We tried this traverse two weeks ago with limited success. Okay fine no success. But once we'd finished picking the thorns out of our hands and figured out where we went wrong it was time to have another go. I'm going to write this one up as a true trip report.
Edit September 21 2014: Better way to do it.
Park at the Needle Peak trailhead on the south side of the highway. There is an underpass here and it's accessible from both the east and west bound lanes. Walk east along a gravel track adjacent to a small stream for a few hundred meters. At the height of land (there were two yellow pole-like markers when we were here) turn to your right (south) and hike uphill first through thick brush and then through mature forest. After about 30 minutes you will hopefully arrive at the base of a large open slab capped by a series of overlaps on the upper right. Don't confuse the slabs like we did on our first attempt.
Walk easily on the slab angling up and left.
When the going gets tough at the top of the slab it's time to take a few calming breaths, batten down the hatches, and plunge into the undergrowth on your left (east).
Don't bother trying to gain elevation at this point, it's just too much work. Traverse for a few hundred metres until you come across some slightly less thick brush that will allow you to head straight up with less effort. We found that the little streams afforded slightly better upwards travel. It's heavy going but you should emerge into a lovely meadow and talus field a couple of hours after leaving the car and just in time for second breakfasts.
With your back to the highway you will be looking up at a large cirque. On your left (east) there is ramp of brush and small trees that leads up and out of the talus. Head towards the ramp skipping joyously from block to block in a happy unencumbered brush-free manner. From the top of the ramp follow a series of slanting brushy ledges leading up and right (south-west) until you reach the ridge. Ta-da! Three hours from the car. It's a pleasant walk from here to the top of Markhor.
There are a few options for the descent down the SE ridge of Markhor. Staying right on the ridge crest is the most aesthetically pleasing but verges on low 5th class rock climbing. Staying more to skiers left, following the path of least resistance, is quick and easy but a bit scruffy.
After descending from Markhor you arrive at an obvious saddle on the ridge line. It is possible to bail here to the north side of the ridge; it's not pretty, tremendous bushwacking, but it goes. Stay to skiers left to avoid the steeper bits. Otherwise you're not far from the the top of Needle.
Continue along the ridge. After the next high point there is a 15m descent down a sharp ridge to a gravelly notch (crux #1). Easy low 5th class down climbing. Easy yes but don't fall off. Seriously. A member of our party who hadn't done much rock climbing was a lot happier with a rope above him.
Looking back at crux #1.
Scramble carefully up out of the notch and walk across to the last bump on the ridge before the final ridge walk up Needle. This last bump is imposing and the route doesn't seem obvious at first. We scrambled up on gravel covered ledges to the base of an obvious dead tree. A sketchy move around to the left side of the tree seemed the best option. Ahead is the obvious ridge leading to the top of Needle.
Easy, obvious scrambling except for one 15m stretch about half way up (crux #2). Here you are forced onto the left (south) side of the ridge to scramble up a 15m long slanting crumbly ledge. Again, not difficult, but falling would be bad. We used the rope again for this short section to keep the stress levels down, using a tree above for a quick anchor.
The summit of needle is just ahead. Continue over the summit to find the hiking trail that leads back down to the road.
We took 8 hours car-to-car.
Conditions Update Apr 11 2017
2 weeks ago