Peaks Climbed: "Khayyam Spire" & "Spire Three"

Peak Heights: 6,660' / 6,860'

Route: God's Own Drunk / International Chimney

Difficulty: 5.9 / 5.7

Location: Custer State Park, South Dakota

Trailhead: Cathedral Spires

Mileage & Gain: 2 mi & 1,000 ft RT

Date Climbed: May 26, 2018

The Cathedral Spires area is probably the most popular climbing destination in the Needles, and for good reason. This is a very cool place! There are four main numbered spires as well as a host of others scattered about. They are each a maximum of three pitches long and very close together so bagging a few in a day is a reasonable goal.

Spire Three is the only one of the four numbered spires I didn't climb on my first visit because the R rating made it less appealing than the others. But at the end of the day it didn't feel particularly harrowing compared to everything else I've climbed here.

The first pitch is money, a long 5.7 chimney adorned with huge quartz crystals. It is by far my favorite pitch to date in the Needles. In fact, many people just climb this pitch and then do a double rope rappel back to the ground. The second pitch starts out slabby and takes only small, somewhat marginal gear. The moves are committing but easy, and soon a good hand sized crack is available for protection.

Khayyam Spire is a really cool looking thing. The easiest route to the top is a two pitch 5.9 called God's Own Drunk. I'd had my eye on this one during my first trip to the area, but I wanted to explore some easier stuff before jumping on something of this grade. The Needles are notoriously runout and scary. This route turned out to be rather well protected by Needles standards, but still not G rated.

We found the routefinding to not be all that straightforward, and got off track on the first pitch by staying in the dihedal too long instead of exiting right onto a big ledge. Even so, we were able to correct our error rather easily by making a traverse higher up. There appeared to be several different crack system options for the second pitch, and the one I picked was a little tougher than it looked with a fun 5.8-5.9 finger crack crux. This pitch ended with easier but runout climbing to the notch between the two main summits. It's a short scramble to the highpoint from here.

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