OverviewThe North Arete of the eastern Clyde Spire (Schneider and Swanson, 1986)is a rowdy and steep backcountry route. If you've ticked off the "classics" of the range and are looking for some more alpine adventure, this route deserves some attention. It is a physical and sometimes loose route on a remote and obscure peak. The descent is devious and time consuming. In other words, a full-on alpine adventure. In addition, the normal approach (as described in Secor) will require axe and crampons. As would a descent via the SW side and Echo Col. Further adding to the alpine ambiance!
Getting ThereFrom Bishop, Ca., take highway 168 West to the lake Sabrina trailhead. Follow the trail up Bishop Creek to Hungry Packer Lake. Other descriptions mention leaving the trail at Sailor Lake and following the drainage up to Echo Lake. However, between Echo Lake and the Clyde Spires stand some steeper talus and cliff bands. To avoid the cliffs, and get on scenic higher ground sooner, one can hike all the way to Hungry Packer Lake and gain the ridge that separates Moonlight Lake and Hungry Packer. From where this ridge runs into the East Side of Picture Peak, contour left on slabs and light talus to the cirque below Clyde Spires. The final bit of approach will depend on your strategy, preference, and season. One can start at the exact toe of the buttress and climb 2 pitches to join the Secor described route. This option, especially later in the season, negates the need for pointy things. Or one can climb the North Couloir to a prominent exit ledge a couple hundred feet up on the left.
Route DescriptionThe route description is pretty simple- follow the exact crest of the Arete. If you are contemplating ridiculously loose rock, or crack-less face climbing, you're off route. A steep, perfect hand-sized crack on the 2nd or 4th pitch (depending on how one starts, see approach description) is your first crux. Immediately above the hand crack is a flake to a right-facing, right-leaning corner/roof. The rock is grainy here, but finger locks and protection are solid. The very next pitch is also hard- steep, complicated climbing through cracks and roofs. Protect with cams in a crack vertically splitting a sharp arete. And climb either side. Wacky! A few less-descript pitches continue along the right edge of the arete. Near the top, veer even further to the right.
Descent DescriptionFor descent one has two distinct options:
The simplest and fastest, though most exposed and loosest, option, is to scoot over to the higher west summit, then continue on the ridge to "Crumbly Spire". After Crumbly Spire (the reddish peak between Clyde Spires and Mt. Wallace) one can walk comfortably to Wallace Col and then descend East back to the cirque below the Spires. This option requires no ice axe or crampons, but does require some savvy to negotiate the really loose rock on the ridge.
If weather threatens, or the idea of the loose ridge traverse frightens, and there are already ice axe and crampons in your pack, descend the SW side to about 12,200ft. Around that altitude contour east toward Echo Col. Secor reminds you to "aim for the sharp notch to the left, marked with white rock on the left and black rock on the right." (pg 291) On the north side of Echo Col, descend towards Echo Lake. Don't go to lake level, however. Stay relatively high and to the east. Slabs and talus about 200 feet above lake level will get you through to the drainage back down to Moonlight Lake. In this case, of course, scout the Echo col descent as much as possible from your hike in.
Essential Gear50M rope.
single set of nuts.
Double set of small cams (to 1.5 inches.
Single cams to 3 inches.
Slings, helmet, etc.
Ice axe and crampons, depending on season, approach, and descent choice.