The Watch Crystal

A Brief History of rock climbing on Durango's classic cliff.

by Timmy Kuss

DISCLAIMER: As recent poly-socio events clearly demonstrate, it is important that history be remembered and documented ac­curately. One man’s fun is another man’s horror show. This author has relied on anecdotes from aging climbers who likely didn’t see their accomplishments as notable or different from whatever they did the next day. This author’s memory for names, dates and events has proven unreliable, generally. Events represented here should be considered lore- that is- part history, part legend.

The Watch Crystal at East Animas.                                                                                    Topo by Steve Eginoire               

Select Routes from left to right:

Evolution, 5.11b, 90'. FA: Tim Kuss, Dan Foster, 1992.

Crime & Punishment, 5.11a, 150'. FA: Tim Kuss, John Duran, 1984.

Durangutan, 5.10c, 190'. FA: Ken Trout, 1980.

Jailhouse Monkeys (On Dope), 5.12a, 165'. Tim Kuss, Peter Day, 1992.

Apes of Wrath, 5.10, 100'. FA: Jim Kossin, Mark Katz, 1993.

Watch Crystal Crack, 5.10d, 190'. FA: John Byrd, et al. Early 1970's.

Simians to the Sun, 5.9+, 120'. FA: Bruce Lella, 1981.

Primate Highway, 5.11a, 65'. FA: Bruce Lella, 1987.

The Kong Route, 5.11c, 140'. FA: Tim Kuss, 1993.

The Black Arete, 5.8r/x, 40'. FA: David Kozak, 1985.

 

Chronology of Events:

Watch Crystal Crack: First climbed via aid in 1974. Not long after, Steve Wunsch, one of the top climbers in the country at the time, was in town repping a line at Pine Needle Mountaineering. Peter Jamieson lead Wunsch to believe the route had already been completed without the use of aid. After reportedly “hiking” the crux pitch (5.10+) with ease, Wunsch repeatedly queried Jamieson, suspicious of the scary upper pitch (5.8), which was relatively easy and had been free-climbed many times over.

Durangutan: Bolted mostly on rappel in 1980 by Ken Trout. John Duran and Tim Kuss added a bolt to the direct finish in 1983. At first a heady endeavor, the route has been through several rounds of retro-bolting by the first ascent party and others.

Simians to the Sun: The moderate classic route on the Watch Crystal. Bolted on lead in 1981 by Bruce Lella.

Crime and Punishment: Originally bolted on rappel by Tim Kuss and John Duran in 1984 with five split-shank, 1/4” x 1-1/2” bolts branching off pitch 1 of Durangutan. It was a terrifying route to lead. Three more bolts were added to the start soon after. The climb has since been modernized with more and better hardware.

Primate Highway: In the mid-late 1980’s Bruce Lella returned to Durango after moving to Mammoth, CA and added this stout first pitch to the wall.

The Black Arete: In the mid ‘80’s Dave Kozak was a poor college student and a bold climber. From the ground-up, Kozak established the route on-sight, with no bolts! 30 years later, the overall attitude regarding the use of drilled hardware to protect climbs has become liberal. Being virtually unprotected, Kozak (now a professor at the college) liked the idea of seeing his route get bolts so that more climbers could enjoy it. He encouraged a well-intended student to finish the job. As the lad started drilling, hor­rified voices from below shouted him down. Many climbers who have done the route in its original state were very proud of the boldness required to lead it, and they weren’t going to let their experience become devalued by the addition bolts.

Apes of Wrath: Bolted on rappel in the early 1990’s by Jim Kossin and Mark Katz with a power drill. Kossin recalls, “Mark and I hiked back to the car and found a note on the windshield. Some guy had already threatened to chop the newly installed bolts from the route! We were really pissed off about this anonymous note and that’s where the name Apes of Wrath came from.”

Jailhouse Monkeys (On Dope): Bolted on lead by Tim Kuss and Peter Day after getting arrested in Utah on their way to Yosemite in the early 90’s. The route intersects the original finish to Durangutan at the shared last bolt. (full story at durangorockclimbing.com)

The Kong Route: Bolted on rappel in the early 90’s by Tim Kuss. The route intersects The Black Arete for a short distance where the bolts refrain, in deference to the previously established route.

Evolution: Bolted on lead by Dan Foster and Tim Kuss in the early 1990’s. Later re-bolted to be conveniently climbed from the ground.

Max Schon on The Kong Route.                                                                                      Photo by Steve Eginoire

Max Schon on The Kong Route.                                                                                      Photo by Steve Eginoire


In the mid 1970’s, there were just a handful of climbers in Duran­go; those who climbed at X- Rock and sometimes at the almost forgotten cliffs at Lightner Creek. No one seems to remember who the first climbers were to explore the comparatively grand crags of East Animas. More than likely, it was exactly those who can’t remember, climbers like Peter Jamieson, then a student at Fort Lewis, who recalls “The interesting thing about East A [Animas] in the ‘70s was that nobody really knew what had been done or when. At least a couple of times we thought we were doing a first ascent only to find a rusty piton half way up. Did they rappel off? Did they com­plete the route and leave the pin? Who were “they”?”

Such is the history, where Durango climbers complied with an ethos of climbing in the moment, without thought for posterity. They climbed well without sticky rubber or cams; humility and understatement were common. There was no internet, Mountain Project or other digital venues for which to spray about the radness of your most recent ascent. It was the climbing shops where folks shared information, found partners, and partook in all manner of climbing geekery.

In the early 1970’s, John Byrd ran the Fall Line shop, which was on College Drive near 8th Avenue. Bringing experience from the California scene, Byrd, with partners Tom Norton, John Ritchey and the late Rob Blair (all profs at Fort Lewis) were surely among the first climbers to visit East Animas, completing early aid ascents of the now classic Watch Crystal Crack.

During that period, Mel Matis opened Pine Needle Mountaineering and hired Peter Jamieson, who with partners like Bub Smith, Mike Borga and Mark Dalen, plucked several classic first ascents at East Animas, including the fabled sandbagging of Steve Wunsch for the first ascent of The Watch Crystal Crack without the use of aid.

Later in the ‘70’s, Bruce Lella was working at Gardenswartz and Ken Trout was a student at the college. With these two ultra-talent­ed climbers, Durango climbing standards jumped at least a notch, if not five. With Trout’s addition of Durangutan in 1980 and Lella’s Simians to the Sun in 1981, the Watch Crystal face was validated as classic territory.

The establishment of these routes also introduced the first climbs in Durango to be protected entirely by drilled hardware. Durangutan and Simians to the Sun could be viewed as early forays by vision­ary climbers into what later became the sub-genre of “sport climb­ing” and, of course, the associated never ending “to bolt or not to bolt” debate.

If local climbing standards were elevated with the addition of Duran­gatan and Simians, they were soon blown away by John Duran’s stunning un-roped solo ascents of both routes on the same day in 1983. The Ignacio native represented local climbing by matching or elevating standards without fanfare wherever he climbed.

The decade from the early 1980’s to early ‘90’s saw steady and some­times controversial route development on the Watch Crystal face. From the well-protected classic, Apes of Wrath, power drilled on rappel by Jim Kossin and Mark Katz, to the notorious Black Arete, climbed on-sight by David Kozak with no bolts, the Watch Crystal face not only mirrors the do’s and don’ts of the climbing world, but represents Durango’s world class.

More of Tim's stories and beta can be found at:

Durangorockclimbing.com

Peakbgging_etzel_k_0109_BP.jpg

The high country is officially accessible on foot! Stop by & check out our peak- bagging essentials at Pine Needle Mountaineering. We've got a great selection of apparel, backpacks, maps, water-filtration, trekking poles, headlamps, and lightweight climbing gear. Pictured below are a few of our favorite items.

Apparel

Accessories

Gear


Vestal Peak, 13,864'

This beautiful peak is located in the heart of the San Juan Mountain's Grenadier Range. 

A lofty mass of billion-year-old quartzite, Vestal is a classic example of the heavily glaciated terrain that defines this area of the Weminuche Wilderness.

Vestal Peak's signature feature is known as the Wham Ridge, a dramatic sweep of polished stone comprising the entire NE face of the mountain. Clearly labeled on most maps, Wham Ridge is a gorgeous climb and a perfect objective for those looking to hone in basic alpine rock climbing skills.

Getting to there:

From Molas Pass Trailhead (665), descend to the Animas River, and locate Elk Creek Trail (503) a few hundred yards south of the bridge. 3.5 miles

Follow Elk Creek Trail (503) for 3.5 miles to a few large beaver ponds just upstream of the Vestal Creek drainage. Keep an eye out for moose! 

At the eastern end of the main pond, locate a well-worn trail heading south through the woods and down into Elk Creek.

Find a good place to cross the creek, and follow the established trail up Vestal Creek for a steep 2 miles until reaching the large meadow/marsh area directly below Vestal and Arrow Peak.

A mountain goat poses below Vestal Peak's (13, 864') Wham Ridge. Photo by Steve Eginoire

A mountain goat poses below Vestal Peak's (13, 864') Wham Ridge. Photo by Steve Eginoire

Locate a nice cascading stream above the south side of the meadow. A faint trail can be found on climber's right of the stream that eventually gains a high bench at the base of Vestal and Arrow peaks.

The most straight-forward route up Wham Ridge can be found on the climber's right side of the face, near the ridge proper. Expect to encounter difficulties up to 5.4, but there are many options to choose your own adventure throughout the face.

To descend, drop directly off of the summit onto the south face. Carefully scramble down loose 3rd-4th class gullies and ledges, aiming for the saddle in between Vestal and Arrow. From the saddle, descend steep scree and onto the moraines that lead back to Vestal Basin. Don't forget to jump in the lake!

Just look at those contour lines!

Just look at those contour lines!

Click on the profile below to view map details:

Bear's Ears National Monument

The Bears Ears

Along Highway 95, west of Blanding, Utah, I pull my teal '92 Ford Explorer with Kansas plates onto a rocky side road and head north. Going nowhere in particular, I look for a nice spot to cook dinner and pass out.  The road I'm following leads me upwards, and a pair of solitary buttes is perfectly framed by my badly cracked windshield. A whole new zone to explore. Bumping my way up towards these obvious forested landmarks, I'm still processing having just hiked and swam my through the incredible sandstone narrows of the Black Hole- totally consumed by what else might be hiding in this labyrinth of canyons. As a 19-year-old newcomer to the Four Corners region, I was in awe of a landscape I never even knew existed until months before.

Back in my dorm room, I poured over a map of the area. The forested buttes were clearly labeled, "Bears Ears." Over 15 years have passed since then.  I pride myself in having spent countless days exploring canyons and ruins, climbing perfect cracks, taking friends to my favorite spots, that I know it, just a little bit.  I've always referred to this area as the "the closest awesome desert to Durango". Now, it's known as Bears Ears National Monument. Federally Protected, Bears Ears encompasses 1.9 million acres of incomparable high desert terrain . Along with our current administration, comes a proposal to drastically reduce the Monument in size, exposing sensitive areas to natural resource extraction, among various other damaging activities.

May 26th is the end of the public comment period. If you love Bears Ears, National Monuments, and the Antiquities Act, please voice your opinion here:

https://www.accessfund.org/take-action/campaigns/tell-secretary-zinke-not-to-rescind-or-reduce-bears-ears-national-monument


Map courtesy of Grand Canyon Trust.  Learn more at: http://www.grandcanyontrust.org/bears-ears-cultural-landscape

Map courtesy of Grand Canyon Trust.  Learn more at: http://www.grandcanyontrust.org/bears-ears-cultural-landscape

An impressive display of pictographs near the San Juan River. This panel, as well as countless others in the area, represent a small fraction of the archeological resources protected in Bears Ears National Monument.  

Some of the darkest night skies in the country can be observed from Bears Ears. 

Free flowing water is found in many canyons within the Monument, supporting biologically diverse ecosystems that often thrive through the driest months of the year.

The landscape that defines Bears Ears is unique to the world.

Learn more about Bears ears at:

http://bearsears.patagonia.com/

 

words & Photos by StevE eginoire

  www.stepheneginoire.com

 

Pine Needle Mountaineering

 this winter has been awesome! Camaraderie among Pine Needle employees is but one of the many characteristics we take pride in.

Here are a few skiing highlights from this season:

Sunrise on the approach to Engineer Mountain.

Sunrise on the approach to Engineer Mountain.

Cold, dry, and perfect. Sultan, North Star.

Cold, dry, and perfect. Sultan, North Star.

A sunrise on Molas Pass is always magical.

A sunrise on Molas Pass is always magical.

Wide open turns after scratching down the Elevator Shaft.

Wide open turns after scratching down the Elevator Shaft.

Textbook snow climbing conditions on Pigeon Peak.

Textbook snow climbing conditions on Pigeon Peak.

Pondering The Sultan's North Star path. 

Pondering The Sultan's North Star path. 

Couloir hunting.

Couloir hunting.

Opening turns of a 3-mile 6,000 foot descent from the summit of Pigeon Peak.

Opening turns of a 3-mile 6,000 foot descent from the summit of Pigeon Peak.

Corn hunting near Graysill Mountain.

Corn hunting near Graysill Mountain.

Ripping the Fourth of July apron on North Twilight.

Ripping the Fourth of July apron on North Twilight.

Starting 'em off young.

Starting 'em off young.

Hope you wore your sunscreen boys.

Hope you wore your sunscreen boys.

The path to glory sometimes involves a creek crossing.

The path to glory sometimes involves a creek crossing.

Exploring new terrain in the Weminuche Wilderness.

Exploring new terrain in the Weminuche Wilderness.

Cruxing out on Engineer!!

Cruxing out on Engineer!!

Don't fall, I guess.

Don't fall, I guess.

Lynx sighting!

Lynx sighting!

At the entrance to the extra long, extra slender Dead Squirrel Couloir.

At the entrance to the extra long, extra slender Dead Squirrel Couloir.

Deep powder on Parrot Peak.

Deep powder on Parrot Peak.

Backcountry Maintenance and Repair Kit Under One Pound

By Steve Eginoire

 
 

The ability to fix and maintain your ski equipment in the backcountry will save you time, hassle, and personal anguish. At under one pound, the suggested list above will enable you to improvise in most repair situations and help get you off the mountain in one piece.

Depending on the length and commitment level of your ski tour, you may want to add or subtract from the items listed above. 

Maintenance:

1. Glide wax:  A quick fix for a faster glide, and will help prevent snow from freezing to the base of your skis.

2. Plastic scaper: Scrape sticky snow & ice from the base and top-sheets of your skis. 

3. Skin wax: Apply liberally to maintain your climbing skin's hydrophobic properties and prevent them from glopping up with snow.

Repair:

4. Rubber ski straps: The longer the better. You can secure a rescue sled, a broken boot cuff, or splint an injured extremity. The options are endless. 

5. Quick curing glue: If your binding strips off of your ski, a strong, fast-curing glue or epoxy will help to secure binding screws to the ski-- hopefully long enough for a successful retreat.

6. Bailing wire: Offers endless options for boot & binding repair.

7. Cloth tape: Another go-to repair/first aid item that is multi-functional. 

8. 5mm cord:  Cord is always useful and can supplement the use of ski straps, bailing wire or rigging scenarios.

9. Lighter: Mold pesky boot plastic or build a fire.

10. Zip-ties: Feather-weight and useful in almost any repair scenario.

11. Binding screws & bits: A few binding screws and bits to will allow you to adjust or re-mount a binding that has stripped off the ski. 

12. Break-down screw driver: I prefer this driver over a "binding buddy". Binding screws are easier to access with a with a longer tool and will perform better if you really need some wrenching power.

13. Hose clamps: Use to secure a pole splint to a broken ski pole. 

14. Multi-tool with pliers: Useful in almost all repair situations

15. Pole splint: When secured with hose clamps, an old section of ski pole cut lengthwise will splint a broken ski pole.

 

 

Quick reference guide to Swix glide wax.


Wax & iron your XC and skate skis like a pro. Check out this quick video to achieve a high-preformance glide.


WONDERING WHICH WAX TO USE? hERE IS PINE NEEDLE'S QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE TO SWIX GLIDE WAX. BASED ON CURRENT LOCAL SNOW CONDITIONS, WE RECOMMEND USING VIOLET WAX (CH7). IF YOU ARE SKIING AT LOWER ELEVATIONS ON A SUNNY DAY, YOU MIGHT EVEN CONSIDER WAXING UP WITH RED (CH8).

 

Layering up for Fall

Fall is here- Campfires, wood-burning stoves, and cozy clothes are mandatory. We're stocked with our latest Fall arrivals, so whether you're picking apples or tying in at The Creek, stop on by and check us out- We'll have something warm to compliment your next outdoor experience.


Women's


Bivy Hooded Down Vest from Patagonia

Defy capricious conditions with the Bivy Hooded Down Vest, a versatile workhorse for trail slogs or raised-bed harvesting. Wind- and water-resistant, it’s made of sturdy, pliable nylon canvas with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish on the shoulders. Insulated with 100% recycled down reclaimed from used down products, the vest has wide baffle construction and plush inside trim for toasty warmth. Its insulated hood adjusts with contrast drawcords that look like climbing ropes, and the center-front zipper tucks under a wide metal snap placket. Details include contrasting western-style yoke shoulders, side-entry handwarmer pockets and secure inner chest pocket with fun inside print. Slight drop-tail hem.

Defy capricious conditions with the Bivy Hooded Down Vest, a versatile workhorse for trail slogs or raised-bed harvesting. Wind- and water-resistant, it’s made of sturdy, pliable nylon canvas with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish on the shoulders. Insulated with 100% recycled down reclaimed from used down products, the vest has wide baffle construction and plush inside trim for toasty warmth. Its insulated hood adjusts with contrast drawcords that look like climbing ropes, and the center-front zipper tucks under a wide metal snap placket. Details include contrasting western-style yoke shoulders, side-entry handwarmer pockets and secure inner chest pocket with fun inside print. Slight drop-tail hem.

Fjord Flannel From Patagonia

Quintessentially versatile and seriously soft, you’ll want this 100% organic cotton flannel shirt with you on all occasions. The Fjord has classic flannel-shirt styling with a buttoned placket, cuffs and flapped chest pockets. The relaxed fit is hip length, with a straight hem and side slits. Featured in beautiful plaids and blanket stripes, this cozy piece can be paired with jeans and skirts or, après-hot tub, thrown over a wet bikini.

Mova Straight Pant from Kuhl

The KÜHL MØVA STRAIGHT™ pant features KONTOUR™ fabric, a soft and durable stretch nylon made to look like woven fabric for texture and appeal. KONTOUR™ fabric holds its shape for a flattering, feminine fit.

A contoured waistband and KühlKURVE™ fit make the MØVA STRAIGHT extremely comfortable. The internal draw cord provides a custom fit, and the faux fly makes for easy on/off. 5-pocket jean styling adds flair.

The MØVA STRAIGHT is fitted through the hips and upper thigh and looser through the knee and lower leg.

Osito Pullover from The North Face

Pull on this ultra-soft, low-maintenance hooded layer for lightweight, comfortable warmth on cool days.

Crossing Cord Pant from Prana

The Prana Crossing Cord pant in certain to be a wardrobe staple. Classic jean styling, with straight legs and five pockets, is given a mindful modern update with organic cotton. This soft, dry corduroy pant’s 98.5% organic cotton is enhanced with a hint of stretch for a comfortable fit.


                                                                                                                                Photo by Stephen Eginoire


Men's


Better Sweater from Patagonia

An easy-wearing, bulk-free jacket that thrives as urban outerwear or layered in the backcountry under a shell. Made of a knitted, heathered polyester fleece dyed with a low-impact process that significantly reduces the use of dyestuffs, energy and water compared to conventional dyeing methods. Fair Trade Certified™ sewing.

Venga Pants from Patagonia

Try hard but move easy in our Venga Rock Pants—that’s what they’re made for. The lightweight organic cotton/spandex blend breathes, moves and stays comfortable with every drop knee and high step, while technical patterning includes a crotch gusset and articulated legs. The waist has belt loops, a separating zip fly and our innovative OppoSet™ adjustable closure for an on-the-go customized fit. With two drop-in hand pockets, two rear pockets that double as a reinforced seat for durability and a discreet right-thigh patch pocket.

Downtown Flannel from Mountain Khakis

You can take the guy out of the mountains, but you can't take the mountains out of the guy. This button-down helps you pass the muster when that special occasion calls. Limited-edition colors. Imported. 100% cotton. Relaxed Fit.

Brion Pants from Prana

THE BRION'S LOOK MAY BE LEAN, BUT IT PACKS A SERIOUS PUNCH WHEN IT COMES TO RUGGED DURABILITY. THIS ALL-PURPOSE PANT FEATURES THE SAME BENEFITS AS OUR BEST SELLING STRETCH ZION PANT, BUT WITH A SLIM FIT AND SLIGHTLY TAPERED LEGS. WATER AND ABRASION RESISTANT, AND STYLED WITH 5 POCKETS AND A FIXED WAIST, THERE'S NO TELLING WHERE THIS PANT IS GOING TO TAKE YOU.

Mid 250 Hoody from Smartwool

Cover more ground with the Mid 250 Hoody. We've added fresh style to our classic baselayer for ultimate warmth in cold weather situations. Merino helps regulate body temperature and manage moisture, and its no-stink properties mean you can head straight from the hill to happy hour.

Layering up for Fall

Fall is here- Layering up for action in funky shoulder season conditions can leave you over heated or chilled to the bone. ...And nothing is worse than sweat-soaked garments when the sun ain't shining.

Below are a few ideal Fall layers to consider when planning your next outdoor mission. We've got many more options and brands in stock as well, so stop by and have a look!

                                                                                                                                    Photo by Stephen Eginoire


Men's


Nano Air Hoody from Patagonia

The Nano-Air® Hoody sets a new standard for technical insulation, merging the comfort and breathability of open fleece with the protection and warmth of a puffy. Its supremely stretchy and breathable fabric package combines a plain-weave liner, warm-when-wet FullRange™ insulation and a lightweight yet durable, weather-shedding 100% nylon ripstop shell with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. The hoody has an incredibly soft, supple feel and full mechanical stretch that allow for a close, athletic fit over baselayers and an uninhibited range of motion.

Vertex Pants from Rab

Whilst the Vertex Pants can be worn as general outdoor trousers, climbing specific features such as a hem drawcord for reducing volume around your feet, and stretch fit articulated knees for freedom of movement, make the Vertex Pants ideal for use as a light-weight climbing pant.

R1 Fleece Hoody from Patagonia

Its high/low grid interior (Polartec® Power Grid™ polyester) is key to the hoody’s versatility, and the highly refined fabric—the lightest and most breathable iteration ever—remains exclusive to Patagonia. It stretches, traps heat and compresses to practically nothing, with the pared-down but versatile features climbers and backcountry skiers need: a snug-fitting balaclava-style hood, a minimalist deep-venting front zipper with a soft zipper garage that keeps your chin comfy, and a Variable Conditions Cuff with discreet on-seam thumb holes and a spiral-stitch construction so you can push up the sleeves with no ensuing forearm pump.

Ventus Jacket from Rab

Offering high levels of sun and weather protection, the Ventus Jacket is a perfect layer for climbing or walking in the mountains. Now featuring Polygiene® STAY FRESHodour control treatment, the Ventus Jacket can now comfortably be worn for multi-day trips. Features include an under-helmet hood, thumb loops and Lycra® bound cuffs.


Women's


koreski_j_0415_BP.jpg

Narin Vest from Ark'teryx

An easy choice for crisp days, the Narin is a down vest with minimalist design, clean lines and a relaxed urban aesthetic. Warm 750 fill power goose down in the body and Coreloft® synthetic insulation in the shoulders provide lightweight insulation with minimal bulk. A simple low profile hood adds protection from unexpected cold.

Oasis leggings from Icebreaker

For comfort in any climate, and for any sport, Women's Oasis Leggings are built from our ultra soft, breathable 200gm merino jersey fabric. They provide warmth on cold morning workouts or high mountain hikes, breathe well enough to never get too hot. 

Adze Hybrid Hoody from Patagonia

Our soft-shell Adze Hybrid Hoody resists moisture, breathes freely and keeps the heat. Its main body is composed of a 3-layer Polartec® Windbloc® stretch-woven polyester soft-shell fabric that repels wind and sheds snow, while the bonded fleece grid interior wicks moisture and adds light insulation. The hoody’s low-bulk construction also uses unlined, stretchy, double-weave soft-shell fabric in the side panels, cuffs and along the underside of the arms to minimize bulk while enhancing breathability and mobility.

Motivation Leggings from The North Face

Stay active in cold conditions with these compressive midweight leggings that are crafted with four-way stretch and lightweight panels wrapped around the legs for streamlined coverage during aerobic activity.


Trad rack essentials at Pine Needle Mountaineering!


 Fall season is here, and that means great conditions for desert rock climbing. At Pine Needle, you'll find everything from Black Diamond Ultralight cams to EuroTape. Stop on by for sales and supplement your rack before your next mission to The Creek! 


The Wasteland. Cochise Stronghold, Arizona.

The Wasteland. Cochise Stronghold, Arizona.

Desert Shield. Zion Canyon, Utah.

Desert Shield. Zion Canyon, Utah.

Hallucinogen Wall. Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colo.

Hallucinogen Wall. Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colo.

Abracadaver. Cochise Stronghold, Arizona.

Abracadaver. Cochise Stronghold, Arizona.

Monster Tower. Canyonlands, Utah.

Rock Lobster. Indian Creek, Utah.

Rock Lobster. Indian Creek, Utah.

Missed a few spots...

Missed a few spots...

NEW!  Ultralight Camalots from Black Diamond.

On fast-and-light missions and smash-and-grab ascents when weight really matters, the Black Diamond Camalot Ultralight presents a 25% weight savings over the Camalot. With sculpted lobes that account for a portion of the weight savings, the Camalot Ultralight features a dyneema cord in place of a cable with all of the same strength you rely on. A double-axle design allows for the widest placement range possible for each cam device, and color coding makes for easy identification when quick pro is paramount. When light is right, the Camalot Ultralight is essential.

On Sale!  Camalot x4 from Black Diamond.

Combining unparalleled expansion range with single-stem flexibility and a narrow head width, the Black Diamond Camalot X4 represents the missing link in our gold-standard Camalot family. The smallest three sizes of the X4 feature our Stacked Axle Technology, which uses a unique machined axle to give more expansion range per size than any small four-cam unit on the market. In fact, the six sizes of the Camalot X4 cover the same range as eight sizes of comparable units. The X4's embedded cam springs allow for an ultra-narrow head width that fits in those tight spots other cams won't. Thanks to super-durable aluminum protection beads, the X4's cable withstands repeated abrasion without compromising flexibility. We also added a hot-forged trigger bar and symmetric swage to improve handling and eliminate buckling.

On sale! Metolius TCU.

Metolius' Ultralight TCUs have set the standard for three-cam units for years thanks to their narrow head width, durability, and light weight. Direct Axle Technology™ (DAT™) makes Ultralight TCUs the lightest cams in the world! DAT allows for more placement options in shallow, narrow, or bottoming placements, and makes tricky placements easier due to better cam lobe visibility, especially in the small sizes. Each TCU is hand built, inspected, and individually tested in Bend, Oregon.

Metolius' Ultralight TCUs have set the standard for three-cam units for years thanks to their narrow head width, durability, and light weight. Direct Axle Technology™ (DAT™) makes Ultralight TCUs the lightest cams in the world! DAT allows for more placement options in shallow, narrow, or bottoming placements, and makes tricky placements easier due to better cam lobe visibility, especially in the small sizes. Each TCU is hand built, inspected, and individually tested in Bend, Oregon.

Black Diamond Neutrino carabiner.

Thirty-six grams of wiregate perfection, the nimble Black Diamond Neutrino carabiner is the ideal solution when all-purpose fast, light and strong is right.

Thirty-six grams of wiregate perfection, the nimble Black Diamond Neutrino carabiner is the ideal solution when all-purpose fast, light and strong is right.

Mammut 8mm contact sling.

For years the unbeatable Mammut® Contact Sling has proven itself as a universal and super-light webbing sling on the mountains and cliffs over the world. Very strong webbing combined with the unique Contact stitching technique ensures optimum handling, even in the seam area of this high-end sling.

For years the unbeatable Mammut® Contact Sling has proven itself as a universal and super-light webbing sling on the mountains and cliffs over the world. Very strong webbing combined with the unique Contact stitching technique ensures optimum handling, even in the seam area of this high-end sling.




Celebrating 40 Years at Pine Needle

Pine Needle Mountaineering is celebrating 40 years serving southwest Colorado this month.

Since 1976, we've been outfitting our local community with the necessary essentials to explore this amazing region.

From first-generation backcountry ski touring bindings, to the first spring-loaded camming device that revolutionized rock climbing, Pine Needle has been there every step of the way.

And my, how the times have changed!

Ray Jardine's "Friend" the camming device that revolutionized rock climbing. Photo courtesy Wild Country.

Ray Jardine's "Friend" the camming device that revolutionized rock climbing. Photo courtesy Wild Country.

Purgtory in the 70's

Purgtory in the 70's

1984 Patagonia catalog.

1984 Patagonia catalog.

Ramer model R ski touring binding 1978. Photo courtesy Wildsnow.com

Ramer model R ski touring binding 1978. Photo courtesy Wildsnow.com

1976 Rossignol Freestyle Skis

1976 Rossignol Freestyle Skis

We've worked with brands like Black Diamond, Patagonia, The North Face, and Royal Robbins since they were budding companies founded by core enthusiasts. We've helped contribute to their success as leading vendors in the outdoor industry by selling their quality equipment to our passionate community here in Durango, Colorado.


And here we are 40 years later.  The brands we love have matured into successful companies, gear is more lightweight than ever, and there's a ski for every type of snow condition. But one thing remains the same- our passion for the outdoors and love for our community.

Thank You!!!

Photo by Stephen Eginoire

Photo by Stephen Eginoire


Backpacking: Rock Lake Loop | by Stephen Eginoire

Planning a backpacking trip to the Durango area this summer? You've chosen well! The San Juan Mountains are roughly the size of the Swiss Alps, including the spectacular 499,771  acre Weminuche Wilderness- Colorado's largest designated wilderness area.

There are countless multi-day tours to choose from in the Weminuche that range from very popular, to areas that see very little human traffic. 

The tour detailed below is a true San Juan wilderness experience. Be ready for a few hours of backcountry driving to access the trailhead. 


Rock Lake Loop, via Hunchback Pass

Getting there:

You'll have to find your way to Rio Grande Reservoir Road (FS 520), either by way of Silverton or Creede. From FS 520, locate FS 506, heading south into Bear Creek. Drive FS 506 passing the Beartown site (you may encounter a spot or two of 4WD here) eventually arriving at Kite Lake and the road's end. Walking distance from the car park is the Hunchback Pass trailhead.

The Route:

From the Hunchback Pass TH,  follow the Continental Divide Trail south (813) up and over Hunchback Pass, to Nebo Creek.  Make sure to follow the CDT (813) east, up the Nebo Creek drainage. 

Once you exit the Nebo Creek drainage, continue on the CDT (813) for approximately 7 miles to Twin Lakes. Upon reaching the lakes, the route departs from the CDT (813). Locate Rock Creek trail (655) bearing south towards a high pass. From the top of the pass descend into the Rock Creek drainage, following Rock Creek trial (655) for approximately 5.7 miles until intersecting with Vallecito trail (529) at the bottom of the valley. 

Bear north on the Vallecito trail (529) for appx. 3.1 miles to where the trail intersects the CDT (655) at Nebo Creek, closing the loop. Continue north on the CDT (655) back over Hunchback Pass for 2.5 miles to the cars.

*NOTE* The trail from Hunchback Pass TH to Rock Lake is consistently above 11,500 feet. Take the threat of lighting into careful consideration.

Click here for up-to-date weather forecast.



Tarns near Mount Nebo.

Fine views of Strom King peak from the CDT.

Tundra and marshlands surrounding West Ute lake.

A view of Twin Lakes.  Note: The CDT (813) branches off to the east at Twin Lakes. Be sure to pick up the Rock Creek Trail (655) continuing south towards Rock Lake.

Looking into the headwaters of Rock Creek, above Twin Lakes.

Rock Lake

Glorious alpine vegetation.

Camp perched above Rock Creek, and not a soul to be seen.

Reflection of Peters Peak (13,122') in Rock Lake.

Lounge time.

Village Aid Project | by Owen Parker

This was the 11th year Village Aid Project (VAP) at Fort Lewis College had designed and implemented water and sanitation projects abroad.  To those who have not heard of the organization; here is a quick synopsis of the program. 

VAP at Fort Lewis College is a student-centered, humanitarian organization whose mission is to partner with needy communities in the developing world to find sustainable solutions to their critical engineering problems. In addition, we are training a new generation of students who understand the need for sustainable systems and who value the concept of responsible global citizenship. Currently, VAP has worked in 5 different countries and has implemented projects in 24 different communities throughout the world.

            This last month VAP traveled to Nicaragua to implement a water project in a village right along the border of Honduras, and build 30 latrines in three villages we had worked in previously. Also, a group traveled to Myanmar to implement a water project in a village that also works closely with the Shanta Foundation of Durango. All trips went smoothly, but had their fare share of adventure along the way.

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            In Myanmar, the group arrived to a village with a dried up water source. Troubles began with trying to design a system in village that would integrate another more un-known source with the source that had gone dry weeks prior. The group succeeded, and the village of Nong Boat has a nice new water system to call their own. On the other side of the world, the other two Fort Lewis crews were solving their own problems.

            In Nicaragua, the water system team worked on the border of Honduras along side locals and armed infantry in the village of La Ceiba. La Ceiba is located in an area with many large hills, which made the system more difficult, however the system was badly needed for this community. The crews dug trench, laid pipe, and hoped they would finish the project before the water well in the village went dry. In the end, the crew and villagers did finish the job, and even had time to play a friendly match of futbol with the neighboring village in Honduras.

            About 5 miles away from La Ceiba, in a neighboring valley, was the other VAP group. This other group was separated into three communities that VAP had built water systems for prier. The group was implementing a new latrine design. In total, 30 latrines were built and 60 more are planned for next year. This project, along with building latrines, gave us insight on the previous water systems. It was found that sickness and diarrhea in the villages was dropping noticeably. Also it was apparent that having readily available water in these villages was greatly needed.

            Thanks Pine Needle for helping us out this last project, with your generous donation we were also fortunate enough to have convenient water on tap!

Spring skiing in the San Juans isn't all show-boating on big lines in perfect snow. While it IS quite exhilarating when your tracks can clearly be seen from the highway and enjoyed by all, sometimes unflattering conditions like dirty snow, ice runnels, and football fields of frozen avalanche debris can be worth the effort. Throw in a remote mountain most skiers have never heard of, a low probability of reaching the summit, a train, a couple of packrafts, and just like that, you have a top-quality spring skiing adventure like never before.