Climbing Bear Creek Spire – North Arete to 13,700 feet

NE Arete as viewed from high up on North Arete on Bear Creek Spire

Bear Creek Spire is found in the Eastern Sierra past several alpine lakes and a mile of talus where the North Arete (5.8, 10 pitch) starts above 12,000 ft. It was also my first date with Sadie Skiles on a failed attempt back in 2016 and we’ve been thinking about it ever since. Now with Little Lakes trailhead 45 minutes away from our new home in Mammoth Lakes we were excited to take another crack at it in non-wind advisory conditions.

Lakes, Talus and the Eastern Sierra

The trail up to gem lakes goes quick. A little wet and mosquito populated, in just a couple hours you can cover its three miles and 500 feet with backcountry gear.

Hiking past Long Lake

Leaving trail at 11,000 ft we started our one-mile, 600 ft hike on white talus up towards Dade Lake. In this 11,500 ft altitude section the granite veins in the rock could be as deep as 18 inches thick! Looking like frosting on top of a boulder. (Approach Map)

Leaving trail for talus

Starting at 11,000 ft I could feel the altitude shortening my breath which is why our non-altitude trained lungs slept Friday night at the lake south of Dade Lake since we were unsure if we could move fast enough to do the entire route and hike in a day.

Bear Creek Spire

High Camp

From Dade Lake we hiked up another half mile and 1,000 feet to 12,600 ft at the base of the North Arete.

The first couple pitches were long (60m or 5x the avg. indoor gym route) and the had some of the more tricky rock. At one point I was climbing up along a hollow tree-like columnar flake that was kinda like hugging your way up a tree that made grinding noises at the top.

Then Sadie and I took a heady 5.4 step across to gain a couple hundred feet of 4th class to the last technical pitch of the climb. A chimney-stem problem filled with hand crack flakes. It was by-far my favorite pitch.

From here you tunnel through to the NE Arete around 13,000 ft when my headache started from either altitude or sun exposure on our clear High Sierra day.

Next was several super exposed ridge climbing at 4th or low 5th class climbing to 13,700 ft summit of Bear Creek Spire.

Descended down some scree, made two raps and then stepped-slid down snow back to Dade Lake. Starting at 7am from high camp and reaching the car at 9pm for a 14 hrs day.