Yel­low Wall

CLIMB­ING THE NEE­DLES’ LIGHT­NING ROD OF KHAYYAM SPIRE

Climbing - - TOPO - BY MIKEL CRONIN • PHOTO BY LUKE ROSS

Amongst the hundreds of gothic spires lin­ing the twisty Nee­dles High­way in Custer State Park, just 30 miles south of South Dakota’s Rapid City, one stands out: the 320-foot Khayyam Spire, whose west face, the Yel­low Wall, begs to be climbed.

In 1990, over five week­ends, the trio of Paul Muehl, Pete De­lan­noy, and Cindy Tolle es­tab­lished one of the most eye-catch­ing faces at the Nee­dles. Climb­ing ground-up, the trio nav­i­gated the wall’s sea of crys­tals, plac­ing 5/16” but­ton­head bolts from stances and sup­ple­ment­ing with nat­u­ral pro­tec­tion. On the 120-foot first pitch, the three clim­bers placed just five bolts, pro­tect­ing the rest of the 5.9+ ter­rain with gear. From the first be­lay, they tra­versed to the prom­i­nent rounded prow on the wall’s right mar­gin. De­lan­noy and Muehl swapped leads on the 140-foot rope-stretcher, climb­ing with a Bosch drill hang­ing be­tween their legs, plac­ing 17 bolts along the lead.

The crux comes atop this sec­ond pitch, where a blank 5.12a tra­verse leads to a 30-foot fin­ger and hand crack. On the first as­cent, Muehl won the coin toss and at­tempted the lead, but fell on the tra­verse. He then re-climbed it from a stance. De­lan­noy led the 60-foot fi­nal pitch (5.10c) on­sight, sup­ple­ment­ing gear with two bolts.

In Novem­ber 1995, Greg Parker and Nathan Ren­ner made the in­te­gral FFA. The sum­mit view re­mains un­changed: pon­derosas, prairie, and hundreds more Nee­dles call out to clim­bers now, as ever. To de­scend, make two raps with a 70m down God’s

Own Drunk, around the other side of the spire.

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