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|Conditions Information||Posted By||Posted On|
|2015-07-24||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: The entire route including the hourglass is free of snow. The hourglass only had a small amount of water coming down during our climb. There is still a serious bear problem at Como Lake. Please read my Lake Como trailhead report for details.
|2015-07-23||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: We got lucky with a perfect weather day with dry conditions. There was not much water running through the Hourglass. Several of the ropes looked in pretty good shape. Two other parties climbing when we were. Of course, lot‘s of rocks to dodge even though we were very careful. We elected to camp low, then drive 3 miles on the road and hike the rest, which made for a long day. No one we talked to had been hassled by bears; however, there were some sightings.
|2015-07-22||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Perfect weather and no one else on the mountain the entire day! We climbed on Wednesday, and saw a lot more people climbing it on Thursday and Friday, so shoot for early in the week to avoid the rock fall. As everyone says the conditions are great. As for the bear, we didn‘t see him until our third evening. We were camped above the lake, just off the jeep road about 1/4 mile beyond the Little Bear turn off. He came within about 100 yards of our camp that evening around 6:00. Another group scared him away a few minutes later, and there was no sign that he came back during the night. Our bear canister and pots/pans were untouched. So unlike previous postings are saying, the bear WILL come up high above the lake to look for food, so please use a canister for food storage. We talked to some out-of-staters headed up on our way out. They said they didn‘t have a bear canister, but they have a gun so they weren‘t worried. What a terrible mind set! Please just do everything appropriately to keep the bear from getting food so it doesn‘t have to be killed!
|2015-07-15||Route: Little Bear-to-Blanca Traverse
Info: Starting up little bear the gully is steep and loose, as expected, but very doable. I took the right while a couple took the left side to avoid any potential concussions and both sides were passable, though the trail is on the right. When looking at photo 9 on route description it‘s possible to think that the route drops a little lower than it actually does. Remember not to lose too much elevation and take the time to stop and look for cairns. The hourglass was wet, but was not an issue at all. We didn‘t use the ropes but I did follow them as I assumed they were on route. Going to hiker‘s right results in a harder climb. From there take the peak! The traverse to Blanca is fun and well worth it. Even with rain I felt the rock wasn‘t that slippery. There are a few times when route finding becomes an issue. When all else fails back track a little. Or, simply look behind you. Occasionally the trail will go down and back from where you are. The traverse from Blanca to Ellingwood will seem ridiculously easy after the previous one. I took the class 3 across the ridge (or very close to it). It is well cairned and a good hike. The route down from Ellingwood was actually the hardest route finding for me since I‘d never been there before. If all else fails once you‘re back on the ridge towards Blanca just head down. You‘ll inevitably run into something. BEARS: In regards to the bears in the area, I was lucky that someone recommended to me to camp above Lake Como. Apparently the bears are smart and even if you hang your stuff they know to break the rope. I also chose to break down my tent (but left it out) before hiking. I camped right next to the beginning of the Little Bear hike. Happy hiking!
|2015-07-12||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: I‘ve heard/seen reports that the forest service just hung a "new rope" down Hourglass, and I think they‘re wrong. The rope looks faded and has some sizable nicks in the sheath that expose the core. Damaged spots are tied off in several places. The Hourglass is free of snow (except a patch at the base you can scramble around), but was pretty wet and slippery with water flowing inside. So make of that what you will. We also had an encounter with the bear, who grabbed some food from our Lake Como campsite (once right in front of our group of 7 during daylight). So recommend bear canisters if you are staying there.
|2015-07-02||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Two more photos of bolted anchors at bottom of hourglass. Not used nor needed during climb or descent.
|2015-07-02||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Hourglass melted out, but water is running through it. Ropes are all free and melted out except for the last bit of tail on the lowest one, but still rap-able all the way down. Small snowfield at bottom can be skirted on climber‘s left. Top rope in very good condition, but was just looped around anchor rock‘s back edge, since padded with old webbing to protect rope. Cable and cordlette with quicklink also now on top rock. Lower rap station is a mix of ropes and webbing, with one ok rope and the other a series of butterfly knots. NEED NEW ROPE for lower station or pack your own along with anchor materials to be safe.
|2015-06-21||Route: Northwest Face
Info: NW Face has patchy snow, with good route finding skills you can summit without touching any. Traverse to Blanca is almost snow free if you stick to the ridge, however the last gully before the final ascent to Blanca has a very fitting knife-edge of snow which could cause problems. Today it was perfect, the snow was hard and we were able to walk across. Mosquitoes were awful afternoon and night. Got cold enough to make them disappear for morning at least.
|2015-06-20||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: The hourglass was melted out on Sunday. It was possible to get above it but ropes had to be used to get back down. The snow in the gully below the hourglass was nice and firm. It‘s been really hot there. The traverse was free of snow. The lower section up to the V notch was fairly soft at 4 am and really soft on the return trip back to Lake Como.
|2015-04-12||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: A friend and I climbed Little Bear today via the hourglass and conditions within the hourglass are very similar to the reports from the previous week. It still holds the "ice bulge" previously mentioned and also has a small section of solid ice above the bulge which makes it hard to get solid ice axe placement with the spike side of the axe. I ended up going up the ice on the left side, using the rock when needed. Once to the top of the ice bulge I stepped over to the right (climbers right) and reach solid climbable snow for about 10 to 15 feet. At that point there were rocks on the right and in the center of the couloir there was a brief section of solid ice just beneath the snow. Again this made it difficult to get a good ice axe placement with the spike side. Fortunately this section was short enough that I was able to reach above it with the pick side of the axe and get a solid deposit in excellent snow. This was enough protection to climb over the solid section of ice. I did notice that along the rock on the left side, above the ice bulge, there is also a fair amount of solid ice. Everything above these sections were superb and made for excellent climbing around 8 am. For the approach up the road I took snow shoes but never used them. There are a few short sections that held snow but postholing was at a minimum. All in all a great day on the mountain, but found the ice sections in the hourglass fairly demanding.
Info: Looks like Coloradosherpa gave a good update on Little Bear so I figured I would just post some info on the Traverse. The first third of the traverse was mostly dry, the second 3rd was a little bit more snow and then the final 3rd was about 50% snow covered. Leave the snowshoes at home I probably post holed 15 times in 2 days. Snow was mostly bulletproof.
|2015-04-07||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Due to great interest in Hourglass conditions, I am posting this supplemental info, especially because conditions seem to be changing rapidly: we parked at the 8,800 ft pullouts, wore approach shoes up the "road" until the snow began around 10,400 ft. Near the old cabin ruins on left, I used snowshoes and my partner used skins to avoid post-holing. Soon after, we reached the creek crossing, and were not surprised along the sunny side to find the snow alternating with bare stretches, requiring a comical number of transitions to my snowshoes. The Lake Como area is entirely snow covered, I even post-holed a couple times even with snowshoes in the afternoon heat. (The ski tracks across the lake ice bewildered me). We began the next morning at 4am, and found the first couloir reasonably "safe" for our risk tolerance. Then it was a dry traverse towards the Hourglass. In the area below the Hourglass there is a lot of terrain to negotiate that is mostly covered in crusty snow, it requires confidence in self-arrest skills. The Hourglass was a blast, except the 10-foot water ice bulge at the choke will certainly become more challenging, it‘s definitely a no-fall zone. The two "fixed ropes" did not inspire much confidence with me, didn‘t really use them except briefly on the descent as a handline for part of the water ice. Probably I sound like a broken record, but this is not beginner terrain and a person must be very proficient with ice axe self arrest. Be down to Lake Como by 10am at the latest, before the daily thaw. Regarding Mrwaffles, it seems to be a great sin around here to be cocky or arrogant, or not show enough respect to the mountains. But like many others, he is far different in person than his internet persona, and very competent.
|2015-04-05||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: There is about 8 feet of water ice in the hourglass. The fixed ropes are available but buried at the bottom of the choke point. Snow on the face was mostly firm and good for tow-sized steps. Some short sections were front-points, others ankle to knee deep. Overall, conditions were good and quick, except for the ice. We took snowshoes for the approach but never used them. Only about 20 post holes were dug on this trip thanks to a solid path through the soft stuff laid by earlier skies and climbers. Snow on the road start around 10,300 ft. After it transitions 15 or so times between dry road and soft snow up to 4 ft deep.
|2015-03-28||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Took a trip up to Lake Como to give Little Bear an early Spring shot. Packed in on Friday morning 3/27. Parked @ pullout @ 9,300‘. Road is in good shape with only a few short shallow snow sections until the right turn into the trees (downslope/rolling traverse to cabins). Beginning there snowshoes can be worn all the way to Como Lake with only a few short sections melted out (near the 4x4 monument/plaque). Snow was consolidated and solid in the AM and mostly walkable without snowshoes, expect to post hole in the PM. Still deep in sections 3‘-4‘ deep. We had some time Friday afternoon to size up the West Ridge gulley and it was loaded with snow. Particularly a big patch high left (east) of gulley which looked fractured and settled, something we have not seen in early Spring attempts in previous years. When we approached on Saturday morning, the more concerning section was at the top of the gulley. The approach to 12,000‘ from the lake to the bottom of the gulley was crusty with lots of unconsolidated snow (6-8") underneath. When we got to the bottom of the gulley no one was all too happy with what we just walked through, seemed very unstable. The amount of fractured and settled areas on the upper gulley looked doable but not worth the risk. There seemed to be a small cornice still at the top of the gully with some drifting that looked cracked and settled. Having been up on the West Ridge 2x in similar time frames over the last few years, our group decided to abort and not take the risk. Consensus was it would probably hold well in the AM for the trip up, but the return once it soften up in the afternoon would be a high danger of some slab sliding. Consensus was that given a few more days of this weather this route is going to settle and be perfect, we probably missed ideal conditions by a few days. If they get no significant snow this week, I would definitely say this route will be fully in next weekend. Not sure how long it will stay that way. Lower melting is happening fast, and we stopped by Medano Creek in Sand Dunes on the way back and it is flowing strongly which is really early.
|2015-03-15||Route: Southwest Ridge
Info: In short, not-so-wintery conditions. The "Trailhead" is just the corner of a N/S "road" and an E/W "road". The E/W road is much smoother - a stock Liberty had no problem getting there from the west. I took the N/S road out of there and it was quite a bit rougher. Floatation was only used between 11,000 and 11,700, but with a little more snowmelt could probably be skipped altogether. Half of our party didn‘t use any sort of traction, but I would recommend bringing it. Axes came in handy on parts of the upper ridge. Mama Bear traverse was slower but doable, we chose not to use traction or axes as scrambling was easier unencumbered. Started at 1:15AM. S. Little Bear at 7:15AM. Started traverse at 8:15AM. Little Bear at 9:30AM. Started back at 9:45AM. Back to S. Little Bear at 10:15AM. Back to TH at 4:15PM. In other words, up to S. LB took about as long as back down. This is due to the enormous amount of talus one must negotiate for nearly the entire route.
|2015-02-08||Route: SW Ridge
Info: Conditions were pretty dry for Feb. Snow was on/off again from the TH to treeline. Very windy on the ridge during the morning, but wind stopped in the afternoon and we cooked in the sun. Crux didn‘t provide any challenges; not much snow on the bypass and the route was obvious (from prior TRs). Was surprised how stable the rock was; not much loose rock on the ledges. Technically not difficult, but it is surprising how much it beats you up for only 8 miles. I was feeling a little sick on the descent (altitude sickness?) and it took us 13 hours. A GPS is highly suggested (we used Geojed‘s gpx); don‘t count on following the flagging. We carried but did not use snowshoes, ice axe and crampons.
|2014-10-03||Route: Little Bear-to-Blanca Traverse
Info: Did the hourglass route up little bear, traversed to South Little Bear and back, then did the little Bear to Blanca traverse. Standard route down Blanca. There is snow above 11k feet, but the only significant accumulation is on north faces and the north ridge of Blanca (ankle deep) The gully that is used to get to the west ridge of little bear has some snow, and is very cold (no sun hit) so it‘ll probably hold snow for awhile. Once on the west ridge, it‘s snow free till the hourglass. Hourglass has an ice flow down the middle, but the ice can be carefully avoided by staying on the climbers left side. After exiting the hourglass it‘s snow and ice free to the top. The section between south little bear and little bear is in good shape with patchy snow. The traverse to Blanca is sketchy at best, and there are patches of snow. I didn‘t find any black ice on the route. Descent down Blanca had the most snow, ankle deep or so until the saddle. Below the saddle the snow was thinner, but there were several ice flows and black ice patches that had to be avoided. We didn‘t do Ellingwood because we ran out of time, but the standard route looked fairly snow free.
|2014-09-21||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Entire route is completely void of snow an ice on the day we climbed. The hourglass had its usual water running down it. I managed to not use the rope, but it was nice to know it was there. It appeared that all of the damaged portions of the rope were shored up. One other that was on the mountain at the same time as us used climb up and rappel down.
|2014-09-18||Route: Little Bear-to-Blanca Traverse
Info: Snow in the shade going up hourglass and across the traverse. VERY sparse however not always easily avoidable but snow patches are small and on usually flat terrain where it can handle a step. Can be frozen though into something slick though. Road was awful to walk on as always Tip, Bring approach shoes and hiking shoes, the descent off little bear requires some dicey moves where the traction can be some peace of mind.
|2014-09-14||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: No snow or ice on route. Small trickle of water coming down hourglass...easily avoidable. No bear activity at lake.