell, Ray Northcutt, 1954, FFA:?
Page Views: 12,684 total · 128/month
Shared By: Dirty Captain Meatsauce on Oct 16, 2010
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

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Access Issue: Seasonal Raptor Closures Details
Access Issue: 2016 Seasonal Raptor Closure for Curecanti Needle & surrounding area Details

Northwest Rib

"Screw the Canyon Proper, this rock quality is the sh#t!" -Dirty Captain Meat Sauce.

To access this phenomenal rib of Curecanti Needle, exit North onto CO 92 from W. US Hwy 50 (right if from Gunnison) cross over Blue Mesa Dam and drive about 7 miles west to Pioneer Point. Then exit left to Pioneer Point which is a senic overlook with an outhouse. Take Curecanti Creek Trail (right of outhouse and right from the Curecanti Trail sign) for about 1.5 miles. This can be a grueling march with kayaks on the back. Once at the water, paddle toward the intrinsic tower in front of you. There will be a large rib line dropping down and right from the summit (NW) with a long, left-facing dihedral staring down at you. This dihedral is pitches 3-4 of the route (classic splitter good time). Anchor your boats up at a dead stump below a steep scree-filled gully that is right of the toe of the NW rib. Route/descent is described below. Just for a time estimate Admiral Grunge Bunny and myself Dirty Captain Meat Sauce climbed the Needle's Northwest Rib on a spectacular fall afternoon leaving Pioneer Point overlook with kayaks on heads at 1:30 PM and getting back to the car at 6:30 PM. Soloing helps the cause.

Scramble up the Ghangeous Kahn gully (you'll figure it out) heading towards the saddle of the Needle. Once you pass the first buttress on your left, two options exist for P1.

P1) a. Once past the first buttress on the left, two left-facing corners will be in front of you. Climb the one on the left. "If you got it you got it. No rope required." says Admiral Grunge Bunny (5.6)

b. Scramble up the whole gully to the saddle, then traverse far left on a large ledge toward the base of the upper NW rib. (3rd Classing).

P2) Climb obvious crack networks (5.6) up and left towards the base of the NW rib, which is hiding the glorious dihedral that sleeps on the other side. You will eventually land yourself at a large ledge. Traverse this ledge left and around the large portruding rib in front of you.

P3) "One of the best moderate splitter pitches in the valley" -Admiral Grunge Bunny. Start by climbing up the obvious, left-facing corner that leads to a 15 foot section of splitter thin hands leading to a perfect, 15 foot, fist crack of bliss. 30m (5.8)

Although you can belay at the top of P3 at a ledge with slings, a 60m rope will get you to the top of P4. Completing the dihedral in one pitch.

P4) Climb more splitter wide hands to a solid traverse leaning its way up and left to a 15 foot section of easy OW. Wowzers, this pitch is fun with exposure and stellar waterway views. Belay at large skinny vertical boulder. 30m (5.9-)

Now go left of the false summit boulder in front of you and do ~100 feet of fourth class ridge scrambling to the summit. Now smile.

Scramble back down west for about 40 feet and then turn left, south, and find a two bolt anchor in a notch facing southwest. 2 double rope raps (bypassing the pin anchor w/ a blue sling) and one final single rope rap lands you at the top of the saddle. Scramble down the death slide to your boats and man out that 1.5 miles with a boat on your back. Hooorah brotha!


Single rack, if you really want it bring a #4 Camalot. Just feel the hand slamwiches and solo it! Bring 2 ropes to rap.


mtoensing   Boulder
Thanks for posting, Kyle. Looks like you and Andy had a blast. Oct 17, 2010
This is a great route and a fun adventure. Dec 18, 2010
Vic Zeilman  
This climb is a lot of fun. If you're looking for an obscure adventure route in an awesome setting, then this is well worth the extra effort it takes to figure out how to the cross the lake.

A few notes...
- There's no reason to hike up the gully to start the route mid-buttress. From where you park the boats at the base of the steep scree field, rope up and traverse above the water to start in a wide, left-facing corner with a piton. From here, basically stay on the ridge all the way to the top. About 6 pitches. Many pins mark the way.
- The dihedral pitch up high is stellar, and if you do the whole thing in one 60 m pitch, it's nice to have at least singles of TCUs, doubles to #2 and a #3, #4. You could get by with less gear if you broke this pitch up.
- Although there an some webbing bail anchors on the route, look for a bolted rappel station near the summit to descend. Double ropes required.
- Some chossy, licheny rock down low, but the climbing remains fun in general with a real mountaineering sort of feel.

Jul 18, 2013
Bryce Lokey
Bryce Lokey   Montrose
SUP boards made this one great adventure. Swimming would be lighter but cold in October....

Agree with moving left early from the water's edge. A steep corner of hands and fists with a pin greets you and is quite fun. Wrestle with rope drag up several pitches to the dihedral pitch--definitely fun climbing and makes the route worth doing. #3 x 2 was nice for not fancying runout, wider terrain. Agree with Vic to downsize rack if you plan to break up the dihedral pitch. From the top of the dihedral pitch, move just left around a tall, blocky tower, then work your way up. We went too far left and had to rope up again.

Any beta on the 3rd rap anchor? We found only two pins and a bunch of tat draped over the edge of what turned out to be an arch suspended free from the main wall.... Seemed out of character of the other anchors (both well-bolted).

Any beta on why there are three bolts on a flat ledge right of the second rappel anchor? Highline?

Oct 12, 2015
Very classic in the genre.

We approached from Pioneer Point. The excellent trail (a recommended outing in itself) takes you all the way to the water.

Previous posts and associated photos left me wondering what landing the boat on the Needle side would be like. Turns out the landing is at the bottom of the scree gully and no problem at all. We managed to stay feet dry coming and going on both sides.

Even though the Curecanti Creek trail and the boat crossing were very enjoyable and added to the overall experience, it might be more expeditious to make an overland approach from the south. While private property would have to be negotiated, the steep descent from the plateau to Blue Creek looked like it would not be a problem.

Very often on such adventure routes, the climbing itself is pretty lackluster, not passing the "would anyone climb it if it were in Eldo?" test; this route passes the test. Starting from the saddle, we did five pitches, none of which were bad and two of which were very good. Our 3rd pitch, "the money", was outstanding, featuring square cut cracks and satisfying horizontal face holds; I thought this pitch was more enjoyable than the much-ballyhooed Center Route of Cynical Pinnacle; a candidate for best 5.9 crack pitch in Colorado.

If this route were in the Black Canyon proper, it would be very popular. Comparing it to routes of comparable length, I thought it was much better than Maiden Voyage, Leisure Climb, and Midsummer Night's Dream but not quite as good as Checkerboard Wall.

Our pitch breakdown, starting from the north end of the class 2 ledge that runs north from the saddle at the top of the scree gully (distances approximate):
100' ~5.6/7.
100' ~5.6/5.7.
40' Class 3 "move the belay".
80', 9-.
50', 5.8.
180' one 5.7 move.
All belay stances were pretty comfortable except for the one at the end of the crux pitch was just okay.

The rock is generally bomber (though P1 had some lichen).

The gully from the river to the saddle is pretty nasty with a lot of angle of repose talus and vegetation, but it is not very long and is easier going down than up.

Most of the harder climbing is in #3 & #4 Camalot sized cracks; I was glad to have two of the former and would have been quite unhappy without one of the latter. We encountered several fixed pins, but most were driven in less than half way and didn't inspire confidence.

Climbers for whom 5.9 is not very easy would probably be happy with a rack consisting of a set of nuts, 1 each 0.3 & 0.4 Camalot, doubles 0.5 - #3 Camalot, 1 #4 Camalot (such climbers would likely also not consider the final pitch to be a "scramble").

We found the descent to the saddle to be more involved than we'd expected.
The first rap anchors (two bolts) are about 30' below and 50' west of the summit -- you'll likely spot them while doing the last pitch.

Rap 1 is ~150' and ends at a large ledge with three bolts.
Rap 2 is 200' and ends about 40' above the final anchors. From here, make a loose class three traverse north about 30', and then switchback south to get to the 3rd set of anchors.
Rap three is about 70' and takes you to the ground.

Pulling the rope on the second rap is somewhat nerve wracking as the rope runs between two trees, one of which is in prime position for snagging. Our pulls went smoothly but still. Oct 2, 2016

We paddled in from the Pine Creek stairs.
About an hour paddling each way.

Climbed standard route:
hike to top of saddle,
go left a short distance on ledge.
100' 5.6 up & right to stance/ tree.
100' 5.7 up & left to big ledge.
Move belay +/- 100' left around arete.
100' beautiful 5.9 crack to belay by 2 rock spires.
80' beautiful 5.9 crack to summit.

We got stormed off the summit after the last technical pitch and had
to rap the route.

The route raps fine, but we stuck our double ropes after the last rap
and had to abandon our ropes. Storm drove us out. They were old and needed retiring anyway, but I hate to leave trash on the route. A case of beer to anyone who gets those ropes out and to a trash can. Just send photos.

Tommy C Jul 30, 2017
Nick Pinto
Carbondale, CO
Nick Pinto   Carbondale, CO
Awesome adventure. A SUP made for a pretty smooth approach.The upper pitches really are that good!

Next person up there should bring a pen and notebook, there’s a summit register tube with only a pair of eclipse glasses in there 8) Sep 13, 2017
For the second rappel, I would NOT use the triple bolt anchor (bolts placed on horizontal ledge without rings), but instead traverse ~20 feet north to a two bolt anchor with rings. This makes for a cleaner, easier pull. Oct 30, 2017