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[TR] Bear Creek Spire, 13720 ft- North Arete, III


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Climb: Bear Creek Spire, 13720 ft-North Arete, III 5.8


Date of Climb: 7/16/2005


Trip Report:

So, my friend M. was chomping at the bit to do her first "alpine" climb. She's done a lot of cragging and roadside multipitch, but nothing farther than 30 minutes from the pavement. So we made plans to go in for BCS last weekend. M.'s been flying a desk all winter, and was not psyched to try to do it in a day, so we planned to go super-light for a sleep over instead.

I fit everything I needed in a Serratus Genie (26L). After the foam pad in the sleeve, sleeping bag, bivy sack, shoes, harness, rack, windshirt, sweater, knit cap, sandwich, six cliff bars, six oreos, and helmet I didn't have room for water. So the bladder was rolled up and stuffed in empty - guessed I'd be risking-it from the streams on the way in!

M. took a small BD pack. It didn't quite pack as well, and her helmet, shoes, down sweater and rope had to hang outside.

We left the car a little before 4pm. Mosquito Flats kept its name for the day - we had to stop at Long Lake for a second DEET application. But the hike went fast - we were at Dade Lake in 2:30! There we ran into two other teams, one local, the other from LA. Team LA was heading for the NE Ridge, while Team Bishop was also gunning for the North Arete. That's cool, there's more than enough room for everbody. They also thought they would be moving a bit slower, and volunteer to leave 15-30 minutes after us from camp. Nice...

Dinner was cold sandwiches with oreo cookies for dessert. The six of us (M., myself, and Teams LA and Bishop) hung out and watch the sunset behind Mt. Dade and talk about the climbs on BCS, climbing in the Sierras, soloing in Toulumne, water issues in E. California, blowing up the aqueduct, blowing up Hoover Dam, WWII dam busting bombs, WWII history, war, the presidency...

Thunderstorms have been building up every afternoon this week, so we leave camp (a garbage bag with our sleeping bags, M.'s 3/4 foam pad, one set of ski poles, and my straw hat) at 4:30. No food to store means no bear cannister to store it in! Chris McNamara's time estimate to the base is way off - he estimated 45 minutes, and it takes us 1:30 of fast step kicking up mild snow slopes.

We get on the route and take off at 6:15am. The first pitch is pretty fun, my lead, 5.7 jamming. After 50 ft. M. gets psyched out by the routefinding and downclimbs pitch 2, so we switch rope ends and I lead out again. The route goes more sharply to the right than we thought. Two more 4th/easy 5th class pitches lead us to the crux. 50-60 feet of 5.8 jamming and stemming lead to another 100 ft of 5.6 running it out. As M. follows the pitch I watch little furry cottonball clouds increase in size exponentially, becoming not so cottonball-like. Oh-oh, time to move a little quicker!

After pitch 5 we traverse for a pitch, climb two more airy pitches of low 5th class sticking to the arete. We finally simul climb the last two pitches to the base of the summit blocks, and that's dispatched quickly at 12:45pm. It took us 6:30 to climb the route, exactly as we had hoped.

Team LA has been hanging out on the summit for an hour, and after congratulations are shared they begin their descent. The weather seems to be holding - the clouds are still growing but nothing is big enough to start playing mean - so we hang out for an hour too. At the end, I look at the anchor. Its a five foot tall horn that has three shoulder length slings hanging only six inches from the top. That's OK, except for the fact that the bottom of the horn seems to be 3 - 4 feet of rock keystoned in by two more blocks of a similar size. With the Shark Fin accident still fresh on my mind, I didn't like the idea of levering that anchor, but nothing else was as suitable. So I took two cordellettes and was able to re sling the anchor down by the base of the horn. No at least we wouldn't be trying to pull down the block on top of our heads!

A single rope rap lead us to 2nd class talus, leading us to the BCS descent notch, leading us back to the snowfields. 45 minutes later we were back at "camp." We finally made it back to the car at 7pm, tired but happy.

The North Arete on Bear Creek Spire is really unique in that you can see the mountain from the carpark 5 miles away. The North Arete is plainly in view, facing you head on. You don't really get to see any other angle of the mountain until you start the aproach from camp. This was a perfect climb to experiment with some of the "fast and light" ideas I had considered. With stable weather, it worked out great.


Gear Notes:

Bivy gear - sleeping bag, bivy sack, and 1/4 foam pad


Rack - Stoppers from #4-11, TCU's from purple - orange, BD Cams from #0.5-3, eight shoulder length slings with biners and two short shlings with biners (perfect)


Approach Notes:

The aproach is almost entirely dry. A little snow between Long and Treasure Lakes, but it was melping fast and I wouldn't give it a week.

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