Posts Tagged ‘Weaver’s Needle’

Weaver's Needle

The Weaver’s Needle is a classic Arizona landmark located in the Superstition Wilderness, east of Phoenix. A spire standing 4553 feet tall made from volcanic rock that juts out of the surrounding desert which can be seen from as far away as the Catalinas and the Mogollon Rim. I have admired it from many angles on many different trails, so when I found out a couple of years ago that it was a fairly low-level technical climb to reach the summit,  I began researching the route. However, I would need to find someone to lead the climb. When I was on my Royal Arch Loop in the Grand Canyon last October, Kent mentioned that he’d climbed it and that he’d be willing to do it again. Well, I wasn’t going to let  an offer like that go to waste, so I suggested that we try to climb it around my birthday, February 16. We invited Steve, who had been on the Royal Arch Loop with us, and John, who I know from HikeArizona.com. Another climber, Dave, was planning on joining us, but got sick right before the climb. He was kind enough to loan me some gear and a camera- thanks Dave! My camera had stopped working after enduring a sandstorm at The Wave the previous week. (Report coming soon- I am still going through the myriad pictures I took in Southern Utah.) After months of anticipation, the day was finally here and four of us met at the Peralta Trailhead at 7am on February 26 to start our adventure.

Kent, John, Steve and me at Peralta Trailhead

Kent had previously climbed it from the east side, and he said that the off-trail approach was nasty and filled with catclaw. On the west side, the climb was a little more difficult but the approach to the base was all on the Peralta Trail. We got hiking at 7:15 am up the Peralta Trail toward Fremont Saddle. This is one of the most popular trails in the Phoenix area, but overcast skies and a forecast calling for a slight chance of rain in the afternoon were enough to keep the hordes away and as a result, we only saw a couple of groups of hikers all day! I was impressed from the start- I had never been on the Peralta Trail before and didn’t realize that it was surrounded by hoodoos and other interesting rock formations. The trail wove through the surprisingly lush creek. There were some gigantic Sugar Sumac that were towering trees, rather than the smaller bushes I’m accustomed to seeing. As the trail climbed toward Fremont Saddle, there were great views south to Picketpost Mountain, near Superior. We reached the saddle at 8:30 and I got my first view of today’s objective. Here’s a video from Fremont Saddle:

Kent on the "sidewalk" of the Peralta Trail

Weaver's Needle from Fremont Saddle

It was an impressive sight, the “classic view” of Weaver’s Needle, looking like an improbable climb for anyone but a skilled climber from this angle. We took a short break and then continued down from the saddle, going in and out of green areas near the creek. As we neared Pinyon Camp, the two summits of the Needle came into view. The trip reports and route descriptions I’d read said the climber’s route crosses the creek at a cairn after you pass the hoodoos on the side of Weaver’s Needle. There is another trail, the Weaver’s Needle Crosscut, that is cairned that takes off to the east just before you pass the hoodoos, don’t take that one and continue to the next one located at N33° 25.769′ W111° 22.568′. The two summits and the gully between them were clearly visible and the route up to the gully is a well beat-in path that quickly gains elevation. We could see two other climbers that had taken a wrong turn and ended up near the lone saguaro. The route goes to the left of the rock outcropping that the lone saguaro sits upon.

Pinyon Camp- the two summits come into view

On the climber's route

We reached the gully and the start of the scramble and stashed our hiking poles. The rock was good, grippy, and solid up to the base of the first pitch.

Start of the scramble

View from the base of the first pitch

John in his element

The other climbers were making their way up the chockstone pitch and we waited as they climbed. The overcast skies had been a boon on our hike up, I can imagine that is a toasty climb most of the year. Now we were literally chillin’  in the shade. The views were good but the waiting did nothing to calm my nerves. I knew the pitch wasn’t terribly technical, but this being only my second outdoor climb  (my first was Baboquivari, 2 years ago), it was a bit intimidating looking all the way up to the chockstone. Have I mentioned that I’m afraid of heights? I am, but I find that if I push through all the nervousness that I am always rewarded with an amazing adventure. Thankfully there were probably less people than usual trying to climb today because of the marginal rain in the forecast. Finally it was our turn and Kent got on his climbing shoes and began leading the climb up to the chockstone. It was all going well until one of Kent’s pieces of protection came out of the wall and sliding down the rope. Thankfully, he was able to adjust and make it up the pitch and under the chockstone. Kent set up a toprope, and Steve went next, collecting the pieces that Kent had put in as he went up.

Kent gets ready to lead the first pitch

Up the first pitch

Steve belays Kent, who has almost reached the chockstone

Now it was my turn. I was a little flustered getting started and John was great and talked me through it. Once I got started, I was fine, and the climbing wasn’t too hard at all- kind of like climbing a ladder. A ladder that is 180 feet tall. The climb to the chockstone is rated “easy 5th class”.   I had a mantra “Place my feet, place my hands” that helped me get a rhythm going and I concentrated on the task at hand and tried not to look down. There were several good places to take a rest and breathe for a second before continuing. I could see that I was nearing the chockstone and I saw Steve’s smiling face through the hole, ready to help if I needed to take my pack off to wriggle under the chockstone. Fortunately, both me and my pack fit through and the crux of the climb was over with! The notch between the two summits above the chockstone was windy and surprisingly roomy and I sat down to wait for John to come up. John chose to go to the right of the chockstone, a move rated 5.2. Under the chockstone is a 5.0 and up to the left of the chockstone is rated a 5.4.

Up the 1st pitch

View from the top of the chockstone

There was a vertical 15 foot wall and I chose to get a belay on it after feeling slightly uncomfortable on the first couple moves without one. I figure, we’ve got the rope, why not? Then we had an interesting scramble up a gully that was not exposed at all. Finally we reached the base of the final scramble, which I knew from reading had wonderful hand and foot holds, but was eerily exposed and I again asked for a belay. The view from that pitch was incredible for the second I allowed myself to look as I climbed up the “bomber jugs” while using colorful language to ease the tension. (I can often gauge how challenging a trip is by the amount of swear words I use- it’s a coping mechanism I guess.) I reached the top of the final scramble and walked up the final short slope to the summit.

Kent and Steve scramble up the final pitch

At the summit, looking down the final slope before the summit- Peralta Trail visible in the valley below.

I can’t believe I’m standing on top of the Weaver’s Needle!!! The views were phenomenal- if a little bit hazy-here’s a video:

I made it!

Kent throws a Wendy with Steve and John on the summit

I could see so many different landmarks from the summit- Four Peaks, the Catalinas and Pusch Ridge, Battleship Mountain, Canyon Lake, the Superstition Ridgeline, Picketpost- too many to name them all. I could also see the path of Segment 1 of the Grand Enchantment Trail that I’d hiked last year through the Supes. The one Arizona landmark that I couldn’t see was the Weaver’s Needle- because I was standing on top of it! We made great time and were on the summit shortly after 1 pm. As we were admiring the scenery, a plane closely circled us several times. There is the sweetest little campsite on top, complete with a windbreak. I aspire to sleep on this spire someday.

View from the summit, showing the small campsite- Four Peaks in the distance

This plane circled us a couple of times


We had lunch and signed the register and all too soon it was time to head back down. We were pleased that the marginal chance of rain had not materialized and it looked like it was going to stay clear for our descent to the trail. That’s all I cared about, once we were on the trail, it could rain, snow, hail, or all three- which it ended up doing later that evening but long after we’d left the trailhead. I was glad that we were able to avoid downclimbing the pitches that we’d scrambled up by rappelling down. We went to the first rappel station and Kent went first. I felt pretty good about the rappel, even though part of it was a free rappel and I was just hanging in the air, letting myself down. I’d never done that before and Kent got a great shot of me in action.

Kent sets up the first rappel- the lower spire's summit is visible above his head and Fremont Saddle is above that

Peralta Trail visible waaaay below

Free Rappel

We did have to scramble down the gully to the top of the 15′ step and I took my time, singing the “Get down, get down” part from the song Jungle Boogie to amuse myself while descending. The scariest moment of the whole day was when someone dislodged a rock above me and when I heard Steve yell “rock!” I froze into position and a softball-sized rock bounced inches from my hand. Now having a crushed hand is no fun for anyone, but I am a massage therapist and my livelihood depends on having non-crushed, non-mangled hands. It would have been a very bad thing.  When we reached the top of the chockstone, I began to get nervous again. The trip reports I’d read said it was a little tough to start the rappel off the chockstone because you have to find a way to swing under it without hitting yourself on it on the way down. John went to the right of the chockstone and I wasn’t crazy about how it looked, and Steve tried the left side, which looked better, but was kind of tricky to maneuver into position to start. When it was my turn, I opted for the left, but got a little panicky on my way over to start the rappel. I couldn’t feel the tension on the rope, but once I moved as far over as I could I was able to feel the rope holding me and take my first couple of steps down the wall before swinging under the chockstone. As with the other times I’d been nervous today, once I got going, I was fine. The rappel took the entire length of a 60 meter (180′) rope and I made it down to the base of the climb without incident and even had quite a bit of fun! Kent did the rappel in two stages and we were finally done with the technical part of the climb. I had chosen at the beginning of the day to not bring along climbing shoes and there was not one point in the day where I missed having them. A little more scrambling and we were back to our hiking poles and headed down the narrow climber’s path toward the Peralta Superhighway.

Looking back at the route

We reached the Peralta Trail at 4:15 and stopped to refuel for the final leg of our journey, 4 miles back to the trailhead. We asked Kent now that he’d done both routes to the top, how they compared. He said that the climbing was appreciably easier on the east side, but that the Peralta approach with no brush to fight was the only way he’d do it again. An hour later, we were at Fremont Saddle, which we had to ourselves. John said that on a normal Saturday, there are crowds of people at the saddle- lucky us!

Weaver's Needle- so different once you've stood on top!

Peralta Trail

We got back to the trailhead just as the light was fading, 11 hours after we’d started. What a perfect day- the scenery, climb, and the camaraderie were all top-notch. After saying good-bye to John and thanking Kent for doing such a fantastic job of leading the trip, Steve and I headed back toward Tucson. We stopped at the River Bottom Saloon “On the banks of the mighty Gila River” for some fish and chips. Quite tasty, plus we got to see a slice of Florence nightlife, which provided some entertainment in the form of a bachelorette party going on in the next room. I got back home 16  hours after I’d left the house- what a day! Now for the rest of my life, when I see the Weaver’s Needle- while driving, hiking, flying, whenever- I will get that inimitable feeling knowing that I have stood on top. Our timing was just right- the following day this is what the Weaver’s Needle looked like!

Charger55 from HikeArizona.com got this picture of a snowy Weaver's the day after our climb

Here’s a link to the full set of pictures:

Weaver’s Needle Summit 2-26-10

I have several bits of exciting news on the Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser front! First, a big thanks to the folks at Heritage Highlands, I recently gave a slideshow presentation about my Royal Arch trip in the Grand Canyon and they were very generous with donations for Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson. I am also excited to announce that I have a date and venue nailed down for the Birds, Blues, and Bellydance fundraising event. It will be held Saturday, May 7th in the evening at Sky Bar on Fourth Avenue. I will be having a Great-Horned Owl, a Harris Hawk, and an Elf Owl from the rehab out for people to meet, there will be live blues, and there will be performances by several Tucson-area bellydancers, including yours truly. So save the date- it’s going to be a blast! For today’s Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser picture, here’s a picture of one of the birds that will be at the event- “Elfie” the adorable Elf Owl:

"Elfie" the Elf Owl thanks you for your donations!

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My original plan for this week was to start hiking the Grand Enchantment Trail in the Superstitions from Roger’s Trough to First Water Trailhead, the western terminus of the GET. Again, this strange winter weather we’re having hampered my plans. A storm had dumped yet another bunch of rain on an already saturated landscape, and as a result, there were several creek crossings that were either washed out or impassable. I decided to be flexible and re-arranged my plans to spend three days going from the Tortilla Trailhead to First Water instead, about 25 miles. It left an 11-mile stretch that I will have to come back and complete at another time. I now have an excuse to come back…

Starting at the Tortilla Trailhead

My shuttle person for this trip was Shawn Redfield, a recent retiree who will be starting a thru-hike of the Arizona Trail in the coming weeks. We had a nice time talking about his planning for his hike- I am so excited for him to experience the AZT in it’s entirety. After Shawn dropped me off, I had to walk an access road into the Superstition Wilderness for 3 miles, then another mile to reach the Grand Enchantment Trail. Even the access road was pretty, and I enjoyed taking in an area which I’d never seen before. I soon came across three dayhikers, one who was carrying the sole of his shoe in his hand. These were the only people I saw all day. The recent rains meant that every wash and tiny rivulet was running, and the hillsides shone with small cascades of water.

Snowy Four Peaks-click to enlarge

I reached the Tortilla Ranch area, and entered the Superstition Wilderness on the unsigned JF Trail. It was about a mile to reach the Grand Enchantment Trail route, which uses the Hoolie Bacon Trail in this area. Both the JF and Hoolie Bacon trails were named after ranchers in the area. I have only hiked in the eastern Superstitons, which are higher elevation and have a different feel than the western part. But both are interminably rocky.

Entering the Superstition Wilderness

Unabated rockiness of the Superstitions

JF and Hoolie Bacon Jct.

Once I was on the Hoolie Bacon Trail, I had to cross Tortilla Creek several times, but was able to make it across with some creative rock-hopping. Tortilla Creek was more than knee-deep in places, so I was happy that I could make it across without getting in. Most of the crossings were not so bad.

Tortilla Creek

After I crossed Tortilla Creek for the last time, I loaded up with 3 liters of water, because I was not sure of the availability of water on the Hoolie Bacon Trail. I shouldn’t have worried, parts of the trail had water cascading down the middle of the trail, some with pools large enough to filter water from. As a trailbuilder, I must say that the Hoolie Bacon Tr. could use some water control structures. Can I get a nick or a waterbar? I saw on my Grand Enchantment Trail map that there was a “viewful saddle” coming up at Horse Ridge. I prefer ridgetop camps to canyon camps, so I was looking forward to seeing what was in store.

Campsite View

Perfect! Views north to the  4 Peaks, incredible views south and west, plus a small wall constructed as a windbreak for my sleeping area. Home for the night. I enjoyed my dinner while watching the sun set, then read some of my book about Ernest Shackelton’s Antarctic adventures before falling asleep. After reading Shackelton, it’s kind of hard to complain that you’re cold at night. I could hear the water rushing down in the valley below as bats chirped overhead.

Ridgetop Camp

Sunset view to the south

During the night, I had a vivid dream that there was a silver and blue robotic praying mantis that attached itself to my eye and I had to rip it off with both hands. When I awoke the next morning, my right eyelid was all swollen and tender and I wondered what on earth it was that bit me in the middle of the night. I still think that sleeping under the stars is worth waking up with a strange bite every now and then. I decided to lounge around in camp for a while, reading, writing in my journal, and doing some yoga.

At about 10:30 am, I finally got moving and headed south on the Hoolie Bacon Trail toward the Red Tanks junction. Along the way, there were some very interesting rock formations in the distance.

I took a break at the Red Tanks Jct. and saw one backpacker, he looked pretty surprised to see a solo female backpacker.  He asked if I was alone, and I answered: “Are you?” We exchanged a few words, and then I was on my way toward the Upper La Barge Box. What a beautiful area!! The canyon had large, dramatic walls with a beautiful stream rushing through it and I saw my first wildflowers of the year.

Western Spiderwort

First poppy of the year!

Desert Anemone?

I took my time hiking through the La Barge Box, taking a bunch of pictures and enjoying the scenery. There was a little campsite about halfway in, it would be a beautiful place to camp, but I wanted to get some more miles in so that I didn’t have such a long day tomorrow. Once out of the Upper La Barge Box, the Red Tanks Trail began crossing and recrossing the stream many times. I decided to hike the last couple miles to La Barge Spring in my camp shoes. It was interesting how I had to walk differently without my boots for support- it slowed me down, but was not at all uncomfortable as long as I paid attention to where I was placing my feet.  The weather was perfect for a refreshing splash across the creek time and time again.

Looking back at the Upper La Barge Box

Hiking in my camp shoes!

Soon, I reached La Barge Spring, and I walked past one person’s campsite to see if there were any other good campsites nearby. It turned out the only good site in the area was not too far away from the occupied campsite, so I decided to try and find the person that was camping there before making a decision. I met Randy from Prescott, he was surprised to see anyone out there during the week, especially a woman. I talked to him for a bit and decided to make my camp at the other campsite. Randy seemed friendly and after eating dinner, I went back over to his camp and we talked for a while. He was very knowledgeable about the history of the area I was hiking through and told me all sorts of interesting stories.

I had to put my tent fly up because of condensation from the creek, and I read a little before falling asleep. I was awoken from a dead sleep by the sound of a helicopter flying right overhead and shining a light onto my tent. It freaked me out! By the time I realized what was happening, it was gone. I had seen a helicopter looking for someone all day, and I was surprised that they hadn’t been found yet.

The next morning, everything sparkled with dew, and I soon reached the Dutchman Trail, which I would take until I reached my car at First Water Trailhead.

Morning dew near La Barge Spring

I hiked in my camp shoes again, because the trail kept crossing La Barge Creek. Soon I reached Charlebois Spring (pronounced “Charlie Boy” by the locals), a very deep pool that has water even in the driest of times. I saw a lot of pottery sherds and stone tool-making fragments in the area, so I decided to go hunting around for petroglyphs. I looked and looked, and was just about to give up and leave, when I saw Dale, the only person I would see all day. He had just come from seeing petroglyphs in the area and told me where to find them.

Fairy Duster

Pottery sherd

Flake from toolmaking- "Percussion bulb" at top where the flake was struck

I took a video of the petroglyphs, and I was playing around on YouTube to put some music with it. It had a “choose random song” option and this is what it picked. I don’t know why, but this really cracked me up, so I left it.

After all the fun near Charlebois Spring, I continued on the Dutchman Trail, and got my very first close-up view of the Weaver’s Needle. WOW!! The Needle is a giant spire that is 4553 ft elevation at it’s highest point. I have seen it from as far as Oracle and Payson but never been anywhere near it. What I really would like to do is climb it- I have read up on it and the hardest pitch is rated a 5.4. I have climbed a 5.6 on Baboquivari Peak, so I think it is within my abilities.

Me and the Needle

I had great views of the Needle the whole way back to the trailhead. As I neared First Water Trailhead and the western terminus of the Grand Enchantment Trail, I kept waiting to run into other hikers, because this is a very popular trailhead right outside of Phoenix. Amazingly, I saw no one, not even in the parking lot. I kept waiting for the trail to get less rocky as I got closer to First Water, but the Supes stayed rocky till the end. My feet felt like they had been beaten with hammers from the last three rocky days of hiking. It was all worth it, though. I am so impressed by the route the Grand Enchantment Trail takes through the Superstitions. What a rocky, rugged, wonderful place.

One last look- click to enlarge

It’s baby bunny time at the Miller’s Wildlife Rehabilitation- we have about 10 of these tiny guys right now and more to come as spring is almost here.

Tiny sleepy baby bunny

Palm-sized bunny

Your donation helps feed and house these bunnies, along with all the other birds and animals at the Miller’s Wildlife Rehab.

You can see the full set of pictures from this trip here:

Grand Enchantment Trail Segment #1 3-2-10

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