The Sorcerer, The Needles, CA

June 15 &18, 2008 / Thin Ice (5.10b, 3p) & Atlantis (first pitch only, 10c)

The Sorcerer is an impressive piece of rock and has at least three amazing lines on its East face. "Thin Ice" (5.10b, 3p) - the easiest line on the face - follows the striking steep crack system right in the middle of the face. Two other gorgeous lines are "Atlantis" (5.11+,3p) , which follows discontinuous flakes and crack systems just right of "Thin Ice", and "Don Juan" (5.11a, 4p) - reputedly harder than Atlantis because more sustained - starts with the first pitch of "Thin Ice" and traverses left into an other crack/dihedral system

The approach from the trailhead to the base of the routes takes about 80 minutes. The Sorcerer gets morning sun. It is in the shade by about 1:30PM in mid-june.

The descent involves two double-rope raps from bolted anchors down the right (north) side of the east face, which deposit you in the 3rd class gully between the Sorcerer and the Charlatan. A short scramble and you're back at your packs.

Thin Ice (5.10b, 3p):

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Thin Ice follows the obvious steep crack in the middle of the face.
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Climber starting the first pitch.
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Eric starting the first pitch (10b).
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Higher on the incredible crack.
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Lucie following pitch 1, which eventually traverses into the right crack using the obvious flake.

After climbing "Airy Interlude", we head back down the gully to the base of the route and our packs. We move to a comfy ledge in the shade. Lunch time. When we're done with lunch, the east face of the Sorcerer has come into shade. We quickly move to the base of that route, expecting other candidates for the striking line. Sure enough, as we are roping up, another party arrives. They'll be waiting for the same route. The first pitch of Thin Ice is simply amazing. Super-steep, positive finger locks, first up a shallow corner, then straight up the wall. Near the end of this section, the crack becomes offset and too small for fingers. This is the crux (sandbag 5.10b). Two or three thin moves (I bearhugged up the face to the right, sidepulling the crack on the left, and rounded flakes on the right). Tricky. A bit higher, you reach a huge flake which affords an easy traverse into the crack system to the right. Some more steep hand-jamming finally leads to a bolted belay on a tiny stance. Tough pitch; very physical. We're not used to this type of climbing anymore (Tahquitz climbs are lower-angle), and both get a bit worked.

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Pulling the last move before the belay.
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Watching the other party on pitch 2 once we're back at the base.
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Close up photo of the other pair.
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Pitch 2 tackles a burly flared chimney (10a).
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Eric at a rest stance above the initial crux section.

The next pitch is rated 10a, but is arguably harder than the first. The first few moves in particular are very awkward: up a tight flare chimney with a small finger crack deep into it. After a few moves, I decide to lieback the sharp arete… bad idea. Things get pretty committing very quickly, and right above the belay. Scary move back around the arete to get a foot on a block inclusion... and a piece in! Ouch! The rest of the pitch involves much grunting up the long flare. Quite a workout. I belay some distance below a tree, at a small ledge (actually a detached flake, with flowers growing behind it).

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Looking back at the Witch and a climber on Igor Unchained.
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A party on pitch 3 (5.8)...
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...which continues up the now lower angle wide flare.
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Views of the Charlatan from the summit.
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Rapping into a 3rd class gully.

The last pitch is short and much easier (5.8ish), to the large ledge and a huge tree for anchor.

Two 160ft raps, straight down, from bolted anchors (first one has chains, second one could use some), lands you in the gully at right. A short scramble from here brings you back to the ledge at the base of the route. The other two climbers are working on pitch 2 when we get back down. Their leader is pretty fast, but the second is having difficulties with the tricky flare. Amazing route! The first pitch is an all-time classic for sure.

Atlantis (1st pitch only, 5.10c):

We climb the first pitch of Atlantis after climbing Igor Unchained in the morning. When we arrive at the base of the route, a couple of climbers are at the top of the 5.10c flake. Looks like they intend to continue up the 11+ line of beautiful flakes above. We watch them for some time and have lunch. Having climb this pitch before, Eric feels very nervous about it… on sight climbing is much easier on the nerves. Eventually, we go for it.

It's just an excellent, sustained pitch with layback and face moves up to a bolted anchor. The triock is to conserve energy for the high crux. Eric ends up doing all right despite his nervousness.

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The first pitch of Atlantis follows the incredible flake.
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Eric starting the pitch.
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Looking back at Lucie.
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Another climber on Atlantis (photo taken from Igor Unchained).