Ascent of Milford Needle South on 2015-04-19

Climber: Ben Stokes

Others in Party:Sam Grant -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Greg Jagielski
Frank Nederhand
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, April 19, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Milford Needle South
    Elevation:9582 ft / 2920 m

Ascent Trip Report

We camped overnight at the trail head and started hiking around 7:30am. The route quickly degenerated into a heinous bushwhack. I don't know that I've ever been in a forest in Utah with that much dead fall. Perhaps the most remarkable part was that there were still live trees standing. Eventually the forest gave way to endless manzanita as we picked our way through bands of granite. Finally, we reached an impasse at 9300'. Sam and Greg decided to backtrack and attain Granite Peak via its keyhole and then traverse to the base of Milford Needle (right choice). Frank and I decided to break out our climbing gear and climb/bushwhack the final 250' to the base of the needle (wrong choice). The climb involved a couple pitches up a series of dihedrals choked with trees and bushes. The first pitch was 100' and about a 5.7+ and the second was 150' and maybe a 5.5. This was made a lot more difficult because I was still wearing my mountaineering boots.

Once we reached the base of Milford Needle, the actual climb consisted of two pitches. The first pitch was an extremely exposed traverse that led us to an SUV-sized chock stone. The traverse was 100' long and maybe a 5.5 but that included a 15' downclimb on textured granite that was heavily coated with lichen. It was not for the faint of heart. From the chock stone we needed to make our way around a corner to a chimney. In between the chimney and chock stone was about 8' of featureless wall with hundreds of feet of run out. In order to get to the chimney, our rope gun, Frank, had to climb down the exposed side of the chock stone and then make a lunge into the chimney. This was partially facilitated with a tension traverse off the belay anchor. Once in the chimney, he then had to make his way up about 15' and then onto the arete on the far side of the chimney. The arete led to a ledge from which it was possible to scramble to the top of the needle. I would rate the first portion of the pitch a 5.10 without the tension traverse or a 5.8+ A0 with the tension traverse. After the ledge, the remaining climb was a 5.5R owing to the complete lack of opportunities for protection. The entire pitch was about 90'. After Frank set up a top belay, Sam next cleaned the pitch and was lowered back down by Frank. Greg followed suit and I went last after which Frank and I rappelled the route. The rappel anchor consisted of a 240 cm sling girth hitched around a chock stone with a single O-shaped biner. Once we all successfully attained the summit, we made our way back to Granite Peak and then began the the multi-hour bushwhack back to the trail head.

Things to consider if you want to do this climb:

1) Plan on a minimum of 5 hours for the approach hike. The bushwhack element of the hike cannot be overstated.
2) Hike to Granite Peak first and then traverse to the base of Milford Needle. There is no shortcut.
3) This is a serious climb with extreme exposure. You will need a 60m rope, harnesses, a modest trad rack, climbing shoes, and a very experienced lead climber.
4) The rappel rig on the summit shifted when I used it. Fortunately Frank was there to watch it. It would probably be a good idea to install some pitons at the top and along the route.
5) To reiterate: The Milford Needle is a very serious undertaking. Even for a highly experienced climbing duo, plan on a minimum of 10 hours. While we were doing the climb, there were about 20 ravens wheeling about overhead waiting for lunch to present itself. Don't become their next big meal.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2482 ft / 756 m
    Total Elevation Loss:140 ft / 42 m
    Round-Trip Distance:2.6 mi / 4.2 km
    Grade/Class:YDS 5.10 or 5.8+ A0
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Bushwhack, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2482 ft / 756 m
    Distance:2.5 mi / 4 km
    Start Trailhead:7100 ft / 2164 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:140 ft / 42 m
    Distance:0.1 mi / 0.2 km
    End Trailhead:9442 ft / 2877 m
Ascent Part of Trip: Milford Needle

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Milford Needle South2015-04-192482 ft / 757 m
2Granite Peak2015-04-19340 ft / 104 m
Total Trip Gain: 2822 ft / 861 m    Total Trip Loss: 2820 ft / 860 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Ben Stokes
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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