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Ascent of Spanish Needle on 2021-04-17

Climber: Megan Birdsill

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, April 17, 2021
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Spanish Needle
    Location:USA-California
    Elevation:7841 ft / 2389 m

Ascent Trip Report

I'm proud of myself for this one, and have the cuts and bruises to show for it. The summit ridge and scrambling was fun but that traverse is nasty and I will never go back.

My personal experience/advice on this one is to give yourself plenty of time, keep your group really small (I was solo which presents its own challenges but maybe preferable on this terrain), and just go as slow as you want, one step or move at a time. Wear a helmet.

The slab didn't bother me at all - trust your boots! The jump across was bigger than I thought though and I thought about taking my pack off but in the few seconds of consideration I could feel my anxiety raise and knew it would just get worse so I quickly counted to three and made myself go for it. When I left the summit I grabbed my pack and jumped before I gave myself any time to look or think about it. Mat Kelliher & Matt Hengst's trip reports helped me route-find through the summit area.

Perfect weather - this was the perfect day for this adventure. All the snow and ice is melted off but it's still cool, sunny with occasional clouds, light breeze. I brought four liters and drank three. I would have had a bit more but was pushing to finish for the last mile and didn't want to stop for a refill.

I arrived at 9:30pm the night before and slept in my car at the 'trailhead' in Lamont Meadows.
8:40am start
11:30am PCT junction
12pm cliffed out, cactus encounter on retreat, freaked a bit and almost turned back. Calmed down and reasoned I'd not do anything I wasn't comfortable with, and see how far I'd get by my turnaround time (1:30-2pm). Honestly, I really didn't think I'd summit at this point but I was out for adventure and had all day so might as well keep on keeping on. I laughed when I saw the occasional cairn because it all was pretty horrendous.
1:15pm finished the traverse, arrived at the summit ridge saddle
1:48-2pm Summit. According to the register, first ascent of the season.
4pm PCT junction. 100-150ft below the saddle I had one more obstacle to cross (yet another downed tree). While standing on it I heard the wood crack and went flying bc it's so steep. I hit the ground twice, first on my back, gathered speed, but then landed on my right shoulder, and my head bounced off the ground. Thanks helmet! I had dirt in my mouth. I should have looked at what happened more closely but I was spooked and just wanted to get to that saddle and be back to the boring pleasant terrain so I jumped up and climbed that final steep sandy gully. I've never taken a tumble like that and plan to never do so again.
6:10pm back to car, gave myself a wet-wipe bath, looked for ticks, and changed clothes. Drove to Chimney Creek Campground. I was the only person there, had a small fire, and hung out in my hammock. It was so cold and peaceful. The exact weekend I wanted/needed, even with the bruises...
Summary Total Data
    Round-Trip Distance:10.8 mi / 17.4 km
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
Ascent Statistics
    Distance:5.6 mi / 9 km
    Time:5 Hours 10 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Distance:5.2 mi / 8.4 km
    Time:4 Hours 10 Minutes



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