North Arete 5.8

 
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Bear Creek Spire


High Sierra, California USA


Trip Report
Friday the 13th on Bear Creek Spire's North Arete
Sunday August 15, 2010 10:22pm
The Swiss Arete and subsequent successes emboldened me to try something I have wanted to do ever since I first scrambled up the Northeast Ridge of Bear Creek Spire in 2007. Justin was game for the North Arete too, and the weather forecast was looking stellar, so early on Thursday morning we snagged a wilderness permit at the Lee Vining ranger station.

Around 10am we started hiking up from the Mosquito Flat trailhead (10255').

Walking up from the overflow lot to the trailhead
Walking up from the overflow lot to the trailhead
Credit: Justin Marion

Hiking alongside Long Lake
Hiking alongside Long Lake
Credit: Justin Marion

At Gem Lakes we passed a trailwork party, and a USFS ranger who checked that we possessed a valid permit and a bear canister. Soon we ascended into the sea of talus, and had lunch near one of the unnamed lakes.

Me in the talus between Gem Lakes and Dade Lake
Me in the talus between Gem Lakes and Dade Lake
Credit: Justin Marion

Unnamed lake between Gem Lakes and Dade Lake
Unnamed lake between Gem Lakes and Dade Lake
Credit: rhyang

A hiker followed us up and asked if he could tag along to see how the route to Dade Lake was. As anyone who has been up there knows, there is lots of talus hopping :) but by 1:30 pm we were at Dade.

Bear Creek Spire, from Dade Lake (11600')
Bear Creek Spire, from Dade Lake (11600')
Credit: rhyang

Bivy spots were not hard to find (it being a weekday) and we set up camp.

Bivy at Dade Lake
Bivy at Dade Lake
Credit: rhyang

Copious sleepage then ensued during the afternoon. We cooked dinner and turned in early. It was a little breezy, which kept the halfhearted mosquito population at bay somewhat.

Overnight, the Perseid meteor shower was peaking .. I awoke several times to check out the sights -- one in particular streaked across the sky and left an incredible green trail. A good omen in some traditions.

We got moving around dawn and headed up to the moraine and the base of the route.

Me on the approach to the North Arete
Me on the approach to the North Arete
Credit: Justin Marion

Looking up the North Arete from the moraine
Looking up the North Arete from the moraine
Credit: rhyang

looking east-ish from the moraine
looking east-ish from the moraine
Credit: rhyang

We scrambled up the third and fourth class of the first pitch to the big ledge below the 5.7 crack in our approach footwear and geared up. Tape gloves, rack, radio check.

The rock was pretty cold at first, but it was mostly in the sun. I took the first pitch and started up around 8am.

Me leading first pitch (5.7 crack / flakes)
Me leading first pitch (5.7 crack / flakes)
Credit: Justin Marion

The second pitch was also mine. I was a little puzzled by the routefinding, but it seemed to work out.

Me leading pitch two (5.7)
Me leading pitch two (5.7)
Credit: Justin Marion

Looking down second pitch (5.7) -- not entirely sure I was on route
Looking down second pitch (5.7) -- not entirely sure I was on route
Credit: rhyang

Justin took the next two pitches. I guess some people solo or simul these, but we figured it would be easy enough to just belay them.

Justin leading pitch three (5.4)
Justin leading pitch three (5.4)
Credit: rhyang

Me following pitch three or four
Me following pitch three or four
Credit: Justin Marion

We were getting some great views from the route.

Mt. Dade (13600') from the route (upper right)
Mt. Dade (13600') from the route (upper right)
Credit: rhyang

Looking down Little Lakes Valley from the route
Looking down Little Lakes Valley from the route
Credit: rhyang

Now for the moment I had been waiting for -- the feared 5.8 "offwidth".

Looking up fifth pitch (5.8)
Looking up fifth pitch (5.8)
Credit: rhyang

Fortunately I managed to stem and jam up this thing without having to resort to my rather energy-inefficient offwidth repertoire, such as it is. I've read other opinions that this thing is overrated, but it felt pretty 5.8 to me. What do I know.

Me leading fifth pitch (5.8)
Me leading fifth pitch (5.8)
Credit: Justin Marion

The 5.6 chute was amusing, and soon we were contemplating the sixth pitch. But first we had lunch. Justin led the keyhole pitch, which I rather enjoyed.

Me downclimbing through the keyhole on pitch 6
Me downclimbing through the keyhole on pitch 6
Credit: Justin Marion

We decided to belay one more pitch and got a bit offroute, but having done the NE Ridge twice before I didn't think it was a huge deal. We coiled the rope and headed up to the ridge. Wonderful exposure !

Me scrambling on ridge
Me scrambling on ridge
Credit: Justin Marion

Justin on an exposed fourth class part of the ridge, not far from the ...
Justin on an exposed fourth class part of the ridge, not far from the summit
Credit: rhyang

Justin went up the fourth class chimney to the summit area. I continued a bit further along and found some nice 5.5-ish jugs instead (did the chimney last year). Soon we were taking pics of each other on the summit block.

Justin atop the summit (5.6R mantel)
Justin atop the summit (5.6R mantel)
Credit: rhyang

Me atop the summit
Me atop the summit
Credit: Justin Marion

We could not locate the summit register though :( I'd actually brought a spare notebook for it, but the metal register container itself was missing, or maybe I just didn't look hard enough. Oh well. The views were incredible of course. Some clouds had formed, but overall the weather was still pretty much perfect.

Feather Peak (13240') from near summit (center left)
Feather Peak (13240') from near summit (center left)
Credit: rhyang

More summit views
More summit views
Credit: rhyang

We rapped off the slings near the summit block at 3pm and headed down the class 2-3 ledges to the gap in the ridge.

Descending Ulrich's Route
Descending Ulrich's Route
Credit: Justin Marion

North Arete in profile, from the ridge
North Arete in profile, from the ridge
Credit: rhyang

The snow was soft, with runnels and suncups. We made our way back down the talus to Dade Lake.

Me descending talus (so tiring !)
Me descending talus (so tiring !)
Credit: Justin Marion

Dade Lake on the descent
Dade Lake on the descent
Credit: Justin Marion

The descent took longer than I expected -- my left leg was getting fatigued and pretty wobbly at times, and we returned to our camp around 6:30pm. A couple of other parties arrived as we cooked dinner, and we had a nice chat with a pair from Santa Barbara. The evening was clear and basically moonless, and there were still meteors to be seen. Camping on a clear night above 11000' .. life could be worse :)

Early the next morning (Saturday) we awoke and packed up, ready to hike out. We watched a group of four head up, presumably for the NE Ridge. Another party started off, probably going for the N Arete. Our bros from UCSB were sleeping in.

We got moving before 7am and scrambled down the talus, past the lakes, and back to the parking lot by 9:30. It being Saturday, people were streaming in and we greeted several parties who looked like they were climbing. Good thing we didn't try this on a weekend.

We headed back down to Tom's Place, grabbed some juice & ice cream, then over Tioga Pass and back down to Priest Station Cafe for lunch -

Lunch after the climb !
Lunch after the climb !
Credit: Justin Marion

Gear notes:

 8 trad draws (ya, I was a little paranoid)
 2 double-length slings
 Wild Country Rocks 1-8 (didn't use but one of these)
 DMM Offset Nuts 7-11 (used more of these)
 cams from Wild Country Zero Z4 up to 3.5 technical friend
 60m x 9.5mm single rope
 2 cordelettes

My summer is now complete :)

  Trip Report Views: 3,388
rhyang
About the Author

Comments
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Zander

climber
  Aug 15, 2010 - 10:45pm PT
Great stuff rhyang!
A route I've always wanted to do. Looks like it was a beautiful day for it.
Thanks for posting.
Zander
tuolumne_tradster

Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
  Aug 15, 2010 - 11:17pm PT
nice TR rhyang...check off another classic.
did this route back in the late 1980s and loved it

thanks for posting
flakyfoont

Trad climber
carsoncity nv
  Aug 15, 2010 - 11:50pm PT
Thanks for the great TR. Ive done North Arete twice ('89, and '95)
IMHO bear crk spire has one of the best views in the Sierra Nevada.
Excellant way to spend a Friday 13th.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Aug 16, 2010 - 12:02am PT
Excellent TR
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
  Aug 16, 2010 - 12:06am PT
Outstanding report as usual, even better than average trip!
LuckyPink

climber
the last bivy
  Aug 16, 2010 - 01:32am PT
hey did you find a single purple mythos men's sz 10.5 in the talus? or somewhere? partner lost it the day before.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Aug 16, 2010 - 03:14am PT
had talked about doing this this year. Midweek seems ideal. hrm


thx for posting
rhyang

climber
SJC
Author's Reply  Aug 16, 2010 - 09:53am PT
Thanks all !

Didn't find any shoes in the talus unfortunately. Oddly enough though I did spot a mangled-looking stuck pink tricam and didn't bother to try bootying it ..
Joe Stern

climber
Santa Barbara, CA
  Aug 16, 2010 - 12:26pm PT
Hey rhyang...nice report there. One of the "bros from UCSB" checking in. We indeed had a nice sleep in and were rewarded with the 5th spot in line on the North Arete last Saturday. Miraculously, after taking a nice 5.9 hand/fist variation on Pitch 2 and simul-climbing the next 4th class bit, we managed to pass all but the lead party and didn't have to wait a minute on the route! A great day out.

We tried to keep an eye out for the lost Mytho as well, but to no avail.

Oh, and see if you can find the summit register in the photo below! We found two separate rappel anchors near the top...we used the one farthest from the true summit (i.e. climber's left) which is right next to the register. Perhaps you went up farther right and missed it?

Nice chatting with you guys that evening, and again, nice TR!

Summit register on Bear Creek Spire.
Summit register on Bear Creek Spire.
Credit: Joe Stern
rhyang

climber
SJC
Author's Reply  Aug 16, 2010 - 01:50pm PT
Ha ! Nice work guys :)

Yep, we stayed right most of the way and while I saw that rap anchor I didn't look at it too carefully. Our loss.
msiddens

Trad climber
  Aug 16, 2010 - 01:54pm PT
Rhyang-

nice stuff and I loved that route. PS, Summer aint over yet!
Thorgon

Big Wall climber
Sedro Woolley, WA
  Aug 16, 2010 - 02:22pm PT
Stellar white-granite, especially pitch 1-4... Excellent photos, makes me want to climb this route!



Thanks for the share,
Thor
Mason

Trad climber
Yay Area
  Aug 16, 2010 - 05:09pm PT
That looks like a blast! Fun TR!
sweetcheeks

climber
Pacific Palisades, CA
  Aug 16, 2010 - 08:10pm PT
Hey Joe,

Fun meeting you on the route on Saturday - do you have that 'pic you took of me at the top? (I'm the climber in the lead party who looked startled when you shouted you wanted to take the pic).

-David
habitat

climber
grass pass
  Aug 17, 2010 - 10:26am PT
Great photos and nice description of the route. The views do indeed look awesome! Can't wait to do this!
Joe Stern

climber
Santa Barbara, CA
  Aug 18, 2010 - 12:41am PT
David...didn't really capture the full expanse of what I would have hoped for, but here it is anyway. Send me an email via the site if you want me to send you a copy of the file.

David at the edge of the 4th class ramp on Pitch 10 (just below su...
David at the edge of the 4th class ramp on Pitch 10 (just below summit), N Arete Bear Creek Spire.
Credit: Joe Stern

Sure was a fun day in the hills. Take care.
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Aug 18, 2010 - 10:12am PT
Dude! Nice day up high! Thanks for the read and photos.
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
  Aug 18, 2010 - 04:09pm PT
Nice pics and TR. Cool climb, too!
Russ

Trad climber
Ventura, CA
  Aug 18, 2010 - 06:49pm PT
Awesome trip report! Bear Creek is such a sweet climb.
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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.