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North America, United States, California—Sierra Nevada, Bear Creek Spire, South Face

Bear Creek Spire, South Face. In August I made the first ascent of this steep 1000-foot wall. I was prepared for a somewhat smaller face of more moderate angle as indicated on the disturbingly inaccurate topographical map. At the base of the wall, I reconsidered my solo attempt, and especially my seven pitons and grand total of 17 pounds of equipment. Then I looked back down Pine Creek Canyon to where my car was parked, many miles and 5000 feet below. My pack contained the barest essentials for climbing, self-belay and a bivouac. I used every piece of equipment at least once. The first 200 feet were unroped, but from there on the climbing was F6 to F8 on steep, but rough granite. Just before sunset I stood on top of a long slab a few hundred feet from the top. Above me was a short overhang and a gap in the crack system. My repeated attempts to climb it free failed. I placed a piton for aid but could not reach another placement. Finally a desperate free move from a sling attached to the piton enabled me to reach a wide crack. A traverse on a long ledge gained a dihedral leading to the summit ridge. The sun had set when I reached the top (13,713 feet) and I bivouacked at 12,000 feet on the opposite side of the mountain. The next morning I hiked out to the Rock Creek roadend, jumped on my previously cached bicycle for a 40-mile ride to my car. NCCS IV, F9, Al.

GALEN A. ROWELL