Bear Creek Spire

24 May 1998 - by Pat Callery

Drove up Rock Creek Canyon road from Tom's Place, arriving at East Fork around 8pm saturday night, where the road is gated for the winter. Peter Horvath & I geared up and set out under a full moon up the road, stopping about 3 miles up to make camp on the north shore of Rock Creek Lake. We took our time breaking camp Sunday morning, hitting the road around 11am. Stopped for a couple yo-yo runs from the road down to the lake shore through choice corn! We continued up the canyon, crossing several lakes and up a steep headwall to make camp at Treasure Lakes by late afternoon. As we slept, Jay Kumar showed up at our camp around midnight to join us, skiing all 8-10 miles in by moonlight.

Monday morning, after some ice axe arrest practice, we set out around 9am for Bear Creek Spire. Skied up past Dade Lake and across the huge north facing bowl, ditching skis as the slope neared 45 degrees. We kicked steps up to the NW ridge, and dropped over onto the west face, where we climbed snow to just beneath the Summit. We climbed a short steep snow pitch on belay, and a 50 foot pitch of low fifth class (in ski boots & gloves!), both led by Jay. After thrashing away snow on the summit block in a fruitless attempt to find the register, we rapped off some existing slings back to the west face snow slope. As we made our way down, the weather started to worsen and I came down hard with altitude sickness. Peter & Jay helped me down to the skis with a couple of belayed glissades, where I geared up while fending off nausea attacks. In the worsening weather, what was anticipated as an exhilirating return ski through bowls of untracked corn, now became a handicapped survival-turn struggle down steep wind crust ice in gale force gusts. Finally making it back to the tent I immediately crashed inside while Jay got some hot soup going. Shortly thereafter, my symptoms faded and we sacked out early as the wind storm roared on.

The next morning we had some fresh powder to ski out. The final 5-mile stretch down the Rock Creek Canyon road from Mosquito flat was pure coasting all the way! We stopped again for a couple runs at Rock Creek Lake, and made it out to the car just after noon. After a relaxing hot springs soak in the desert, I dropped Peter & Jay back at Tom's Place and hit the road for the long drive home. Big thanks to Peter & Jay for looking out for me when I was sick as a dog!

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