Top 10 in 10 – The Hypodermic Needle

| January 20, 2009 | 6 Comments

#7 – The Hypodermic Needle (aka The Needle)

The Hypodermic Needle is such a striking, fantastic, obvious couloir that if anyone ever says “I was up at Alta/Snowbird today and saw this amazing looking chute…” there is a 99.9% chance they are talking about The Hypodermic Needle. If you are into chute skiing, one glance at this thing will cause an involuntary yearning in your loins.

The Hypodermic Needle - another classic chute that hardly needs a red line to define it.

The Hypodermic Needle - another classic chute that hardly needs a red line to define it. The shaded face to the right is the Coalpit Headwall and the approach is the same.

A cool aspect of skiing the Needle is that it starts with a bang, then every turn gets a little easier.  The top part is full-on mental warfare as you are staring down a long, steep, 45+ degree chute, but after getting a few turns under your bases, you start to relax and enjoy the exposure.  By the time you hit the apron, which seems mellow at 35+ degrees, life is too good to believe and you can open it up and let it rip. 
Noah Howell busting out the last of the skin track before booting to the summit.

Noah Howell busting out the last of the skin track before booting to the summit.

There are two or three ways to approach The Needle and all of them hurt.  Knowing there was a booter in on the Y-Couloir, we went up that, then traversed over into Coalpit, then up the ridge to the summit.  I was glad Noah was along, as he’d also been up the Y-Couloir three times in the last week.  See Mom – I’m not not the only one who does this.

Cameron Peterson, Bart Gillespie, Noah Howell and Andrew McLean.

Cameron Peterson, Bart Gillespie, Noah Howell and Andrew McLean. Rawk on.

Through out this project, I’ve been blessed with incredible partners who have seemingly come out of the woodwork.  Today I was reminded of a quote from the Metallica documentary “Some Kind of Monster” where the lead singer said “these guys make me play better.”  At 35,000′ and counting, my legs are starting to get tattered, but it was so fun to ski with Cameron, Bart and Noah, that it hardly seemed to matter. I’ll get a real job soon – I swear.

Noah Howell slipping into darkness at the top of the Needle.

Noah Howell slippin' into darkness at the top of the Needle.

The first time I skied The Needle we were so intimidated by it we did it as an overnight trip and camped in Hogum Fork.  It just seemed too big, steep and gnarly to do in a day.  Nowadays, the hair factor is largely gone (the business end of The Needle is about 1,000′ – not so bad), although it is entirely condition dependant.  The Needle is east facing (east = crust), but is so sheltered by rock walls that it is often much better than expected.

Noah sticking it to The Needle.

Noah sticking it to The Needle.

Mr. Howell in his element in the lower portion of the Needle.

Mr. Howell in his element in the lower portion of the Needle.

Noah Howell spraying at the top of the Hypodermic Needle apron.  Go dog go!

Noah Howell spraying at the top of the Hypodermic Needle apron. Go dog go!

All told, The Needle is roughly a 5,000′ descent, of which 1,000′ is serious and the rest is pure fun. What makes The Needle a Wasatch Classic?  Everything.  If you only had one day to ski here, this packs it all in – steeps, views, powder, aprons, ease of access and a good return on your hiking dollar.

Tomorrow: Celebrating the new King (Barak Obama) by skiing The Queen.  Rat-a-tat-tat, hang on to your hat.
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Help support StraightChuter.com and tele like Noah Howell with a Black Diamond 01 Telemark Binding from Backcountry.com. Click on the photo below…
 
 
 
 
 

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Category: current conditions

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (6)

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  1. Derek says:

    The last pic is quite nice.

  2. Luke C says:

    Andrew – I’m loving your blog. Can’t wait for 8, 9, and 10.
    Super inspiring.

  3. dongshow says:

    I have to say that I’ve loved reading this series. Having lived there you information was beyond value then, this series is the same, but now it’s bringing back plenty of memories of my own through it’s quick highlighting of the range while providing a good story. Thank you!

  4. OMR says:

    Great needle blog. Several years ago I had illusions of solo-skiing the Needle but made the mistake of approaching directly up Coalpit. It was mid-spring and warm. Even before sun-up the water-fall was roaring and it soaked me, leaving me hypothermic and teeth chatering before I clued-in to the by-pass. Duh! Needless to say I bailed before getting too far. I went back later and did it right, albeit the long way: Red Pine, Maybird, Hogum.

  5. Darrell says:

    Noah is a great partner…be advised if you tent out with him his feet are a biohazard area, but they make a good boot pack so I forgive him that!

  6. TC says:

    Speaking of Ratatat, if you haven’t heard their stuff check it out http://www.myspace.com/ratatatmusic. I personally think they should/could have a space reserved in future ski flicks. Good tunes.

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