North Arete 5.8
Trip ReportFriday the 13th on Bear Creek Spire's North Arete
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').
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.
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.
Bivy spots were not hard to find (it being a weekday) and we set up camp.
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.
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.
The second pitch was also mine. I was a little puzzled by the routefinding, but it seemed to work out.
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.
We were getting some great views from the route.
Now for the moment I had been waiting for -- the feared 5.8 "offwidth".
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.
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.
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 !
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.
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.
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.
The snow was soft, with runnels and suncups. We made our way back down the talus to Dade Lake.
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 -
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
My summer is now complete :)
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Other Routes on Bear Creek Spire