TR from a trip a couple weeks ago... so six of us took on a little more than we expected with this, but we managed with solid group cohesion, determination, patience and will. Please keep in mind while you read this that none of us had any experience on this route so you may notice better choices as you peruse my ramblings, and I encourage you to please share your thoughts... I live in a perpetual state of learning... so have at'er.
Hiked 300m too far down the dirt road running parallel to the Coq. Hwy.... and ended up ascending to the right of the second bare slab which took us to the top of cool nub with a neat little tarn at ~1770m - scrambling krummholz and C2-4 sections here (3:00hr / 11:15am)
15 min break at Tarn
From here we had to drop down 20-30 m then start moving on a diagonal gaining elevation until we were on top of the ridge running NE of Markhor Peak. it was a fairly easy ramble along the ridge to the peak from there (1:15hr / 12:45pm)
15 min break on Markhor Peak (1:00pm)
We started descending to the col but we only made it part way down the back of Marhkor before we had to belay/repel (we found 2 sets of webbing anchored here on a tree - the blue one looked a little chewed up but the red one was in great shape) to get past a bare section of rock about 25m tall - this slowed us down considerably... took 2:20hr to get all the way to the col (we are not pro climbers... experienced people would have been much quicker but safety was our concern. I think from what I saw and again no expert... this would be the point of no return for us unless we could descend the steep bowl between Markhor and Needle back to the highway. Time was starting to become a bit of a concern and the weather was starting to turn on us... the wind changed direction and picked up considerably bringing with it the odd raindrop attempting to erode our determination. (2:20hr / 3:20pm)
We climbed to the highest point along the ridge again relying on one of our members scrambling up ahead of us and dropping a rope and from here you could see the C4 crux of the route where you have a narrow edge with considerable exposure on both sides. We had one of members belay 3 others down and to the right where you can find lots of hand and footholds, but one mistake free climbing on this would mean serious injury or death. 3 of our group completed without assistance. One of our members was thrown off balance by a strong side wind while belaying and ended up swinging to climbers left hitting his shoulder and back. The rest of us finished this section and we checked on the mildly injured climber before proceeding (1:15hr / 4:30pm)
The hardest part was done now and we moved smoothly along the graceful sweep of the ridge to the base of Needle and clambered our way up with only one or two more short sections where a few of us needed to have a rope dropped down in order to proceed. From the crux it took 1:30hr for all of us to reach Needle peak and the high-fiving ensued. (1:30hr / 6:00pm)
We spend 30 minutes on the peak taking photos and congratulating everyone for their grit, perseverance, teamwork and comparing whom had the most battle worn shins. (30 min / 6:30pm)
8:30pm Back to vehicles
We would see people on Needle Peak every once in a while from the time we started to drop down Markhor until the little ridge peak in groups of 3 or 4 and I am sure they were entertained by our colourful shirts and helmets bobbing in and out of view along the ridge.
Mosquitoes and flies were getting bad after 5pm when the wind had died down.
We were lucky enough to have small patches of snow to replenish our water supplies. These will not be around for much longer.. perhaps another week or so in these temps. The largest being on the shoulder of needle about 150m as the crow flies, you can't miss it.
We descended at a somewhat leisurely pace and two of our group whom had gone way ahead, distracted by their own conversation veered left and started descending towards Flatiron, carrying on for some time before they realized their mistake and had to hustle back up onto the ridge that descends over a number of diminishing humps before descending the last slope to the vehicles.
In hindsight, I would only change two things. I will take less people... I think a group size of 3 or maybe 4 max and maybe slightly stronger pre-qualification would have been ideal. Other than that it was an amazing experience.
Full set of photos here Markhor-Needle Traverse, June 28, 2015
BC Peaks & Trails Hiking Group
Have fun out there and stay safe.