North Arete 5.8

 
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Bear Creek Spire


High Sierra, California USA


Trip Report
Days around Rock Creek
Wednesday January 11, 2012 11:17am
Early morning winter approach
Early morning winter approach
Credit: Vitaliy M.

One of my friends suggested I should travel more often. “You been in US for more than three years now, why not visit a different place? You had a lot of fun in Asia, Middle East, and Europe before!” Simple words and my limited vocabulary cannot explain why I would rather drive close to 16 hours every weekend to and from my favorite spot on Earth- Sierra Nevada.

Love these flowers..
Love these flowers..
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Sierra is a massive range with huge granite peaks rising above scenic valleys filled with lakes and streams. In the last few years I was able to explore quite a bit of it. Rugged peaks in Palisades, perfect granite in Whitney area, marmots around Tuolumne Meadows, flowers in Sawtooth range, granite monsters around Clarence King and a lot more.

Humphreys, Royce, Merriam, Feather and Cheburashka
Humphreys, Royce, Merriam, Feather and Cheburashka
Credit: Vitaliy M.

One of the things I noticed is that although I am drawn to explore the whole range, there are places I like to visit more often. One of these is Rock Creek area. One does not have to walk far from mosquito flat trailhead to appreciate a variety of outdoor activities. This area has it all- scenic alpine lakes, fishing, bouldering, peaks that could be done by scramblers, technical trad routes, granite spires, streams, well maintained trails, and a lot more. One could camp or do majority of the climbs in a day. So far I was able to do all climbs in a day or less. Another benefit of starting early is watching Bear Creek Spire, Pipisque Spire, and Mt. Dade getting first rays of sun in the early morning.

Winter Sunrise
Winter Sunrise
Credit: Vitaliy M.

During early summer mosquitoes are terrible and there seem to be as many people as mosquitoes on the trail, but once you pass Ruby Lake both mostly disappear. For those who can’t handle much of both (mosquitoes or people), winter is a great time to play. Aside from absence of humans, winter provides a different playground. Lakes are frozen, peaks are covered in snow, skiing is fun, and scenery does not get much better.

Early summer
Early summer
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Rock Creek area has such a high concentration of things to do, that you could literary spent your whole summer there and not be bored. My first trip there was up Mt. Abbott (summer of 2010) which offers a short snow climb and a straight forward 3rd class climb to the summit. When I was a kid my teachers gave me sh#t for always looking around and paying much of my attention to things around. When I am out, it is no different.

Bear Creek Spire at sunset
Bear Creek Spire at sunset
Credit: Vitaliy M.

On the way up to Mt. Abbott I noticed Bear Creek Spire, to the south. I knew that North Arete was one of the most classic climbs in High Sierra, but at the time I was getting more comfortable with cl. 3 scrambles, leading 5.8 on trad was still a fantasy. Just to the North of Abbott I noticed a striking spire- Petit Griffon. At the moment I had no idea what it was, but if I told my mother that some day I want to climb it, she would most likely faint.

Sunrise Bear Creek Spire
Sunrise Bear Creek Spire
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Summer was coming to an end, and I started focusing on trad climbing more than before. Going to Lovers Leap during autumn, Sugar Loaf, Cosumnes River Gorge, Yosemite during winter, and gym climbing most of the week days after work improved my climbing skills and confidence quite a bit.

Cheburashka on top of Dade on New Year's Eve (12/31/2011)! He ...
Cheburashka on top of Dade on New Year's Eve (12/31/2011)! He climbed the North Face!
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Having friends with similar interests helps. We drove up to attempt Petit Griffon as a dayhike in winter. After an 11 hour drive we got to the trailhead around 3am. During winter the trailhead is significantly further- at a SNO Park. After getting to the TH, we gathered our stuff and left the car by about 4am. We got to the base of the spire, but for different reasons the climb went to sh#t from there. Everyone survived and we were back at the TH defeated about 14 hours later. This day reminds me that I need to get into AT skiing- I was the only one on snow shoes that day. The hike out was fairly long and annoying. Breaking own trail was not that enjoyable neither.

Petit Griffon
Petit Griffon
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Petit Griffon also survived, and I was able to come back with couple of good friends during summer- Bryan and Chad. Starting from Mosquito Flat after a good night of sleep, was real nice compared to our winter attempt. The climb went very well-- table sized summit, great view, good company, big exposure, and being the first party in 2011 to sign the old register was a great experience. If memory doesn’t fail me, we were able to make it to Mono Cone (Lee Vining) for milkshakes and burgers. Life doesn’t get much better.

Petit Griffon summit register
Petit Griffon summit register
Credit: Vitaliy M.

As the summer progressed I continued to climb. At one point I felt confident enough to suggest a friend of mine that we can attempt North Arete of Bear Creek Spire. Things aligned well and we drove up to climb it on Saturday over the Labor Day weekend. To our surprise we were the only party on the route that day. On the hike out after the climb we met couple of people that were camping, with an intend to climb it on Sunday.

1st pitch on North arete of BCS
1st pitch on North arete of BCS
Credit: Vitaliy M.

North Arete was one of my favorite climbs this summer (along with Dark Star, Charlotte dome and Third Pillar of Dana), especially due to my inability to route find. For the 2nd pitch I pointed to a 5.9 handcrack as the 5.7 (that way looked like the ‘dirty’ variation to by-pass slower parties).

Leading my first 5.10 ever (var. on N. arete of BCS)
Leading my first 5.10 ever (var. on N. arete of BCS)
Credit: Vitaliy M.

For the 5th (crux) pitch I took the 5.10 variation (my first 5.10 on lead) up the arête proper. Thank god I did not know it was a 5.10 before starting up it, since at that point 5.10a-b was my onsight grade, on top rope. It went well, with upper crack widening but offering some good hand jamming in a corner. After this pitch I was so happy that I decided to climb over the ‘tunnel through.’ We simul climbed the rest to the summit, and enjoyed awesome alpine-glow on the way out.

Just one of those beautiful sunsets I had a chance to experience out t...
Just one of those beautiful sunsets I had a chance to experience out there..
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Mt. Dade is another nice looking peak I came out to do. With prolonged dry spell in the end of 2011, my friend and I decided to attempt North Face couloir- rarely done, but included in 100 Best Climbs in the High Sierra.

Mt. Dade
Mt. Dade
Credit: Vitaliy M.

We were happy we did, because it had some water ice in it. Although not really steep or challenging, we simul climbed the route without much difficulty. Class 4 rock at the top was a bit loose, but views from the top made up for it. We were the last people in 2011 to summit (December 31st). Since an idea of being the last ones in 2011 and first ones in 2012 was quite interesting, we did NE couloir on Dade a week later.

Climbing high on NF of Dade
Climbing high on NF of Dade
Credit: Vitaliy M.

On the approach to NF it looked steeper with a lot more ice. I was a bit disappointed since it had only one section that was steeper, and pure blue. Rest of it was mostly loose rock and neve in a couloir. We simul climbed through another cl 4 rock variation to top out on the right side of continuation couloir. Scrambling in crampons is fun.

Mt. Dade NE couloir with ice showing
Mt. Dade NE couloir with ice showing
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Hoping that some day when I ‘grow up,’ I will be able to do striking lines up Ruby Peak, but till than I will still find a way to have fun in one of my favorite parts of Sierra.

Ruby Peak
Ruby Peak
Credit: Vitaliy M.

  Trip Report Views: 3,321
Vitaliy M.
About the Author
Vitaliy M. is annoying gym climber from San Francisco.

Comments
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mooch

Trad climber
Old Climbers' Home (Adopted)
  Jan 11, 2012 - 11:43am PT
Nice job V!

Deb and I did this five years ago on Labor Day weekend too. Cold spell came through (including 20 mph avg. winds), making for solid "alpine conditions". We too also did the 5.10 variation on pitch #5 (thinking we were on route for the "5.8 OW" pitch...HA!) . The intial start of that pitch had me thinking, "What the hell??". But as the climbing progressed, I actually had a good time with a few finger locks and hand/fist jams. Yep, I'd think this one ranks in my Top 10 faves in the Sierra.

P.S. If you ask Deb on her recollection of the route, she'll mention FIRST that I lost my headlamp and had to rely on her to get us back after dark (we had 2 parties ahead of us.....twidle thumbs :/)
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jan 11, 2012 - 12:53pm PT
Thank you Dave! I remember asking her for descent info, and she was one of the few helpful people that actually said how it is.
That variation lured (both) us I guess because it is on the actual arete, and it looks like a great looking crack that grows wide at the top (although I did not do any OW technique there neither, just jams of different kinds). To do the 5.8 variation you have to go off the arete to the left. Since I have not done the other one I cant compare, but I really enjoyed that pitch!
For some reason we also had windy/cold conditions up there, I even brought my down sweater.

Hope to see you both somewhere out there in 2012! Should be a good year.
Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Jan 11, 2012 - 12:59pm PT
What a fantastic TR, Vitaly! Awesome climbing, too. Yes, Occupy SuperTopo with climbing!
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Jan 11, 2012 - 03:13pm PT
This TR is fat city. Makes me psyched and jealous at the same time. More psyched.

Pictures are 10/10. Thanks.
squishy

Mountain climber
  Jan 11, 2012 - 03:15pm PT
Good stuff vitally..
dfinnecy

Social climber
'stralia
  Jan 11, 2012 - 03:20pm PT
Jealous. Great pics and report!
Alois

Trad climber
Idyllwild, California
  Jan 11, 2012 - 03:22pm PT
So you guys did the Dade Couloir after all! Good TR, very nice pictures. The Rock Creek Basin is such a wonderful place. And how right you are, why travel anywhere when we can mess around in the Sierra at any time of the year. Cheers, Alois.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jan 11, 2012 - 03:47pm PT
Thank you guys!

Le_Bruce, you are NOT one of those people who can be jealous! If I do a fraction of the climbs you do I will be happy. : )

Alois, we made it to both NF couloir and NE couloir on Dade haha. NF is in 100 classic climbs book, and NE couloir is very obscure, but had a lot more blue ice/looked steeper. Both were ok.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jan 11, 2012 - 04:17pm PT
great survey TR!

Bear Creek Spire is high on the list to do... STILL!
jfailing

Trad climber
PDX, North Slope, The Open Road
  Jan 11, 2012 - 04:28pm PT
Rad dude! Way to get after it! Wishing I didn't have to work so often so I could climb up there...
phylp

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Jan 11, 2012 - 05:29pm PT
Another thing about Rock Creek, in the summer season: the pies at the resort. This is one of the few places offering "homemade pies" that make pies to rival my own.

This a a very nice trip report, V. Thanks for the positive contribution.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jan 11, 2012 - 05:30pm PT
Absolutely wonderful climbs, pictures and writing.
You have a gift with TR's
THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!
Best
-ez
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jan 11, 2012 - 05:38pm PT
the pies at the resort


I did not mention this, but my first visit to the area was after a 22 hour day doing Split, Prater, Bolton Brown, Birch and back down to Owens Valley road where we parked. I was trashed, and we went to sleep at 5am. At 9 we went to eat at that resort, and I got one of those apple pies with ice cream. I couldn't finish it and it was really good. We just hiked to Ruby lake that day.


WOW, thank you Ezra. That is a really nice of you to say that.
Nastia

Ice climber
Portland, OR
  Jan 11, 2012 - 05:47pm PT
Thanks for the stoke, Vita. Beautiful area!

And big props to the 16 hr commutes every weekend. I wish I had so much dedication instead of whining about 6 hrs drives to the North Cascades and wanting to move.
Bryan B

Trad climber
Sacramento, CA
  Jan 11, 2012 - 08:43pm PT
Your shot from "Climbing high on NF of Dade" is my favorite. Another great TR and photos V. :)

Scott Thelen

Trad climber
Truckee, Ca
  Jan 11, 2012 - 08:57pm PT
Got to love Rock Creek
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Jan 11, 2012 - 09:27pm PT
Bump!
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Jan 11, 2012 - 09:47pm PT
Nice! I too am green with envy.
Cosmiccragsman

Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
  Jan 11, 2012 - 09:55pm PT
Dam GYM Climbers get all the FUN.

Winter is too cold, so I'd wait til summer to climb something like that.

You CRAZY Russian, You must have been born in Siberia.
johntp

Trad climber
socal
  Jan 11, 2012 - 09:59pm PT
Rock Creek rocks. Many happy days and nights have been spent in the basin. Thanks for the photos. It is a wonderful place to climb and ski. Skinning around under a full moon is an experience I'll never forget.
noriko nakagawa

Trad climber
the bubble, co
  Jan 11, 2012 - 10:06pm PT
Great photos of an amazing area, V. Thanks for putting this together.

-Michelle
avid

Trad climber
Colorado Springs
  Jan 11, 2012 - 11:35pm PT
Great read Vittles!! Thanks for sharing! :]
bergbryce

climber
East Bay, CA
  Jan 11, 2012 - 11:49pm PT
Nice TR. We should get out some time.
selfish man

Gym climber
Austin, TX
  Jan 12, 2012 - 12:01am PT
but where's krokodil Gena?

Fluoride

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA/Joshua Tree
  Jan 12, 2012 - 05:17am PT
Very nice thread VM. Rock Creek is one of my favorite Sierra destinations as well. So lovely and so much to do.

Cheers to some great pics and TR Vitaliy. Keep on having great trips and sharing!

PS - agreed, Mono Cone is a slice of heaven after a long day out there in the summer.
ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
extraordinaire
  Jan 12, 2012 - 03:44am PT
We drove up to attempt Petit Griffon as a dayhike in winter. After an 11 hour drive we got to the trailhead around 3am. During winter the trailhead is significantly further- at a SNO Park. After getting to the TH, we gathered our stuff and left the car by about 4am. We got to the base of the spire, but for different reasons the climb went to sh#t from there.
G-narly.
Wayno

Big Wall climber
Seattle, WA
  Jan 12, 2012 - 04:33am PT
Go Vitaly! It sounds like you're ready for Half Dome regular route.
PellucidWombat

Mountain climber
Berkeley, CA
  Jan 18, 2012 - 07:26pm PT
I'll read through this later, but on first skim it looks like you've written a great report!

I just barely finished editing my photos from the last two weekends, but a few that I think would go nicely in your report are these:


V climbing the ice crux as we simul-climbed Dade's N Face


V soloing very icy neve on Checkered Demon's Kindergarten Couloir (not Rock Creek but we did this the day before Dade's NE Couloir)


V reaching the exposed water ice on Dade's NE Couloir


V (right) and Aaron below Ruby Pk on our approach to Petit Griffon :-)


V and Aaron at the belay notch for Petit Griffon on our winter attempt.

Or more photos here:

Petit Griffon Winter Attempt

Dade N Couloir

Dade NE Couloir
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jan 12, 2012 - 11:34pm PT
Thank you guys for kind words! Off the forum for a few days, at Hyalite now. This place is freaking amazing!

Wayno, regular route on half dome this year would be amazing...don't think I am ready yet, but I might be at some point
RoryKuykendall

Mountain climber
Telluride, CO
  Jan 18, 2012 - 01:50am PT
Awesome. Thanks for posting.
nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Jan 18, 2012 - 02:31am PT
Vitaliy, thanks for sharing your passion so nicely! You find many kindred spirits here, myself included. I too am jealous for the amount of time you can prioritize for doing what you love :)
Zander

climber
  Jan 18, 2012 - 07:47pm PT
Nice thread.
Z
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Jan 18, 2012 - 08:11pm PT
Here's to Rock Creeks' year round fun zone! Thanks for posting.
Les

Trad climber
Bahston
  Jan 25, 2012 - 01:06pm PT
nice TR
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Jan 25, 2012 - 05:40pm PT
Re-Bump.
wallflower

Big Wall climber
CA
  Jan 25, 2012 - 11:48pm PT
thanks 4 the trip report! so many eastern classics, so little time. i want Dark Star
That's one i haven't done
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jan 26, 2012 - 01:16am PT
Dark Star is AWESOME! Real long. But after the first Buttress (8-10 pitches) there is not much more you need to pitch out.
Not around Rock Creek though : )
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
  Jan 28, 2012 - 10:55pm PT
Fun read and nice pics - way to get after it, Vitaliy!
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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.