New Route near Mt. Whitney in High Sierra

The new line sits south of the Third Needle. Photo by Bernd Zeugswetter

The new line sits south of the Third Needle. Photo by Bernd Zeugswetter

9/21/10 - In late August, Bernd Zeugswetter, Hjördis Rickert, and Greg Corliss established a new route near Mt. Whitney in the Sierra Nevada. The line ascends a narrow pillar just south of the Third Needle, encompassing 10 pitches of arête climbing, cracks, corners, and roofs. Read Zeugswetter's detailed account of the climb below. I've been looking at this line across Pinnacle Ridge for many years now, heading up and down the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek with clients on Whitney. It's an obvious, narrow pillar, bulging substantially in profile, but deceivingly straightforward viewed head-on. The thin spire is just south of Third Needle, with an obvious line up through two roofs on the upper section. From Owens Valley, it is distinguishable along the Whitney Crest as the needle just left and essentially part of Third Needle. This summer, my wife Hjördis Rickert, our friend Greg Corliss, and I went up to take a closer look. It took us three tries, in fact, once every full moon, with Grandma in tow to watch our 3-year-old son in camp at Whitney Portal. The rock gets better and better going up. We used a little aid to get through the roof section, and I have hopes to go back up before the snow to see what might still go free. As it stands, the free climbing pitches are good fun and go from 3rd class scramble to about 5.11, and what's there is quality aside from a bit of crumbly and loose stuff that is to be expected on a new route. It's a nice line on a super aesthetic pillar. We are referring to it as Fourth Needle. The first two pitches are very long and lead up over steep and varied terrain through one massive quartz band. Pitch three gets you to the base of the main pillar. The next three pitches climb the central part of the gray pillar by cracks and off-width up to 5.11. P7 traverses back left a little and goes up a finger crack and arête to an alcove. Then come the two crux pitches through a series of corners and roofs with a very thin crack for micro-nuts and knifeblades followed by another very steep and thin crack smack in the middle of the narrow pillar. One more pitch of easier climbing gets you to the top (10 pitches total.) Two knifeblades went in the narrow seams of the roof and one bolt was placed at the top of the roof pitch. More photos on my blog at

Date of ascent: August 21, 2010