A Bachelor Weekend on the NE Ridge, Bear Creek Spire
This past weekend Jeremy, Ryan and I went up to the Sierra to celebrate Jeremy’s last weekend of singledom… by doing what we do best, climb mountains. No strippers, no Vegas, just good company and a long, fun alpine route that was new to us all.
We set out Friday night to the usual Giants baseball on the radio. We drove fast through the night and arrived at Wild Willies after only 5 1/2 hours on the road. We awoke to Mt. Morrison and the East Side lighting up in the morning light.
After coffee, we gathered our things, headed to Mammoth for wilderness permits, then made our way to the trailhead at Rock Creek. It was early morning when we arrived, so we decided to chill a bit.
We packed everything and then set out for basecamp at Dade Lake, passing through Little Lakes Basin.
We ascend talus and glacial benches.
And we finally arrive in camp for a few fleeting rays of sunlight on the peak.
We settled in for a comfy night in the backcountry. I slept out and watched the nearly full moon bathe the surrounding peaks in silver light.
We awoke Saturday morning, made some coffee and ramen for breakfast, put on our harnesses and began heading up towards the NE ridge of the Spire.
We reach the NE ridge and the first part is only class 2 and 3. Making quick work of the scrambling, we caught up to other parties that left the lake earlier in the morning.
Soon the route steepens at a band of cool, striated rock just beyond the first tower. We pull ourselves over a few 4th class moves and then decide to rope up and begin simul-climbing.
And away we go, making quick work of the first few hundred feet of the route. The ridge was mainly 4th class with a few, super fun sections of moderate 5th. Jeremy led the initial simuling section of the route while I took the later, more exposed sections.
The climbing was fun and exciting, but fairly easy. All of the belays were well-protected and in generally nice spots along the ridge.
We move ever higher and reach the summit ridge. The route seemed to be moving along much faster than I had anticipated, even with being held up a bit behind another party of 3. Before we knew it, we were on the summit ridge, enjoying the big exposures and perfect September day.
The final pitch on the summit ridge was a beauty. I led off from the belay up and over a bulge, not knowing what lay on the other side. This is my favorite aspect of alpine climbing: you never know what lies ahead, but keep pressing forward, looking for the weakness in the ridge or face.
I scrambled over and around some airy traverses, then down-climbed an exposed 10 foot slot, climbed back up and across a broad slab and finally reached a secure spot that met up with the descent trail. I slung a chossy horn for an anchor and wedged myself into a slot to give my buddies their belay.
I opted to bear right on the ridge so to avoid the 5.9 moves on the east side of the ridge. This made for some easier scrambling, but we did not end up on the summit. Rather, we arrived at the start of the ledgy descent trail, with the summit ridge about 50-100 feet above us. We unroped and decided to solo has high as we could. We reached a perch above a fun 20 foot crack, made some lunch and decided to call it a day. The view was fantastic.
Satisfied with a great day and ready to crack our 3 beers in camp, we began our descent back to camp.
We arrived in camp a bit dehydrated, but in great spirits. I cooked dinner, and we then sipped whiskey under the moon and shared countless ridiculous moments of altitude-induced banter, followed by uproarious laughter. The next morning, the famous Sierra alpenglow did not disappoint.
Time to move on. We broke camp, headed back down Little Lakes Basin and walked out to the trailhead at Rock Creek where we cracked some cold beers and discussed the Giants scores from the previous two nights that we had missed in the backcountry.
This is the way to spend a bachelor weekend…
Oh, and the Giants won their series with Colorado. Here we go Giants, here we go!