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Needle Peak - at last

Published by 360 Pro , 20 June 2016, 18h31.

Region: World » United States » California
Date of the hike: 4 September 2015
Hiking grading: T4 - High-level Alpine hike
Climbing grading: I (UIAA Grading System)
Geo-Tags: USA   US-CA 
Height gain: 1150 m 3772 ft.
Height loss: 1150 m 3772 ft.
Access to start point:Squaw Valley, one of the many parking lots there

For some peaks you need several trials in order to make it to the top. For me, Needle Peak falls into this category, it was on my goals as "plan for the day" 4 times. The 3 failures were never due to technical difficulties on the mountain. On this day, I finally made it.

The first time Needle Peak was on the goal list was *here, on that day we ran out of time and had to skip it. The second time I had plans to climb it was *here, where a combination of bad weather and frustration about blemished nature was to blame for not reaching the peak. The third attempt was a few weeks ago, on that day I received a phone call about 5 minutes after starting my hike and was told that I had to turn around immediately and come home, because some extremely important items (our friends wedding shoes) were left in the trunk of my car and had to be returned asap...

On this fourth trial, I start the hike in one of the many parking lots in Squaw Valley. I first follow the well marked Granite Chief Trail. In the saddle northeast of Granite Chief the trail joins up with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which I follow south to the top station of a chairlift there. From there I then hike up the southeast ridge of Granite Chief (class II, T3) to the top. It is very windy today and my break on this peak is only brief.

In order to get to Needle Peak I now follow the connecting ridge between the two peaks. Down to the next saddle I can more or less follow the ridge (where bushes or boulders don't block it). The next "bump" in the ridge I bypass on the south side. The final southeast ridge to Needle Peak has a few vertical drops and requires a few detours. The first drop is bypassed on the south-, the next on the north-side and the last climb to the very top is easiest from south (all together easy class III, T4/I). Check this picture for an illustration of the route.

For my way back to Squaw Valley I first retrace my steps to the southeast base of Granite Chief. Since I found out that P. 8774 north of Emigrant Pass on the US topo map actually has a name amongst locals and is considered "Emigrant Peak", I decide to climb to the top of this peak as well - a walk-up from west. From there I hike to the top station of the areal tramway and hope to take this cable car back down to Squaw Valley. However, I find the prices a little too steep and therefore decide to follow the not very steep Thunder Mountain Trail to the base instead ;-)

Hike partners: 360

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