Bear Creek Spire, North Arete

20 Aug 1999 - by Michael Gordon

Dave German, Michael Gordon, John Lohr, Judy Rittenhouse, and Annie Stockley ascended upon Rock Creek Canyon on Aug 20, 1999. Departing the Mosquito Flat trailhead (noting the absence of its namesake), we quickly made Dade Lake in about three hours. No other souls were to be found.

After two hours or more of solid lolly-gagging and laziness, Dave German and Michael Gordon set off for the 12,800+ "Pyramid Peak" (as RJ Secor calls it, 0.7 miles NE of BCS). We tackled the north ridge direct from Dade Lake with plans to summit in one hour or less. Aesthetic, exposed third-class jug pulling was found along the upper half of the route with numerous false summits encountered before the actual apex. We spent a few minutes on top reveling in the rather extraordinary view despite the ease of the climb, and the minute 60 minutes spent getting there.

A casual awakening next morning saw the five of us brewing coffee and oats readying for our approach to the Arete. Judy, Dave, and Michael opted to bring only light boots (which we would climb with in our packs) and no crampons. Naturally, solid alpine ice was encountered just minutes after leaving camp, and a number of steps were chopped here and there to facilitate easier approach.

Annie and John formed one rope team, with Dave, Michael, and Judy climbing on double ropes behind Annie and John. The first few pitches were climbed with traditional belays by the team of three. After passing through the "tunnel" to the east side of the arete, anchored belays were dispensed with and nearly the remainder of the route was simul-climbed with moves up to 5.7 or so in difficulty. Harder and easier lines can be had by making simple variations. Before long, we were traversing the nearly horizontal but beautifully positioned and exposed 3/4 Class summit ridge. A few minutes more saw each of us making the final move for the top of the summit block. Numerous respected names were noted in the summit register (Galen Rowell, Peter Croft, SP Parker, Andy Selters), and the gift of a single piece of red licorice (from the summit can) was even consumed. The route had taken approximately five hours to complete in cool, but stable weather.

An uneventful but at times exciting descent was had trying to avoid serious ice at Cox Col by scrambling rock until softer snow could be reached. Axes are a must now, but as demonstrated by our group, the weight of crampons can be avoided by those with patience, diligence, and care.

A mellow, late awakening was enjoyed on Sunday, with a casual walk back to the trailhead. We skipped the usual pizza and beer routine, and instead went to the supermarket in Bishop an made a nice, big, cool salad at Judy's new place in Bishop - a neat way to beat the heat and make up for three days without greens.

The drive home made us witness to developing unstable weather along the Sierra Crest and over the Inyo's and White's. Once again, we felt our timing was impeccable: in-and-out while the weather was good.


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