Red Needle 2x RS
Pinnacle 2x RS
Peak 2,740ft P300 RS
Peak 3,620ft

Sat, Feb 19, 2022

With: Patrick O'Neill
Tom Grundy
Iris Ma
Tom Becht
Bob Cable

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX
Red Needle previously climbed Fri, Dec 17, 2021
Pinnacle previously climbed Fri, Dec 17, 2021


Red Needle

It was grudge match time. TomG and I had visited Red Needle a few months earlier without any climbing gear, knowing it was a difficult summit. It was mostly a recon visit, and we backed off after examining the crux up close. Today we would come back with rope and gear to do things properly. This volcanic needle, composed of loose, conglomerate material, sits on a sandstone base and is located on the east side of Las Vegas, northwest of Lake Las Vegas. The first known ascent was by Bob Cable and partner in 1999. In an email exchange, Bob had shared a hand-drawn topo he'd made of it, but didn't remember much detail after more than 20yrs. I'd been wanting to meet Bob ever since I'd found he'd made an ascent of Monument Peak in the Whipple Mtns. His name is found ubiquitously in the registers throughout the Las Vegas area, so I figured he was a local and invited him to join our crew. I was happy when he accepted the offer despite very short notice (like me, he's retired with a very flexible schedule), and agreed to meet us in the morning at our rendevous point at Terrazza Park. He was a fine addition to our usual group and we all enjoyed his company a great deal. He seemed to be having fun as well, and happily joined us on a few bonus peaks afterwards.

Six of us piled into the two Jeeps at Terrazza Park and drove the 15min or so on the non-obvious route from the south to reach it (there are actually two way to get there from the south, the GPX track has our exit route which doesn't work if the gate at Lake Las Vegas Pkwy is locked). We parked under one of the transmission towers that run past Red Needle on the east side, less than a ten minute walk from the base of the feature. There are even closer places one can drive to, but the additional effort hardly seems necessary. In his book, Rambles & Scrambles, Purcell states, "It's not reasonable to climb the feature without the use of aid", a bold but untrue statement. Bob had climbed it on the first ascent without aid and gave it a 5.7 rating, though that may be a bit sandbagged. Our plan was to have TomG lead the route, particularly the crux at the crumbly, vertical crack, the others to follow in turn. I knew that I wasn't going to be able to climb the crack from our previous visit, so I brought along a couple sets of ascenders to help with that part. TomG had also brought along his drone for some possible footage of the climb. Beyond that, there wasn't much discussion beside TomG explaining to Patrick how to fly the drone. I wandered up to the start of the crack using the easier route to the right of the spooky class 3-4 step described by Purcell, TomB following me, and waited for the others to join. With Iris belaying, the climb went fairly quickly, taking TomG about 15min to make his way to the summit (about 40ft up), most of that spent placing a few pieces of pro to protect the crux and then surmounting it. Patrick, never having flown a drone before, did what I thought was a remarkable job of manuevering the thing to capture much of TomG's efforts.

Once TomG had established an anchor at the summit, I went up second using the prussik slings I had brought, aided by a pair of TomG's ascenders. There was some more drone footage of this 15min effort, then the drone went silent - seems the batteries in the controller wore out and without additional training on how to correct it, that was the end of the drone. The summit area is small and filled with loose material. TomG was belaying from just below the highpoint, so I sat as still as I could manage at the summit while TomB came up in a similar fashion. Iris came up fourth, freeing through the crux in fine style, taking half the time that TomB or I took. With four of us at the summit now, that was about as much room as could be had without ovestressing the load limits (or more accurately, the space limitations). TomB was lowered back down the ascent route to make room for BobC to come up. Like Iris, he chose to do the climb free, though he had a bit more trouble and ended up with some bloodied legs. This provided some amusement/concern, but he seemed none the worse for the wear and was in good spirits. Patrick decided not to join us, so all that was left was to get four of us back off the summit along with most of our gear. It was decided to have the rest of us rappel off the SE side to make it easier to pull the rope. TomG and I had looked at this side on our previous visit as a possible alternate way up. If it weren't for the loose nature of the conglomerate rock, TomG thought it could be better. Iris went down first on a single strand of the rope while TomB belayed with the other strand as back up. After this, TomG reset the rope for a double strand rappel that BobC, myself, and TomG used in turn, all down the SE side. It was close to 11a by the time TomG finished up the rappel and had coiled the rope, and by 11:15a we were all back at the Jeeps with our gear.


TomG and I had visited this one was on that first visit, but since it was such a nice scramble, we insisted we should all do it again. After all, it's only a few minutes south of Red Needle. We moved the Jeeps and ourselves to an easier starting point on Pinnacle's east side, going up from there. Iris was leading the group up without a shred of beta on where to go. She wandered up to the north side to look it over (the standard route goes up the east side). Behind her, TomG and I thought what came to be known as the Ma Variation would make for an interesting start, so up we went. It was steep but solid scrambling that quickly rejoins the standard route. Patrick would join the three of us on the variation while TomB and BobC dispensed with the nonsense and zipped up the east side to pass us rather easily. Still, it was less than 20min from the car to get all six of us to the top. We signed the register, took some photos of Red Needle from our vantage point, and headed back down the east side.

Hummel Peak

BobC must have been enjoying his time with us since he offered up another nearby peak we could climb, rather than bolt back to Las Vegas when he had the chance. Hummel Peak is a PB-only summit about half a mile south of Pinnacle. There is a trail going to the summit starting from Terrazza Park, about 2mi in length. We could have made this considerably shorter by starting from the dirt road we exited on, but we were back at the park before this was fully realized. No matter, it makes for a very pleasant walk, and appears quite popular - there were a half dozen other parties we came upon enroute. The first half mile of the route is a paved path, first going over Las Vegas Wash (the treated outflow of the city on its way back to Lake Mead) on a bridge before forking off onto a good trail. It took us about 40min to reach the summit with views of Lake Las Vegas and the expected American flag found at any Nevada summit with a trail going to it. An ammo box held a busy geocache. We had a nice break at the top for snacks and views before returning back to the park in a similar amount of time. A child at heart, Iris couldn't help enjoying some of the park features upon our return.

Peak 2,740ft

That was enough for BobC, Patrick and TomB. While BobC headed home, the latter two headed to Patrick's hotel in Henderson for showers. It wasn't yet 3p and I thought there was time for a few more summits. Iris and TomG seemed to agree. We dropped TomG's truck off at a Chevron along E Lake Mead Pkwy, then took the Jeep into the River Mtns south of Lake Las Vegas. I had been to the River Mtns on several previous occasions, most recently with Iris and Tom back in December to the southern part of the range. I was interested in a couple of unnamed summits of minor consequence, and offered up the range HP (a summit I visited in 2016) as enticement to the others. In perusing the satellite views, I had found a Jeep trail that would get us close to the summits, and I found it a fun driving exercise, too. The route from the nearby neighborhoods is completely unsigned until one enters the Lake Mead NRA, but the satellite view had served well in identifying a way to reach it. We parked less than a quarter mile from Peak 2,740ft on its northeast side, and took less than 15min to climb to the summit over easy terrain. There is a very large cairn and a register that contains advertisements for the idea that the covid vaccine is the Mark of the Beast prophesized in the Book of Revelation - heady stuff, but we had another peak to visit before we could ponder such things.

Peak 3,620ft

With time running low, we returned to the Jeep and drove another 20min to the end of the road near the crest of the range where a transmission line runs over it. It took about 10min for the three of us to hike up to the saddle with a view of Lake Mead. Peak 3,620ft was about 1/3mi to the north, the range HP about 3/4mi to the south. Iris turned south to begin that one on her own while Tom and I went up to Peak 3,620ft along the easy gradient of the ridgeline. It took us only 15min to reach the summit, whereupon Tom turned to catch up with Iris on her way to River Mountain BM. I took a more leisurely pace back to the Jeep, returning there by 4:30p. I hung out in the fading sun for about 40min before the two of them were through. It would be fairly dark on the drive back out, but we'd made the most of the day's remaining light. I drove them back to Tom's truck and then headed back to the Travelodge in Las Vegas where I was staying with my wife for the weekend...

Video of BobB prussiking crux


Gimpilator comments on 03/08/22:
I think Red Needle is not climbed much. It's a very memorable route and unusual feature for the area. Have been patiently awaiting your report. Congrats to the group, and what a treat to be joined by the first ascensionist.
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