August 20, 2014

Peak 12,563

We've had an interesting summer of weather in the Sierra. Long periods with thunderstorms both in the forecast and in reality, coupled with smoky air from wildfires in the western part of the range has made prolonged trips in the mountains less than desirable. 

Classic thunderhead approaching Cecile Lake.
A little bit of luck and itinerary adjustment has allowed me to still help climbers accomplish their goals on guided trips. Glen and I climbed the Southeast Face of Clyde Minaret and The Palisade Traverse during periods of unsettled weather. However, I've put off some of my big personal objectives in the mountains in favor of shorter trips. A half day's scramble up Cloudripper and some cragging have been excellent consolation prizes. Early in August I had a free day with a 30% chance of thunderstorms, but still wanted to get into the mountains. So it seemed like a good time to tick some shorter alpine climbs.

Getting ready to leave the North Palisade bivy on a clear but windy and cold morning.
Peak 12,563 and it's Northeast Ridge (5.6) came to my attention in a Mountain Project thread from several years ago about less traveled, easier Sierra alpine rock climbs. Some of the routes sounded cool, so I added them to the never-shrinking to do list for this range. Last September Jess and I got out and climbed The Diamond on Two Eagle Peak (12,966), a route from that Mountain Project thread. The route had all the hallmarks of any off-the-beaten path alpine climb: a little loose rock rock, some lichen, and some interesting route-finding. It was a really fun day of climbing, with nobody else in sight and great views of the Palisades.

A little research in RJ Secor's Peaks, Passes, and Trails told me that Peak 12,563 is sometimes called "Bear Claw Spire", that it had a spectacular summit block, and that the route was first climbed by Galen Rowell. These facts on top of the fun we had on Two Eagle were enough to pique my interest.

I got a far from alpine start at 9am from the Pine Creek trailhead. Hiking up that trail is usually a hot dusty affair, and this time was no different. By the time I got to Upper Pine Lake the altitude and building clouds made the temperatures much more pleasant for hiking. From Honeymoon Lake to Golden Lake was fairly easy cross-country travel and soon I was getting a good look at the ridge. I have few photos from the day as the forecast and building clouds had me feeling some time pressure.

The bottom of the ridge features some fairly steep cliffs. These looked a little harder than 5.6 and certainly harder than I wanted to climb solo and in approach shoes, so I started left of the toe of the ridge at an area with several inviting cracks. Fun 5th class climbing up to about 5.6 led to the ridge top after a while. From here I crossed over to the right side and followed some 3/4th class ledge systems to get back on the ridge top. Staying generally on top of the ridge with the occasional 5th class section led up to the summit block. This was spectacular, as promised, and required a few 5.6 or so moves on very high quality granite.

The summit featured great views back into Pine Creek Canyon and down to the Owens Valley, south toward Four Gables, and a front row seat on Feather, Royce, an Merriam Peaks. Walking off down the west side of the peak was pretty casual. Though the rock had some of the potato-chip flakiness of rarely traveled alpine granite, the underlying rock quality was really good. If you're comfortable at the grade and have some alpine rock experience, this route could be a great adventure.

If you go the summit register could use a new container, notebook, and pencil.

No comments:

Post a Comment