Climbers: Jon & Nick
Dates: Friday, May 17 – Sunday, May 19, 2013
Photos: Jon & Nick (as noted)
Synopsis: We awoke Friday morning to clearing skies and what looked like a dusting of snow up on the high peaks. The clouds were still engulfed on the Sierra Crest, but weather forecasts called for a general clearing trend. Our plan was to hike in from Mosquito Flat trailhead towards the Rock Creek area to camp at a lake near the base of Bear Creek Spire, and get an early alpine start Saturday morning.
Given we were only going in for one night, we really tried to shed down on the weight and pack size. For climbing gear, we were only taking one of our double ropes and a very minimal alpine rack, as well as aluminum crampons and light axes. Jon pleased with his light pack at Mosquito Flat trailhead. Photo: Jon
Right out of the gate at Mosquito Flat Trailhead you are at 10,300 ft. It is the highest road accessible trailhead in the Eastern Sierra. From there, you are instantaneously in Little Lakes Valley surrounded by the huge peaks of the Rock Creek drainage. Photo: Nick
It is a spectacular area year round – with both amazing climbing, skiing, backpacking and fly fishing. Photo: Jon
Although in the middle of the summer, Jon was mentioning that the name Mosquito Flat earns it name. Fortunately, we were here very early season and it was too cold for the mosquitos to arrive. I definitely want to come back in the Fall when the bugs are also gone to do some fly fishing and backpacking. Photo: Jon
The approach was very smooth, as the cloud cover and wind helped a bit with avoiding post-holding through wet snow. While sometimes the clouds trap in the heat and make it worse, we lucked out and were able to get up high quickly where the snow was still fairly hard. Photo: Nick
Nick heading up, with Little Lakes Valley in the distance. Photo: Jon
After a bit of talus hopping, we were treated to awesome views of Bear Creek Spire! Photo: Nick
We kept pushing along, hoping to get as close as possible with the ability to still kick through ice on the frozen lakes to have access to water. Photo: Jon
Yeah, I would say this looks like a perfect spot to camp! Photo: Jon
We set up camp and chilled out, sorting gear for the next day. Just before dinner, we were treated to some awesome alpenglow on the next day’s objective. Photo: Nick
Room with a view! Photo: Jon
We cooked dinner outside on some rocks, but man it got cold quick! We headed back to the tent to brew drinks and chill. Given how fast we got up there and how cold it was out, there was nothing better to do than drink a ton of liquids and pass out. I would swear it was still sunny out when I was asleep! Photo: Nick
The next morning we got up early, but not super early due to the cold, and were moving pretty quickly. The prominent vertical face on the corner is the North Arête of Bear Creek Spire. Jon had climbed that before, but it is definitely still on my tick list. The Northeast Ridge (or sometimes called the North Ridge) is just to looker’s left of the North Arête. It starts with blocky terrain, working up towards the North Arête where they link together towards the final ridge and the amazing knife platform summit of Bear Creek Spire. Photo: Nick
We were both feeling good and rested, and we absolutely motored the approach. In eventuality, the entire climb was extremely fast and we were up and down, packed up camp and back at the car heading to get pizza in Mammoth by 2 PM. Jon heading up the frozen snow – crampons were a big help. Photo: Nick
Following up, feeling good. It was fun to do an approach and climb that was much different than all of the others during the trip. The ice and snow, and climbing in mountain boots, offered a cool switch on the trip. Photo: Jon
We soloed for a long time over easy fourth class terrain up the lower ridge. There were a lot of cool formations to work through.
Jon working up towards the tower. Photos: Nick
Jon continuing up cool, varied terrain that was still easy enough to not warrant getting the rope out. Photo: Nick
Nick posing down on the tower. Ha! Photos: Jon
The features of the rock in this area were really cool. Photo: Nick
Following up to meet up with Jon. Photos: Jon
We started to hit snow and the terrain started to get more exposed and warranted pulling out the rope. Nothing like some post-holing right before the first belay! Photo: Nick
We hit terrain that started getting more varied and exposed and roped up. Our plan was just to simul climb all the way to the summit in two really long, continuous pitches. Jon took lead first. Photos: Nick
Switching leads higher up the route. I had led to here which is just below the summit block, but the rope drag was really bad so we switched for one last time. We were moving efficiently and having a great time. The weather was absolutely perfect! Photo: Nick
The summit of Bear Creek Spire is very small, with only one person able to fit on it at a time. It is right behind Jon in this picture. Photo: Nick
Looking back at me from Jon’s position. Photo: Jon
I climbed up to the summit first – really a very small point with a nice boulder problem to get up on top. It was a spectacular summit. Photo: Jon
Just a shy bit under 14,000 ft., but plenty exposed! Photos: Nick
A multi-shot panorama looking West from the summit. Click the photo for the full version. Photo: Nick
I went back down and we switched leads and Jon headed up on belay. Photo: Nick
Jon and I were trying to figure out what couloir that is – it is looking West from the summit. Anyway, it is a way back there, but looked pretty awesome. Photo: Jon
Rapping back down to start the descent. Photo: Nick
Awesome glacial blue water up there. Photo: Jon
Like I mentioned above, we got back to the car and were driving to Mammoth around 2 PM. We got some pizza and a beer, but knew we wanted to save room for Mo Mart over on Tioga Pass. We headed over there for dinner of the famous Lobster Taquitos and Fish Tacos, and enjoyed a good amount of beer! It was a great time and we just camped out by Mono Lake.
We woke up on Sunday, realizing what a great week it had been. Both of us wanted to be back in the Bay Area early-ish on Sunday to catch up on work emails and sort gear. However, when driving through Tuolumne Meadows you can’t not climb at least something! We went with the easiest access at Stately Pleasure Dome to climb West Crack.
I took the first pitch, heading up by the belay. Photo: Jon
Jon took the awesome 5.8 lieback pitch. Totally different than all the climbing we had been doing all week – it was fun to change it up on some smooth, polished granite. Photo: Nick
Following the second pitch, with Tenaya Lake in the background. I love smooth slab climbing. Photo: Jon
Nick took the third pitch – classic run out bolted Tuolumne slab climbing. Photo: Jon
Finally, Jon took the fourth pitch – I love this shot. Photo: Nick
Jon coiling up the rope for the walk-off at the top, with a very cold Tenaya Lake in the background. And Half Dome off in distance. Photos: Nick
What a way to end a week of climbing! Photo: Jon
A special thanks to Jon for yet another awesome series of adventure throughout the High Sierra. We had a great time, shared some funny stories and ate way too much freeze dried food.
It was an awesome trip, but I was also really happy to get back to Sarah on Sunday. She was very excited to have me home, and I also can’t go without thanking her for letting me take off on these adventures! Some more climbing this summer and hiking with Sarah around Tahoe, with all while looking forward to our wedding this September!