North Arete 5.8

 
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Bear Creek Spire


High Sierra, California USA


Trip Report
Bear Creek Spire North Arete
Tuesday April 10, 2012 2:24am
Last Summer, I accomplished a 20 year dream and climbed a mountain that I didn't know was possible to climb when I first decided to do it.

Credit: LuckyJack

When I was twelve or thirteen, I went on vacation with my friend Noah to Little Lakes Valley, a beautiful little secluded valley in the Sierras, between Mammoth and Bishop. At the head of the valley is the most picturesque mountain I had ever seen. I spent seemingly hours staring at it and finally, after gathering the courage, turned to my friend and announced, "I'm going to climb that someday." "That's impossible!" he responded, "It's a sheer cliff." So for years I hid the desire away, pretending I had forgotten. In the mean time, I took up gym climbing, even got outside a few times up to Lovers' Leap. Then one fortunate day, flipping through the pages of High Sierra Climbing at my climbing partners house, I jumped up and shouted, "People DO climb it!" I literally jumped out of my chair. A deep dream had awakened in me that I had almost forgotten, but suddenly I knew I would climb the North Arete of Bear Creek Spire.

A few months later, we were on the road. We drove from the Bay Area to Mammoth, where we got the wilderness permit, and hit the trailhead at about two in the afternoon. We hiked up to Dade Lake, arriving at dusk, and got things ready for an alpine start for the still long approach and 10 pitches of climbing.

I awoke the next morning with the worst headache of my life. Our trip seemed derailed. My head felt like it would explode with each gentle step as I walked far enough away from camp to relieve myself. We decided that we would take the day to acclimatize, having driven and hiked from sea level to 11,500ft. But by 9am, after a couple Advil an two liters of water, we decided we couldn't stand to wait another day, and we took off for the climb.

The approach took us longer than we expected, but once we got climbing, it was stellar.

Pitch after pitch head up broken flakes on a steep arete. The climbing is mostly very easy. Maybe there is a difference between Yosemite 5.7 and high sierra 5.7, but we cruised it. That said, I learned that day that I needed to lead 5.5 much faster. I was a pretty new leader when we did this climb, and while the climbing is very easy, the exposure is breathtaking at times, and I often led 5.5 as cautiously as I might 5.8, which is just way too slow. The video will speak to the exposure a little, but the views and the summit are just awesome.

We found the descent very scetchy and dangerous on steep, icy snow after dark. I had light hiking boots with heels that would dig in, giving me a little security, but my partner, in running shoes, might as well have had ice skates on. He couldn't get any purchase whatsoever, and our descent felt much more dangerous than anything we climbed.

We got back to camp at midnight. I drank a liter of water and collapsed in my sleeping bag.



There is not much that is sweeter than fulfilling a lifelong dream. I had been told I couldn't do it, and for years I had believed it. But somewhere the dream was burning inside me, and I finally got the chance to stand up to the challenge. In retrospect, the climbing on Bear Creek Spire was dissapointingly easy, and while it was amazing to check it of my life list, it left me yearning for bigger, more difficult climbs. (maybe with shorter approaches)
Only one climbing dream looms larger or longer-standing in my soul than that one. When I was 8 years old my family went on a camping trip to Yosemite and I stood in El Cap Meadow looking up at the biggest piece of granite on Earth...here's to dreaming big dreams.

  Trip Report Views: 2,260
LuckyJack
About the Author
LuckyJack is a trad climber from Novato, CA.

Comments
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David D.

Trad climber
California
  Apr 10, 2012 - 03:21am PT
Good on you man! TFPU!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Apr 10, 2012 - 09:22am PT
Way to live your dreams, thank you for sharing,
LuckyJack

Trad climber
Novato, CA
Author's Reply  Dec 17, 2012 - 04:59am PT
I finally got the video up on my Bear Creek Spire TR, check it out!
Powder

Trad climber
the Flower Box
  Dec 17, 2012 - 05:15am PT
Congrats on fulfilling your dream! =)

P.S. Was unable to watch the video; it was blocked.... : [
lubbockclimber

Trad climber
lubbock,tx
  Dec 17, 2012 - 07:42am PT
Yea man! Living the dream!
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
  Dec 18, 2012 - 04:11am PT
I was talking to Dave Yerian up at Tioga Pass this summer past and he told me he'd soloed the 5.5 Northeast Ridge of Bear Creek Spire once. When he got to the top, he was so intimidated by the descent off the back of the spire from the summit that he down soloed the whole ne ridge to get back and off the mountain. It sounds as though you better have a rope along to rappel off the back, right? Thought I saw a rap anchor for the rappel off the back on some YouTube video. Did you guys find it? I wouldn't mind soloing that NE Ridge, but I sure don't want to eat it on the descent going back to camp! Beta please!
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Dec 18, 2012 - 04:27am PT
Nice! Thanks for posting, and, since I somehow missed this the first time, thanks to those who bumped this. Now if the video can, somehow, be unblocked . . .

John
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Dec 18, 2012 - 10:12am PT
sounds awesome...but your video is blocked : (

maybe something to do with the music you used?

that's what the blocked message suggests anyways

donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Dec 18, 2012 - 10:17am PT
Live the dream and then......expand it!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Dec 18, 2012 - 11:17am PT
Dreamin scheming
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Dec 18, 2012 - 01:07pm PT
Very cool LuckyJack! I dream about the first time i saw bear creek spire all the time, it's so breathtaking- still haven't climbed it but i already know how it's gonna feel running out of mosquito flats @ 530am one day, can't wait! Thanks for the psyche!
klk

Trad climber
cali
  Dec 18, 2012 - 01:17pm PT
nice tr.

bruce-- if you do the ridge, the best descent is actually back down it-- depending on the snow cover, you can usually downclimb easier ground to the south of the ridge proper and stay in class 3 territory most of the way. getting on/off the summit block is yr main adventure.
LuckyJack

Trad climber
Novato, CA
Author's Reply  Dec 22, 2012 - 02:41pm PT
I pulled the music and reposted, anyone let me know if the video runs? It works for me.
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Dec 23, 2012 - 01:28am PT
Wonderful story man. Congrats. When we click on the video, it goes black and says "This video is private."

Go into settings in your vimeo account, on this video's settings, and make sure its set for everyone to see. Not just friends or members, etc....

You just need to switch a setting to make it public. Looking forward to seeing it. Skied in a couple years ago to do a wintry ascent, but got lost in deep snow below gem lake. Big bummer. Had to ski out without ever getting on the rock.

10b4me

climber
  Dec 23, 2012 - 12:00pm PT
^^^what he sai, except do it on you tube
John M

climber
  Dec 23, 2012 - 02:07pm PT
Here is to fulfilling life long dreams..
LuckyJack

Trad climber
Novato, CA
Author's Reply  Dec 23, 2012 - 06:07pm PT
Sucks that no one has seen the video, that's the whole reason I put the TR up! Hopefully it works now. Thanks for the tip on the privacy settings. I guess I assumed that if I put it up on Youtube, it was for people to see, why default to private?
LuckyJack

Trad climber
Novato, CA
Author's Reply  Dec 23, 2012 - 06:15pm PT
Regarding the comment on rapping off, there was a rap station right at the bottom of the notch where we came down from the ridge, but I think the descent varies massively by snow conditions. We were coming down late, after dark, and the late summer snow was very hard and icy. I felt pretty safe in hiking boots, but my partner got absolutely no traction in running shoes. We ended up doing a couple more rappels lower down, for which we had to leave slings behind. I would recommend either boots with good soles to stomp steps, or maybe some of those super lightweight crampons if you're in lightweight shoes. You can see the snow conditions at the base and compare them to conditions when you're going.
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Dec 24, 2012 - 12:18am PT
No prob seeing he vid for me. What a magical place - thanks very much for posting up. Love those last-light summit images...

Edit: I didn't think the descent was hairy.
mhay

climber
Bishop, CA
  Jan 23, 2013 - 01:18pm PT
Maybe there is a difference between Yosemite 5.7 and high sierra 5.7, but we cruised it.

I've seen the crux as "5.8 OW", but stemming it eases that short section considerably.

It's a great route. Well worth doing.
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Jan 23, 2013 - 02:11pm PT
The video is working now. Thanks for fixing it. I love that area -- so close to home, as the crow flies, but taking quite a bit of effort to get there are my legs move.

john
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Jan 23, 2013 - 03:42pm PT
I was talking to Dave Yerian up at Tioga Pass this summer past and he told me he'd soloed the 5.5 Northeast Ridge of Bear Creek Spire once. When he got to the top, he was so intimidated by the descent off the back of the spire from the summit that he down soloed the whole ne ridge to get back and off the mountain.
Now I don't feel so bad. I had the same feelings after soloing that route (although I Roper, whose guide I was relying on at the time, I think describes it as only 4th class--so even that was a wake up). I did downclimb the backside (not that I had much choice) but due to my superior route finding skills found portions of it way trickier than expected.

Such a great summit and a great peak. TFPU.
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Bear Creek Spire - North Arete 5.8 - High Sierra, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The route from just above Dade Lake.
Photo: Chris McNamara
Other Routes on Bear Creek Spire
Bear Creek Spire - Northeast Ridge 5.5 - High Sierra, California USA. Click for details.
Northeast Ridge, 5.5
Bear Creek Spire
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The route as seen from above Dade Lake.