Little Bear

Date to Climb: July 10, 2009

Date Climbed: July 13, 2009

Elevation: 14,037

Range: Sangre de Cristo

Latitude: 37.56668, Longitude: -105.49723

Route: West Ridge lll, Class 4

Round-Trip Mileage: 3.5 (from lake)

Pre-Climb Comments

This is a loose and dangerous route. It has a long section of class 4 with lose rock that all converges on the route below, the hourglass. We hope to move quickly to try for a clear shot at the summit. After the climb we will have to pack out sown the dreaded road.

Post-Climb Comments

After having a great day on Blanca and Ellingwood Point we relaxed in the afternoon. It was very hot at Lake Como but we still got some rest and lots of time to think about Little Bear, a notoriously dangerous peak.

Camped close to the trail we heard climbers go by all morning. Finally we got up around 4:30. It was Monday morning. Taking's advise, we delayed climbing Little Bear until a weekday, but it seemed like a lot of other folks did the same.

At first light we were walking. The approach climb is a nasty 600 foot scree gully; the kind that everything is moving down and you are trying to move up. The trick is to move up quicker than the rocks that are sliding down. Moving to the side of the gully, the rock was more solid and we were able to move more safely. Topping out on the saddle was exciting because we could see most of the route just by looking over the other side.

top of Gully

Looking into the valley below.

We were on a ridge and had to traverse a quarter of a mile to the base of our climb on Little Bear. It looked longer to us. The crossing was moving over bits of trail between huge blocks and boulders. The traveling is not easy, but we are very used to it and can move quickly. Soon we overtook a couple of climbers who were feeling the effects of altitude (or attitude) but were moving slowly. Ahead of them shortly were some friends we met the day before on Ellingwood Point from Broomfield, Denver, and Kansas.

Snow blocked the entrance to the hourglass - the start of the route. We climbed up the snow while the others went around; probably a better choice. There were seven of us climbing. One person dropped out and then we had two groups of three. Jason, from Broomfield, climbed with us.

Making short work of the hourglass we left the safety of the fixed ropes and inspected the rest of the route. Following the advise of the guidebook,s we went left looking for the cleanest line possible. Cairns lined the left ridge, but we had been warned not to go all the way to the ridge so we did not go that way.

The climb to the top was rather short and soon we were on top of the Bear. The rock was loose all the way up, but it was a fun scramble of a route.

Blanca From Summit

Blanca traverse from Little Bear

Leaving Jason on top to unite with his friends, we started our descent. Climbing down we were better able to see the forbidden ridge and decided to try it. Following the cairns, the rock was solid relative to what we had climbed, yet still it felt solid, and we quickly descended the route. There was a down climb that brought us back to the hourglass, but it was not hard. In minutes we were at the bottom of the route and reversing the traverse off of the mountain.

Lake Como

Lake Como

Back at Lake Como we had to pack and hike out the terrible road. Jake and Robin had left that morning for an adventure of their own as they were headed to the Great Sand Dunes.

By ten we were walking down the road - the long, hot, tiring road. It was no better walking down the road than walking up. In fact we would rather walk up most hills than down them, but especially loose cobblestones that roll under each footstep. The Element was a great sight.

We had decided to meet Robin in Alamosa at a coffee shop recommended by some folks we had met at Lake Como. Arriving minutes too late for food, we altered our plans to a nearby local restaurant that had an internet connection. The food was great and we did our best to update parts of the sites and check weather conditions.

Still we had a long drive ahead. We were going to Mount Lindsey, which was located in a land (that seemed) far, far away.

We had a wonderful, successful time at Lake Como, but we will probably never go back there again just because of the road.

Little Bear - July 13, 2009 summit check