Ridiculous Amounts of Rock II: Bear Creek Spire and Mt. Williamson

One of many species of alpine flowers at Dade Lake.

Mike has been very on top of getting us backcountry permits in the Sierra this summer, and it paid off with great ascents of two classics: Bear Creek Spire, north of Bishop at the head of Rock Creek, and Mt. Williamson, located further south near the town of Independence. Back-to-back road trips and excellent Sierra summer weather allowed us to drive down from Reno and complete the routes. Bonus sightings of wildflowers — even in mid-August, thanks to the heavy snow year and late spring — added lots of color to the trip!

Bear Creek Spire

Bear Creek Spire’s magnificent summit (center)dominates the head of Little Lakes Valley. Although it is not quite the tallest peak in the surrounding few miles, it is by far the most striking. (SummitPost.org)
Yep, still ice and snow in August at 11,000'. Why not try a little photography while getting used to the elevation?
A 4am start put us here the next day, a few pitches up the North Arete of Bear Creek Spire. The snowfield below had melted into interesting patterns.
Enjoying a post-Snickers view break down into Little Lakes Valley, a couple of pitches from the top.
Mike starts the descent off the summit ridge to easier ground below.
The snow descent was deeply sun-cupped but soft enough for relatively easy traveling.

mount williamson

Unlike the Rock Creek trail, which started at 10,000′ and gained very little elevation over the course of the four miles it took to get to the base of Bear Creek Spire, the journey to Mount Williamson started a couple of drainages to the north of Williamson: beginning at around 5,000′, the approach involved eleven trail miles up to 12,000′ Shepherd Pass, then around and down another couple of miles into Williamson Bowl and the start of the route.

At just over 14,000', Mount Williamson (center left) is one of the great peaks of the Sierra Nevada. It is truly awe-inspiring: rising 9,000 feet from the Owens Valley, it commands one's attention from great distances, overshadowing and overpowering everything surrounding it. Its incredible bulk is matched only by its complexity -- steep faces are framed by seemingly never-ending, sinuous aretes; countless gullies and couloirs separate enormous buttresses; spires tower above the onlooker... (SummitPost.org)
Rubble, rubble everywhere: Just below Shepherd Pass. Happy to have a trail for this section!
Wildflowers and lovely little alpine lakes in Williamson Bowl.
A very convenient place to get water!
Next day, somewhere on the route up Williamson: a dizzying view down toward upper Williamson Creek.
Making do with a lousy view through the notch between the East and West Horns on Mount Williamson.
Broad summit plateau of Mt. Williamson, with the East and West Horns at the far end.
Looking south from the summit toward Owens Lake (now mostly dry).
Cool blocky formations in Williamson Bowl with the mighty east face of Mt. Tyndall in the background.

We decided that if we had enough energy we would walk out via Williamson Creek, a trail-less canyon that relatively few people travel. We got great scenery, solitude, a couple of creek crossings, and some moderate bushwhacking, but it could have been much more difficult.  It was great to travel through this canyon, which showed little sign of human activity. We spent a bunch of time following bear and deer trails, which were helpful — the animals tend to know the easiest way to go.

Lower Williamson Creek.

5 thoughts on “Ridiculous Amounts of Rock II: Bear Creek Spire and Mt. Williamson

  1. really really enjoyed this – i like your increasingly vivid language. also, you look supercute in that pic just of you with the rope, sitting.

  2. Once again, great pictures. Hope you are listing all the peaks you guys have climbed over all the years, both now and in Alaska. It’d be interesting to know them all one day.


  3. Dad — thanks! Glad you like the pictures. Yes, Mike keeps a record of all the routes he’s done over the years, and who he’s done them with. He ‘ticks’ the route, the date and the companions in the backs of the guidebooks.

  4. You make the Sierras look AMAZING!!! Way to get out there and take advantage. We wanna come visit 🙂 (although glad it is you and not me on some of those steep walls.)

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