Big Methow Needle of The Needles / 針峯羣裏的大梅特豪針峯

I have wanted to climb Big Methow Needle, or The Needles, for several years. But I couldn’t produce enough interest for a climbing partner. Then IGer Chandler agreed to go with me after we met for our first trip together.

Big Methow Needle's farewell
Big Methow Needle’s farewell

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Big Methow Needle at a Glance

Access: Lone Fir Campground
Round Trip: 6.1 miles
Elevation Range: 3640′-8160′
Gear: helmet, ice ax, crampons, rope, rock
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no

Pine Creek Trail

We carpooled to the North Cascades at the crack of dawn. Later we arrived at the pullout just south of Lone Fir Campground. Despite having three useful reports, we could not find the Pine Creek Trailhead. Two accounts gave the exact distances from the creek. But everywhere we looked were down trees. Oh well. At least we started in the sunshine.

Soon, we scrambled and hoped that the trail would appear at some point. As it turned out, it was farther from the creek than we thought. But we were happy to have found the path before we encountered more windfalls. We would sometimes lose the trail to down trees. But we were always able to locate the next section and continued.

Morning flow
Morning flow

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Getting Onto the South Ridge

At 4400′, the path dwindled above a small waterfall. There we found a steep log over Pine Creek and crossed to the other side. But then we went right into the arms of the large alder swatch. After trying two different spots to go around the mess but to no avail, we backtracked. Then we moved farther east in the forest in hope for some relief.

We went through more big logs while going north. Later we came upon some flagging amid the light brush. Then a faint trail led us above the alder swatch and out into the clearing at 4900′. Soon, we went through a small gully, a rib, and a waterfall ravine. So that put us on the ridge straight south of the east peak.

Crossing Pine Creek
Crossing Pine Creek

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Aiming for the Summit Tower

Later we lost the morning sunshine to the increasing clouds. But we kept our hopes up for the mostly sunny forecast ahead. We went up the steep ridge and snaked our way through the dense growth. Soon, terrain expanded. The downsloping slabs and scree now replaced the shrubs. It took some route finding to bypass them. At 6800′, we dodged the overhead cliffs from the west.

We soon had our first view of Big Methow Needle above the ridge. Then we dropped down a bit and sidestepped on the more moderate ground. Later we put on crampons when packed snow appeared. Glad we decided not to bring snowshoes for the trip. We went up on the southern slopes as the terrain slowly steepened. Snow conditions were perfect. But my stainless steel crampons couldn’t keep from sliding.

Big Methow Needle up ahead
Big Methow Needle up ahead

See more trip photos here.

Big Methow Needle Climb

The closer we were to the tower, the more suspicious I became. I had expected to see a row of towers from below. But it didn’t occur to me that that view was only possible from the southwest ridge. Soon, we made it up to the southwest gully, looking up at the massive needle. It was much more prominent than I thought! The snow line looked lower this year, but still doable. Then we started from the col.

At first, I wasn’t sure if the route went straight up. But all roads lead to Rome, no? Besides, Chandler was eager to lead. So off he went! After all, I had asked him to join me so he could do the hard work—wink wink. There were no decent holds to start. Then we went off-route on the second pitch by going to the far right. But we angled back later to reach the second anchor.

Big Methow Needle summit tower
Big Methow Needle summit tower

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Big Methow Needle Summit

Pitch 3 turned out to be the most enjoyable. I haven’t done any lie back move since the climbing gym days! From the third anchor, we then skipped the final pitch and scrambled up to the top. The summit ridge was narrow and airy, just like in the photos. As I prepared to take pictures, Chandler made his way toward the southern end. He knew where to go for his summit shot!

The sun has been out for a while, and it was shining brightly. At some point, clouds had shifted upward. So, at last, we had great views from the top. The Golden Slam was right next door. Plus, there was the rare sighting of the tucked away Holliway Mountain. Then to the north of Methow River were the beautiful Mount Ballard and Azurite Peak.

Southeastern panoramic view
Southeastern panoramic view

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Outro

We spent half an hour on top. Later we downclimbed to the third anchor. From there, we rappelled to the second belay station. Then we went down to the next platform. The third and final rappel got us down to the col. Glad we didn’t need to angle sideways like one report mentioned. But we made sure to back up every rappel with new webbing.

After packing up, we went back down the southern slopes. But plunge stepping with crampons on ended up being slow and overly arduous for me. In hindsight, I should have stepped down in boots with the ice ax. From the south ridge, we then followed our route to go back into the forest. Later we crossed Pine Creek to the south side and hiked out.

Thanks for another safe outing
Thanks for another safe outing

See more trip photos here.

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