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Cleopatra's Needle Area
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Cleopatra's Needle, East Face 

YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a A3

Type:  Trad, Aid, 3 pitches, 275', Grade III
Original:  YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a A3 [details]
FA: Mark Powell, Jerry Gallwas, Don Wilson,
Page Views: 4,859
Submitted By: toddgordon Gordon on May 5, 2007

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Cleo. Photo; Todd Gordon

Closed. MORE INFO >>>


This climb is 3 pitches. The formation just sort of jets out of a flat field;..there are dirt roads directly to the base of the formation. The first pitch (climbs the pedestal) starts on the right side of the East Face and diagonals up and left to a ledge at the base of the actual steep "headwall" section. The first pitch is sort of loose, sort of junky, and about 5.8. Pitch two is where the "business" starts; make a 5.9 move to a ledge, traverse right to the main crack and start aid climbing (A2 on cams and wires) to a bolt ladder (about 5 bolts), then back to the crack (A1) to a sling belay from 3 bolts. The last pitch is wild, in that you are climbing a fin of rock that is probably only 6-10 feet thick to the other side!.....(It's wide enough and you don't even realize just how thin it is until you get to the top and straddle the summit.) The last pitch opens up a bit, to about 2 1/2 Friend size (many)...and ends up at bolts (and pins?) on the tiny summit. Rappel to the top of pitch one, then to the ground.


East of the small town of Sawmill on dirt roads. There are ranches and cattle/sheep in this area;...If you are visiting to view these wonderful spires, close gates, be low key, park away from spires in pullouts on main dirt road, etc. Eric's Desert Rock has a detailed description of how to get to Cleo.


Cams (extra small/medium), wires, ...we used no pitons.

Photos of Cleopatra's Needle, East Face Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Probably the skinniest spire in the World.  Photo:...
Probably the skinniest spire in the World. Photo:...
Rock Climbing Photo: From the mesa to the east
From the mesa to the east
Rock Climbing Photo: The east face route on Cleo's.
The east face route on Cleo's.
Rock Climbing Photo: The east face route on Cleo's.
The east face route on Cleo's.

Comments on Cleopatra's Needle, East Face Add Comment
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By toddgordon Gordon
From: Joshua Tree, California
May 5, 2007

This climb is most outrageous and outstanding. It is a remarkable formation, and I doubt that on the whole planet earth there is another such spire. I climbed this spire with Brian Povolny in Nov. of 1982; we were both residents of the Reservation at the time. The last pitch is probably only 6-10 feet thick through the spire, but because it is sort of a wide fin, is has SOME structural integrity. Someday this formation will melt away, and that will be that. It is elegant and beautiful to look at, and the climbing is exciting and fun enough. The route climbs natural lines on good enough rock (It IS sandstone.) I did this climb back in Nov. of 1982, with Brian Povolny. We drove right to the base, racked up on the bumper of the truck, and went about our business. We saw no locals or others that day of our ascent. The ascent went without any problems. My heart skipped a beat when at the top, grabbing a wad of slings, one of the anchor pins (or bolts...can't remember which) pulled out;..that was sort of scary. Sitting on the top, straddling the summit fin, is a trip, and only then do you really realize just what you are on top really have no idea just how skinny and thin the whole thing is until you reach the top. As you near the top, you can start to see through the crack to the other side, and feel the wind blow through the whole formation, so you kind of have a hint as to the thinness of the spire as you get close to the summit. Cleopatra's Needle is fantastic. Bill Forrest and Kris Walker did a route on the West Face (5.10 A3) in 1971. The area around the spire is sort of half forest and half cattle country;'s not in the stark barren desert area like Monument Valley. The town of Sawmill nearby ain't called Sawmill for nothing...there are pine trees all about, and it's rather cold here in the winter months.
By Steve "Crusher" Bartlett
Apr 2, 2014

Also goes in two pitches, via the central crack (line of the original ascent). 1: 5.choss and some easy aid to the big ledge. 2: 5.9 move to smaller ledge, clean aid (maybe C2) to top. Mostly 1/2" to 1" parallel crack with larger pods from old piton ascents. Bring LOTS of wires, larger sizes, ~BD 6-12, and selection of cams (2 each up to ~3", few extra around Yellow/Red Alien size). No hammer needed (though we used one to help clean a few of the wires that seemed to seat themselves real tight). Outrageous quality, both the tower itself and that amazing second pitch.

Anyone interested in climbing this should be experienced, competent and self-reliant both on the ground and up on the rock (this is a remote area with NO rescue facilities, limited services, some loose/soft rock) and should contact the local climbers of the Dine Climbers Coalition, who graciously showed us around, arranged agreement with the grazing-rights holders, made our stay on the rez a fun and inspiring experience.

You can contact (Quentin told me it was OK to put his email here) Quentin Tutt:

Or send me a message via mountain project for more details.

Lastly, to the party from Colorado (one male, other a "tall" female) who recently climbed this and left lawn-lights on the summit: this was not appreciated by the local residents nor the local climbers. Access here is opening up just a bit, but the future is uncertain; a serious accident or thoughtless behavior might close it right down again. Please, this is one place to climb with respect for the rock and the locals, keep a low profile, and to follow Leave-no-trace ethics.

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