An ascent of the North Arête of Bear Creek Spire (III, 5.8), John Muir Wilderness, CA,

with René Renteria, June 25, 2006

(Click image for larger view)

June 23, 2006 - Crystal Crag

As a warm-up for Bear Creek Spire, we climbed the Crystal Crag's North Arête (5.7). Leaving from our family vacation spot in Strawberry around 10:30 am, we arrived in Mammoth in the early afternoon and were at the trailhead at 2:30 pm. We were back at the car around 6:30 pm.

1. René leads the first pitch of Crystal Crag's North Arête (5.7).

2. Belaying.

3. René on p2.

4. Atop p3, the last pitch.

5. View from the top of the crystal pitch.

6. Traversing to the summit on 3rd and 4th class terrain.


7. Summit of Crystal Crag

8. The ridge we just traversed, looking back to Mammoth Mountain.

9. Mammoth Mountain and Mammoth Lakes.


10. René on the summit

11. Climbing down the West face (class 3)

12. Almost at Crystal Lake.


13. Crystal Crag in the evening light

14. Crystal Crag and Lake George 


15. Crystal Crag's North Arête in the evening sun.


June 24, 2006 - Little Lakes Valley and the Approach to Dade Lake

Fearing a lot of postholing due to the large amounts of snow remaining from a record snowfall winter, we left the trailhead around 9 am, and reached camp at Dade Lake at 1 pm. We spent the afternoon trying to stay out of the sun beneath some stunted pine trees.

16. Bear Creek Spire from the trail

17. Wet this year.

18. Little Lakes Valley.

19. A break on the way to Dade Lake.

20. A break on the way to Dade Lake (contd.).

21. René at camp - trying to find some shade from the early afternoon sun.

22. Bear Creek Spire in the afternoon.

23. Bear Creek Spire at sunset.

24. Alpenglow hits the North Arête of Bear Creek Spire.

June 25, 2006 - Climbing the North Arête of Bear Creek Spire


Pitch Rating Length On lead Observations
1 5.7 100 ft Romain Rated 5.8 on some topos. Straight up a crack / steep flakes from a wide ledge at the base.
2 5.7 165 ft René Up steep flakes, angles slightly right, ends on 5.2 terrain.
3 5.4 150 ft Romain Step around right (5.4), then 4th class.
4 4th 160 ft René Stout 4th class up the arête to the base of the crux pitch.
5 5.8 160 ft Romain Off-width and steep flakes (5.8 crux) to a 5.6 chimney/gully. Beautiful pitch.
6 5.4 120 ft René Tunnel through to East side (5.4) then 4th class up the ridge.
7 5.4 120 ft Romain Exposed low 5th class and 4th up the arête.
8 5.5 120 ft


5.5 move on the prow to 4th class ridge traverse.
9 4th 120 ft Romain 4th class ridge traverse.
10 4th 120 ft René 4th class ridge traverse (pitches 6-10 can be done in 4 pitches).
11 5.6 80 ft Romain 3rd class traverse on the West side below the summit block, to a 5.6 face and crack.
12 5.6 80 ft René 4th class chimney and horizontal walk along the crest to the 5.6 summit block (the last two pitches can be done in one but rope drag would be an issue if placing pro on the traverse).

We left camp at 5:30 am, were at the base of the route at 7 am, and at the summit at 4:30 pm. We were back in camp at 7:30 pm.

25. Around 6:30 am, approaching the base of the climb.

26. Getting closer...

27.... and closer... (Click here to see our route).

28. ...and closer.

29. View from the top of p1. Steep flakes.

30. René leading p2.

31. René topping out on p3.

32. René leading p4. The crux 5.8 pitch (#5) starts left of the crack that splits the upper headwall.

33. Tunnel through pitch (p6) - René is behind the flake

34. René on p7.

35. René at the p10 belay.

36. Setting up the anchor

37. Views from the top.

38. More views.

39. René at the summit boulder (5.6)

40. On the summit.


41. On the summit, around 4:30 pm.



43. The descent. Rappel past the snow and follow 3rd class boulders right to sandy slopes and Cox Col.

44. The summit Ridge and the West side descent. The weather is turning bad.

45. Above Dade Lake, taking a short break from glissading.

46. René and Bear Creek Spire. Bad weather.

47. Resting.


June 26, 2006 - The hike out and Horseshoe Slabs

We left camp at 9 am and were back at the car shortly after 11 am. In the afternoon we went to Horseshoe Slabs in Mammoth to do some rock climbing, but the conditions were far from ideal - we had to belay on snow... We ended the day with a big dinner at Angel's.

48. Our camp.


49. Camp and Mounts Dade and Abbot.

50. Bear Creek Spire.

51. Treasure Peak (?)

52. Mount Dade.

53. Mount Dade and Mount Abbot.

54. René, Mount Dade and Mount Abbot.

55. Descending the snow lopes above Gem Lakes.

56. Towards Gem Lakes.

57. At Gem Lakes. There has been a lot of snowmelt in 48 hours...

58. On the descent.

59. On the descent.

60. Food break.

61. Posing.

62. Bear Creek Spire from Little Lakes Valley.


63. One of the lakes.

64. Horseshow Slabs. There is so much snow left the first bolt on "Horseman" (5.10a) is almost buried.

65. Wet slabs on the left side.

66. Lots of snow. Not a good day for cragging.

67. The wall to the right is dry, and we climb a few routes.

68. René on a 5.9 toprope.

69. 5.9 slab climbing.

70. 5.7 climbing at Horseshow Slabs


June 26, 2006 - Daff Dome and the Drive Home

On the last day of our trip we wanted to do West Crack on Daff Dome. Getting to the base of that route around 1 pm, however, there were several slow parties on the first pitch, and thunderstorms coming in, so we gave up. We climbed a one pitch sport route instead (Witch o' the West, 5.9, PG/R) and drove home.

71. Climbers on Daff Dome's West Crack.

72. Climbers on West Crack.

73. Climbers on West Crack

74. Leading "Witch o' the West" (5.9, PG/R)

75. Leading "Witch o' the West".


76. René on "Witch o' the West".

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