By: Henry Heusinkveld
Weavers Needle is a Class 4 peak (a must-do at the bottom of your list) but it never seems to be DPS-led, so private parties, anchored by a good climber, sally out quietly to do it, leaving us, the rank and file duffers, to our own strategms. Friend, Ed Treacy, had given me assurance that I and my cohorts could manage this peak handily, owing to a 1-1/2 inch hauser that was installed at the 50-foot pitch to be used as a prussik belay.
Although I had deported myself acceptably on previous rock climbing events, I certainly never have claimed to be a rock climbing leader, so was understandably concerned over groundwork preparations. The day before leaving I assembled a host of climbing gear including a fine 150' rope, slings and hard hats. I practiced the various knots and rope handling techniques.
The Weavers Needle assault group consisted of Dick and Shirley Akawie, Don McLean, Doris Golden and myself. We met at Peralta Canyon road-head, and since Dick had made this climb before, he led the party over the ridges, through washes, through brush and then a somewhat steep crud slope up to the very notch. The Needle had first come into view early on the trail when we had topped out on a ridge. There it stood serenely in the distance, a double pointed obelisk with the right hand needle significantly higher than the left hand one. Each pinnacle was symmetric and clean and the base dimension about equal to the vertical height giving it pleasing proportions. An imagery of Weavers Needle with the great painting Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci formed in my mind. Compact, aloof, self-possessing, self knowing and provocative; may we know your secrets? Now the five of us surged up to the notch and stopped in the cool deep shade and looked up at the sheer wall. This was the moment of truth, accentuated when Dick spoke softly, "The hauser has been removed." My heart skipped a beat, and we were all quiet, as each one's individual, but inexpressible, thoughts flowed through one's mind. Had we driven 450 miles, now to he thwarted by this technicality? Dick painted to the right to a high angle, rough textured wall and said, "This is the route". Out of my murky thoughts came these lame words, "The question is, who will be the first one to climb it", hoping one of the two men would jump to the challenge. But there was dead silence, and no one moved a muscle. Obviously, this was my party and I was the one, I hesitated, knowing that set foot on that steep wall I could not turn back without losing honor as well as the whole trip.
My alter ego (bravado rock climber) was doing battle with the real Me (conservative, timid trail-hiker) A silent time---and then the real ME lost, as I suddenly found my feet transplanted against the rock face several feet above the base. Now I was committed, and didn't look back. I said a little prayer and then proceeded very slowly, gingerly but deliberately. Henry, you must pull this off absolutely correctly. There is no room for the slightest error. I studied each move very carefully, finding nubbins for foot, holds and fluttering my hand across the rock face for nebulous hand holds, which were really only slight indentations for palm pressures. My heart beat more rapidly and my mouth went very dry. The spectators below were completely quiet, which was appreciated. Now I sidled two feet over to the left for a stout nubbin. Ah, that's a good position. Then the climb from that point resolved itself, so I made several moves in quick succession. Now I came to Y-type crack giving a choice of two routes, I took the right, albeit awkward. I glance over to the left, and experienced a flood of relief as I see the cockpit -a piton driven into the rock with several slings attached. Loudly I sing out my arrival and a hearty cheer goes up from down below.
Using swami belt and carabiner I snap myself into the anchor, and uncoil my beautiful 150'. 11mm red Edelrid rope and fling a free end to my compatriots. Don McLean ties in, and with the confidence of the belay, climbs rapidly. He is followed by Shirley who is coached by her husband, and as she nears the top, is coached by me. Doris comes next. I had felt little tugs on the rope from the two women, indicating use of belay for balance, which is fine. Dick came up efficiently and quickly.
With this a cheer went up, as we felt we had mastered the most difficult situation. However, there was a series of 8,10, and 10' pitches that took agility and studied use of handholds and foot holds. Finally a 40' crevise was pioneered by Doris. This offered good holds all the way to the rounded summit. We had a feeling of restrained elation standing on the peak, the restraint due to possible difficulties on the down climbing. Unhappily, there was no register on the peak.
The down climbing proceeded smoothly, credit going to Dick, in observing that each person makes his moves correctly. The rappel off the last 50' cliff was beautiful, the elation ending too soon as one's feet touch bottom. The following day the five of us climbed Superstition Mtn., technically easy. Dick and Shirley then proceeded homeward, while Don, Doris and I drove several hundred miles to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to climb Ajo and Kino. This ended four beautiful days of climbing challenging Arizona peaks.
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