|The approach to the North Arête, which is the first ridge to the left |
of the large notch. John Scripps.
Bear Creek Spire (13,720')
Route: North Arête
Elevation Gain: 3460'
Rising above Little Lakes Valley in the eastern Sierra, Bear Creek Spire is the most popular climbing peak of the Rock Creek area. It claims three of the classic High Sierra climbs - the North Arête and the East Arête both weigh in at 5.8, while the less technical but no less aesthetic Northeast Ridge is usually considered 4th class with a few easy class 5 moves.
Most climbers consider the North Arête to be the most compelling line of the three. With lots of cracks, some face climbing, stemming, and hand jams, the route contains all the best of a typical Sierra route.
|View from the Arête, with the approach in the background. |
Dade Lake is in the bottom right of the photo,
while the four small lakes behind the climber
are Treasure Lakes. AAI Collection.
From the trailhead, follow the Little Lakes Valley trail, which is the remnant old road and has the corresponding gradual grade. After 3.5 miles, you cross a creek. There used to be a wooden footbridge here, which you may read about in old trip reports and the first edition of Supertopo. That footbridge no longer exists, but you’ll see a signed and well-worn climber’s trail to Gem Lakes. Camping is possible at Gem Lakes, but most climbers push through to Dade Lake, which can be reached by climbing up and to the left across (sometimes large) talus from Gem Lakes. Dade Lake is more exposed to weather and lightning, but has a better view of the route and is also the last water on the approach. The area has lots of bear activity, so bear canisters are required.
From Dade Lake, it takes about 1-2 hours to get to the base of the route.
|The North Arête starts just to the left |
of the large flake above the first ledge. Graham Hamby.
The second half of the route involves 4th class climbing on an exposed ridge. The summit block is a 5.6 mantel.