To the northwest of
Mt. Tom, across a profound gorge looms a sharp, pyramidal
mountain, 13,708 feet in elevation. This is Bear Creek
Spire, perhaps the finest of a number of peaks that encircle
a treeless, granite basin containing Lake Italy. . . Bear
Creek Spire rises at the northeastern corner of the basin.
Perhaps the most striking views of it are from the north, up
Little Lakes Basin. It is an unusually impressive mountain
of the Matterhorn type. On all sides, except the west, it
drops away in almost vertical walls hundreds of feet in
height. The summit itself is a single monolith only a few
feet in diameter from which these jagged aretes radiate in
true Matterhorn fashion. The view obtained from this
circumscribed perch is superb. To the east, across deep
gorges, is Mt. Tom; to the south, beyond others, is the
lofty and commanding form of Mt. Humphreys; to the south,
Seven Gables, Mt. Hilgard and other rugged peaks; to he
west, across Lake Italy Basin, Mt. Gabb; to the northwest,
the group containing Mts. Dade, Abbot and Mills. Another
handsome mountain as one looks up the Rock Creek Basin is
Mt. Dade. To the north it breaks away in sheer cliffs at
whose base lies a small glacier. It has been ascended only
a few times, although the view from its summit is a very
Well, perhaps he was just
keeping the goods for himself, but what ol' Norman didn’t say
is that Mt. Dade also has a real nice couloir on its east side
in the shape of an hourglass. As the name implies, the
“Hourglass Couloir” is wide at the top and bottom, and narrows
in the center where it is steepest. I thought it would make
for a nice ski trip, so I made plans to go.
As luck would have it,
Eric O of
reknown had recently moved back to California and was living
in Mammoth Lakes, a mere half hour north of Rock Creek
Canyon. A few emails and chat room posts later, and suddenly
there were four of us enlisted on the trip – Nate Roth (aka
Telenater), splitboard rider Chris Gallardo (aka bcrider),
Eric and yours truly. We traded maps, photos, “beta” and
whatever else we could find before the trip in order to “out
jones” the other guys. Since my daughter was born in
September, I had not been able to spend any time on the
Eastside since a late June trip to
ski the Conness Glacier.
Needless to say, I was plenty fired up for this trip.
In fact, I was so fired
up that I agreed to drive from my home in San Francisco to
Rock Creek and back for a simple weekend trip – no trivial
matter. To make matters more complicated, all trans-sierra
roads south of Carson Pass are snowbound and closed in winter,
requiring a pesky detour into a sliver of western Nevada, and
then down the east side of the range on Highway 395. After
fighting my way out of the Bay Area in typical Friday
afternoon traffic, I picked up Nate and Chris on the way up to
Lake Tahoe. Once in the Tahoe basin, we dropped over Luther
Pass and down to CA 88. I had been told of a great shortcut
that shaved several miles off the journey by cutting across
the Washoe Tribe Reservation near Dresslerville, Nevada. The
“shortcut” turned into an odyssey involving unsigned dirt
roads, abandoned roadside refrigerators and multiple 7-11’s.
Through a combination of directional intuition and muted
prayer, we were somehow deposited out onto US 395 heading
south towards California (again!) and the big mountains.
Three hours later at around Midnight, we arrived at Eric’s
house in Mammoth.
on the link below for photos and "the rest of the story".