Type: Trad, Alpine, 1000 ft, 6 pitches, Grade III
FA: Galen Rowell, Jeanne Neale - August 1971
Page Views: 29,927 total · 188/month
Shared By: Chris Owen on Mar 14, 2006
Admins: Chris Owen, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

You & This Route

137 Opinions

Your To-Do List:

Add To-Do · View List

Your Star Rating:

     Clear Rating

Your Difficulty Rating:

-none- Change

Your Ticks:

Add New Tick


A fine alpine rock climb with a wonderful prospect over Little Lakes Valley.

P1 5.6. Snowline dependent, cracks in slabs to a ledge where it gets steeper.

P2 5.8. Steep flake crack on the left to a ledge.

P3 5.7. Up and right over flakes to where the arete relents a little. Route-finding can be tricky.

P4/5 Easy 5th. Up the crest of the arete in a wonderful position to a ledge below the final impasse, a steep off-width crack.

P6 5.8 crux. The crack awkwardly.

P7 Easy 5th. Tunnel through to the other side of the ridge.

To finish, join with the Northeast Ridge and follow it to the top, or it might be more in keeping with the rest of the route to doggedly stay on the very crest of the ridge/arete to the summit. Either will deposit you on the crest of the summit ridge and just excellent and scenic scrambling/climbing for a pitch or two.

Don't forget to mantle onto the summit block!


From Dade Lake hike across benches and then snow up to just right of the lowest point of the buttress.

Descend down Class 4 rocks on the East side to sand, follow left of the north ridge then cut over it eastwards and down snow/scree and steps back to Dade Lake.


Standard alpine rack. Ice axe and crampons seasonal.


P2...I've always done the thin crack (10a?) to the right of the gash/chimney. Obliviates the need to drag a pack through the wide business.

The ridge is pretty long and complicated if you are not fast, factor that in timewise. Mar 5, 2007
Isaac T.
Oceanside, CA
Isaac T.   Oceanside, CA
The off width pitch is a little loose but I found it to be a lot harder then 5.8 probably more like 5.10. Climbing that pitch with a pack is definitely not fun, next time I would either haul it or not climb with ice axes. Jul 19, 2007
Dan Popa  
Not nearly as hard as some would have you believe. No problems route finding using the Supertopo guide. Our pitch break-down was a little different than that listed above since we simuled all but 3 pitches which were no harder than 5.7. Crux pitch consists of "5.8" flakes that we just stemmed and reached through with a loose gulley above that goes at a reasonable 5.6 in the Supertopo. 2/3 of us had packs and had no trouble navigating through this section. Pro everywhere you want it throughout the climb: w/ 10cams, 1 set of nuts, and slings we were doing simul pitches over 250ft no problem. Ample belay stations. Climb can best be characterized by easy 5th class/4th class moves with some moderate 5 moves in between. Summit is spectacular with an unprotectable but not difficult top-out. Not the greatest pure climbing route but extremely fun nonetheless. A classic because of the line it takes. Aug 8, 2007
M. Morley
Sacramento, CA
M. Morley   Sacramento, CA  
Great route. I agree with the previous poster that the route is mostly easy-moderate 5th class with a few short, well-protected sections up to 5.8. The "5.8 offwidth" (~pitch 6) was mellow and certainly not an offwidth. Vdub: maybe you were off route? Aug 20, 2007
Tyler Logan
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Tyler Logan   Mammoth Lakes, CA
Hey veedublvr, you and I were indeed off-route--and so were the two parties above us! It seems we should have dodged the headwall by going left. Nice lead anyway! Aug 22, 2007
Michael Ybarra
on the road
Michael Ybarra   on the road
Ice axes? I'm not sure what those would have been used for. I'm not a great climber, but I managed to do this route in a couple of hours in approach shoes wearing a small day pack. I agree with stemming past the supposed OW crux. I thought it was very fun and pretty cruiser if you're not at your limit. Jun 3, 2008
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
Michael, that's why I added "seasonal" to the ice-axe statement. Jul 19, 2009
leeds, ut
fossana   leeds, ut
We climbed a 5.9? variation right off the P3 belay (P2 per Supertopo), which went straight up instead of right then up the flake system. See photo here.

Also did a 5.10 dihedral variation on P6 (P5 on Supertopo) that goes up the front of the tower instead of behind it. Note that it tops out higher than depicted in the Supertopo diagram, near the top of the 5.6 chimney. Jul 25, 2010
Los Alamos, NM
Aerili   Los Alamos, NM
We also climbed a 5.9 variation on pitch 2 (using Supertopo pitch breakdown, although not the 5.9 fingers variation they show---more like a 4"-to-hands variation). All the giant flakes look steep from the belay, so it was really hard to figure out which was the 5.7. Thereupon immediately I launched into a somewhat gritty and sustained dihedral with crappy feet but secure arm bars and eventual slammer hands.

Aug 1, 2010
Atascadero, CA
FrankPS   Atascadero, CA
This description says it's six pitches (then describes how it joins with the Northeast Ridge).

That is somewhat misleading, if you believe it is only six pitches. It will take 10 or 11 pitches to get to the top (if you're pitching it out, which we did), where the descent begins. A fairly long day.

Excellent rock and climbing. Sep 8, 2011
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
No, it says 7 pitches - plus after joining the the NW Ridge you'll have to negotiate the upper part of that route too. Jun 22, 2012
Timmamok *
Timmamok *   none
The description on here does in fact say it is 6 pitches (then mentions a 7th, which was the 6th we did). I pitched out the whole route and it ended up being 12 to the summit. Could have done it in 11. Pretty fun climb. Long day. Jul 24, 2012
During a thunderstorm on Saturday August 18 (I believe), a massive rockfall occured in the gully just to the right of the North Arête. Many 1,000's of tons of rock were spit out, including boulders up to 15' in diameter. Some of these nearly jumped over the moraine! Fresh rock flour was everywhere, and during our climb on the 19th, pebble-to-bowling ball size chunks were continuously raining down the gully. Climbers should take caution while approaching/hanging out at the base of the North Arête, as the debris flow passes within feet of the start of the route. On a positive note, no crampons or axe are needed as the snow field is now covered with (loose) rock. Aug 27, 2012
Newport Beach
Donno   Newport Beach
Just climbed this with Rico. P2 was the crux & highlight. A lot of terrain felt 3rd class and was fun simul-climbing. We led pitches 1,2 & 5. Sep 9, 2013
Great alpine rock route with an amazing summit! Climbed it August 8, 2014. El Nino conditions meant storms were gonna happen by 4pm or sooner. Started hiking from Mosquito Flats at 4am, simul-climbed the route with a 30m rope and tagged the summit at 10:30. Probably could have done better on time, but briefly got off trail briefly gem lakes. Carried a single set of cams .3 to 3 and med - large stoppers. Doubles on #1, #2 & #3 would have allowed longer blocks, but it worked out fine. Nothing felt harder than 5.7. On the approach and descent, be prepared for several miles of talus, some solid, some very shifty. Aug 12, 2014
Daniel Winsor
Bishop, CA
Daniel Winsor   Bishop, CA
The descent on this thing was terrible. We went through the lowest saddle to the northwest, and be prepared to either rappel that gully, or downclimb some loose, steep scree. We downclimbed it, and it wasn't safe. There's a lot of ice down there too, so be prepared to either rap that also, or have some way to walk down it. At the end of the day, it hadn't softened enough to kick steps into with just shoes. Jul 16, 2015
Bountiful, UT
morgoth70   Bountiful, UT
Beautiful climb in an incredible wilderness setting. We didn't find the "off-width" section to be all that awkward; climbed it as a stem/chimney technique and had no problems with our packs. Scrambled un-roped to the tunnel and belayed directly from there. Traversed the 4th class ledge then followed a 5.7ish direct variation to the ridgeline. We un-roped and soloed the ridge directly rather than dropping down on the right hand side - some pretty awesome exposure! It is possible to downclimb easy 5th from the platform below the summit block rather than setting up a rap. Took us around 12 hours camp to camp, but we cruised along slowly on the downclimb/hike-down/walk back to camp at Dade Lake, taking our time to smell the roses if you will ;-)

Gear notes: 1 set of nuts, set of Camalots, 1 ea from #.4 to #4 and three medium hexes (this is a great route for hexes!) and lots of slings. We barely used the nuts; maybe three on the entire route. I would pare down the number of nuts if I was do this route again and bring one or two more hexes. Aug 5, 2015
Russell Cohen
Redwood City, California
Russell Cohen   Redwood City, California
Amazing climb! A couple of notes:
- Dade lake is a beautiful place to camp with sheltered bivy sites for when it gets windy.
- The "High Sierra" super topo seems to suggest you could do this with a 50m. Based on how stretched out we were with a 60m, I don't think this is accurate.
- The infamous "5.6R" mantle onto the summit block actually takes a decent .4 X4 about 4 feet below. Might not keep you off the deck though. Once on top, a selection of micro cams make it easy to safely bring up the second. I used a .1,.2 and .4 X4 but other micro cams will probably work. I wasn't able to get a nut to hold any useful direction of pull.
- At the bottom of P1, make sure to start a bit off the deck on a ledge if you want to avoid 10 or so feet of simul climbing
- Although supertopo says the rap is 50 feet, we used a full 60m. Could also downclimb.
- For the descent, we rapped the west side then followed a trail across the dirt to a notch where there was an obvious but very steep trail down 3rd class steps and ledges. Took a long time, but seemed safe enough. Aug 29, 2016
Here was our approximate timeline. We're pretty average. Everything past Gem lake was snow.
Mosquito flat to Dade - 3.75 hrs (with overnight packs)
Dade to base of route - 1.25 hrs
Base of route to summit - 6.5 hrs
Summit down to "notch" - 1 hr
Notch to base of route - 1.5 hr (there was lots of snow and we did not bring crampons or axes. did 2 raps on cordelettes / rings left by others, then carefully picked our way down. was kinda sketchy.)
Base of route back to Dade - 1 hr

Overall (adding in breaks) it took us 12 hrs, tent-to-tent at Dade. We had 2 parties ahead of us on the route that slowed us down but we soloed everything past pitch 5 and passed them. They came down in the dark.

Supertopo says to approach Dade via Gem Lake. A random climber we met at Dade told us that Treasure Lakes approach (turning off at Long Lake) is faster and easier hiking. I laid it out on google earth and it came out .3 miles shorter. He may be right but i did not try it for myself.

The climbing was fun, pretty mellow, the cruxes were short. Jul 18, 2017
Climbed this car-to-car on Jul 22nd 17. There was a lot of snow from Treasure lakes and above, and an ice axe came in handy.

We got off route halfway up the first pitch and missed what Supertopo calls 5.7 sustained flakes, and instead followed a dihedral that was maybe 5.8 / 5.9 and a little loose. After that we had to a few poorly protected face and traverse moves followed by 5.8 lieback flakes to get back on route halfway through the 4th class pitch below the offwidth. Also somebody had crapped on a ledge as you approach the offwidth...

Overall the climb was great fun and the setting was beautiful. Jul 23, 2017
Mike Esparza
Westminster, CA
Mike Esparza   Westminster, CA
We did this on Saturday 7/22/17 car to car in 18 hours.

left trail head at 4:30am and got to base of spire at 10am.
Climb itself took us about 6 hours toping out around 4:30pm.
Got back to the car at 10:30pm - super exhausted!

The snow really sucks, didn't bring an ice axe and I slipped on the descent (luckily I had foot spikes) about 500 feet. Kicking steps in the morning was a thigh burner and the crux of the route for me. The climbing was very fun and enjoyable, a little chilly in the shade. Getting too old for this shit.... Need a tropical vacation with surf and rum drinks! haa.. Jul 24, 2017
I thought the descent into the basin below the spire was very, very sketchy. From the ridge line just north of the notch, we got onto the system of scree ledges leading down to the snowfields. We went all the way skier's left after the initial drop, avoiding all the snow, and some friends went right (which seems more common). Either way there was a lot of down climbing and exposed ball-bearing scree ledges that I imagine get worse every time somebody walks on them. It seems like everyone makes it down OK one way or another, but if anyone knows beta to make it safer (rap anchor locations?) it would be pretty helpful to future people trying this route. The climb itself was awesome! Aug 6, 2018
Atascadero, CA
FrankPS   Atascadero, CA
Although I don't have a photo, there is an easier way down. I, too, looked at that main gully and thought "that looks steep and dangerous." To the right (north) of that main gully is a goal-post shaped notch in the ridge, a square "U" (sharp corners on the bottom) which is a mellow, class 2 descent. The notch is prominent from both sides of the ridge, so you will see it both from camp, and on the descent. If someone posted a photo, it would help. Aug 8, 2018
Natalie Nicole
San Francisco, CA
Natalie Nicole   San Francisco, CA
There's some misinformation on the area/route stats. On the Bear Creek Spire page it says 4.25 mi each way and 1,300' of elevation gain for the approach and 1,000' of elevation gain for the route, which would make for a total of 8.5 mi and 2,300' of elevation gain.

At the end of the day, my partner's watch recorded 6.25 mi each way (12.5 mi total) and 3600' of total elevation gain (I.e. including the route). The trailhead is around 10,120'.

Looking at the MP ticks, car-to-car roped parties take anywhere from 12 to 20 hours, with most taking 14-15 hours. Aug 28, 2018
Hobo Greg
My Van
Hobo Greg   My Van
Good climb with an incredible summit, the prettiest place I've yet climbed. Descent is very straightforward, downclimb or rap from the summit ridge, head skiers right and rock hop (no need to add footprints to the fragile alpine soil when you can rock hop) down to the low point on the ridge, but instead of going down there, which is steep and loose looking, go up a couple hundred feet and take a number of paths down, class 2/3 this way. Aug 30, 2018
Kyle McCrohan
Brier, WA
Kyle McCrohan   Brier, WA
Did this 15 hrs car to car in early July, did not need crampons on the approach because of the massive suncups. Ice axe was useful on the descent. This was our first big alpine rock route and it was perfect because of the relatively easy approach, simple routefinding, and quick descent.

Climbing on this route is not spectacular, but the scenery and location is great. Lots of just pulling on flakes. The ridge after the 5 technical pitches is very long. Generally stay left of the crest for easier movement. I was able to place a tiny nut near the top of the summit block, allowing my partner to top rope the summit block safely. Sep 13, 2018