via Markhor-Needle Traverse
Elevation Gain: 1,076m
Total Time: 7 hours 23 minutes
Date: July 16th, 2022
Andrea and I had just finished a nice long break on the summit of Markhor Peak and were now beginning our descent on the Markhor-Needle traverse. I lead us towards the south part of the summit and then we started descending a prolonged section of heather and granite slabs. Perhaps 30m below the summit we reached a steep slab section covered in loose dirt. Attached to some alpine shrubbery above the slab was a worn out set of webbing and cord tied together in one untrustworthy line.
Andrea lead us down first and opted to use the rope until the slab angle mellowed out. Meanwhile, I tried avoiding it but after a few meters I hit loose dirt on slab and had to resort to trusting the rope after all. Once on the tamer angles it was easy to descend facing down. It wasn’t super exposed here, but neither of was keen on a long slide over course granite slab to the dirt platform below. This was arguably the crux of the descent to the Markhor-Needle col, but there was still a lot of slab and heather to negotiate before we finally reached the bottom.
From the col, we trended climber’s left to avoid a snow patch centered on the route and then climbed up to regain the ridge again. We climbed directly on the ridge over easy 2nd and some 3rd class terrain until we reached the first ridge high point about mid-way through the traverse. Here the ridge narrowed down to an exposed notch requiring a bit of downclimbing on okay foot and hand holds. There was some rappel webbing present, but we weren’t sure if it had been used to reach the eastern walls of Needle or to bypass the down climbing portion of the ridge.
Andrea took us up the other side of the notch and then we had two options to reach the next ridge high point. Climber’s right looked like moderate slab with to bypass any elevation gain, meanwhile climber’s left looked to continue directly on the ridge line. In the end we opted climber’s left onto the ridge and then ended up being the right choice. A bit more scrambling on the ridge lead us to the base of the second ridge high point. To gain this high point, required a short lay back move and then a mantle onto eroded granite, making for a fun a little climbing section. Mid way up the high point we traversed climber’s left until we regained the ridge a bit further over.
Now we were on the final ridge section up to Needle Peak with about 170m elevation to gain the summit. Just after the col between the last ridge high point and Needle Peak, we had to ascend up a very thin, sandy ramp with mediocre hand holds to get back on top of the ridge. It was quite exposed here and we had to be cautious about which holds to trust. We climbed higher up several 3rd class moves and then about 100m below the summit we trended too far climber’s right and headed into 4th class terrain climbing up some tricky slabs. The route options from here didn’t look promising at climber’s left so we continued around to the north west side and ended up having to solo up a prolonged low 5th class section. There were ample crack systems and hand holds to take advantage of, but we had to place a lot of trust on the feet where the rock was quite heavily eroded. This made for super fun and engaging climbing until we finally popped out onto the small summit area.
The sun was out again on the summit, so we took another long break to enjoy the day and then started our descent down the 3rd class west ridge of Needle Peak. After the traverse, we found the descent quite simple except for one tricky section at the base which had a rope attached. We didn’t end up needing the rope thanks to a few stemming moves and then we were back on easy terrain.
From the Flat Iron-Needle Peak col it was a super easy return down the ridge and back to the truck. I have to say, this traverse makes for one of the funnest scrambles I’ve done yet in all of BC. The rock quality is not always inspiring, but that’s made up for with over a km of super fun movement along the ridge line. The route itself is very aesthetic and the final stretch up to Needle Peak offers super fun optional 5th class sections high above the valley floor. Really an awesome day made even better with awesome company!