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|Conditions Information||Posted By||Posted On|
|2014-07-26||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: On Saturday 26 July there was water running down the Hourglass. The rope is in very good shape, attached to two anchors at top. I found it was necessary to rely on the rope at least in the middle where the rocks are wet. Although it was a Saturday, I was the only one on the standard route and had the peak to myself. There were a lot of people at the Lake, and upwards of a dozen tricked-out 4x4s up there as well. Otherwise conditions were good, the weather cooperated, and it was a great climbing day. I have suspicions about the trip distances reported in the route description. My GPS tracker showed 24 miles roundtrip to the parking at 8800‘, and 5 miles to the Lake. I can‘t explain the high figure, the same tracker seems to work fine on other climbs. But I can say it was an exhausting climb and took me 8 hours to go from 8800‘ to the summit. If it is really just 13 miles, it‘s the toughest 13 miles out there! I am interested to hear what others may have recorded for the round trip from 8800.
|2014-07-22||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: No bears in our camp but about half of those we spoke to had seen bears on the road and/or just outside their camp (5 of 10 or so groups). Looks like someone (NFS?) has cleaned up all the trash reported previously, and also posted signs everywhere warning about the nuisance bear in the area. Thanks for the warnings from previous posters, it made us extra vigilant. Good conditions on Little Bear‘s standard route with a fair amount of water coming down the hourglass. Anchor webbing in ok shape but obvious that rocks have been pelting them and the fixed lines, I didn‘t like that anchor point, doesn‘t actually seem to be attached to the rest of the mountain, but to each their own...bring your own gear if you will need or want it as who knows what things look like above where you can see and feel. As previously noted obvious compromises to the sheath/core of the lines have been tied off. I thought climbers used their own gear and swapped a new anchor for the old? Looks like soon another 30+ pounds of abandoned, trashed anchors and lines will need to be cut out and hauled out. Or is this a more organized fixing of gear with a plan for later removal, if so cool, and I want details on how to help. I traded out equal for what I left in (sling and ring), but admit we didn‘t have the stamina to try for the rest except for about 20‘ of static line someone else had cut off but left on the ridge.
|2014-07-13||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Climbed Sunday, it had rained steadily for several hours till midnight Saturday, lots of water coming down the hourglass, otherwise no snow remains except patch at the bottom. At least one group of climbers ahead of us and we did encounter substantial, rockfall, just before entering the hourglass. Traction still fairly good despite water on ascent, though we tended to the left side to stay out of the center of the chute bc of the rockfall we had seen Encountered a party ascending who had used southwest ridge and from summit observed another group on the traverse. Used the fix ropes without any issues on descent. Bear reported Friday night in our camp along road at approximately 10,000 feet.
|2014-07-09||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: The entire route is dry. The rope in the hourglass seemed to be reasonably safe. There were three or four questionable nicks in it but someone had tied them with knots to bypass them. I rapped down it with no issues. We did spot a largish sized bear on the "road" to Como Lake about 1.5 miles below the lake. Our camp was attacked by very curious three-striped squirrels and a rogue deer who ate a lot of charcoal from the fire pit next to our tents for half the night. We later heard noises similar to vomiting and wondered if it was our deer friend realizing his folly.
|2014-07-07||Route: Little Bear-to-Blanca Traverse
Info: No snow, verglas, etc on NW Face. Bone Dry. Same goes for the traverse to Blanca, as well as the traverse to Ellingwood. It‘s wide open summer conditions up there. Have fun, be safe.
|2014-06-20||Route: Little Bear-to-Blanca Traverse
Info: as of 20 June, no need for snowshoes, gaiters, ice axe, crampons, or microspikes. I did the standard route, never used or needed any of the above. The gullies on Blanca still hold some snow, so if you are by-passing part of the ridge on the right, you would still need snow tools. The Hourglass still has snow at the mouth, but I was able to by-pass on the rocks.
|2014-06-10||Route: Little Bear-to-Blanca Traverse
Info: I just returned from leading a group six up the Hourglass on Little Bear and then across the traverse to Blanca. The approach gully from Lake Como consisted of large patches of frozen neve which petered out towards the saddle. Crampons are still quite useful here as well as the snowfield leading into the actual South-West couloir on Little Bear. We started our day at 3am- with the temps hovering around 35F. We reached the base of the Hourglass in 2hrs 30mins and found two "fixed" ropes. One rope (orange) was in this couloir last October and has sustained several core shots which have been "butterflied off". The second rope is actually set up for rappel and is freely running through two rap-rings and newer-looking 1" tubular webbing. These ropes were still partially frozen in solid water ice at the bottom and excavation would only have run the risk of further damage. Our party simply treated these ropes as a nice hand rail and didn‘t really rely on them. Although we did not descend this way one would more than likely be able to use the rope set up to rappel without any problem (of course a thorough inspection while ascending would be mandatory). We made the summit of Little Bear just before 7am and took a moment to inspect the connecting ridge and eat. Many people suggest the descent off of Little Bear is the "crux". I would strongly disagree and feel the reason many suggest this is due to the immediate and intense exposure that you are confronted with. The descent is certainly exposed but nothing harder than 4th class. There is a segment of the ridge line just after the "Bivwacko tower" on the West/Lake Como side of the ridge which I feel is the technical "crux" of the traverse. This section is approximately 30 ft and requires low 5th class climbing across a combination of sound and delicate rock with considerable exposure. It would not be difficult to bring a 30m section of rope and a couple 48" slings to protect a less-experienced partner. We arrived at an area where many descend the East side down to the scree (off of the ridge) and "by-pass" the first tower. We found firm snow nearly the entire way to the standard area where one regains the ridge proper(just before the 2nd Tower). We elected to take a steep snow gully/couloir which ascends the notch separating the Second and Third Towers. (I have posted a picture which shows this variation in the background- it‘s the middle snow gully ascending the ridge line). After reaching a point where the snow ceased we regained the rock and continued without event to the summit of Blanca. All told we took 4hrs on the ridge with a few rest stops to refuel. The descent off of Blanca is a tedious job of negotiating an scree field with a scant trail here and there, there are a few snowfields which extend towards the Ellingwood/Blanca saddle (but do not reach the actual saddle) which allows a quick series of glissades to speed up the descent process. All told we were 11hrs from tent to tent! Excellent weather.
|2014-05-28||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Climbed Little Bear yesterday (5/2. Road and route is snowfree to Lake Como. Water is running in the usual spots on the road to fill up if you need to. There is a stream at the close side of the lake to get water from as well. In the woods behind the lake and on the lower snowslopes, you will posthole DEEP if you don‘t get done very early. Lower down, you will probably posthole regardless of start time, unless it gets a lot colder soon to firm things up. We summited @8:45AM and snow was softening already higher up. No snow on the talus slope on the backside of the "notch" The hourglass and several other steep sections have started to ice up and combined with the existing ice underlying the snow makes for sketchy conditions at best on these sections. A rope would be helpful and partner for belay here-my opinion, use your own judgement; would be hard to self arrest on 50+ degree ice. A shorter ice tool would come in handy in addition to a normal mountaineers ice axe as I found myself using my long axe as an ice tool more often than not, facing in and front pointing on the way down on the icy sections. With that said, the snow in the hourglass is still currently better than the longer snowslope before it and the traverse getting there, both of which are softer. We saw several microwave-sized rocks careen past us from high up in the slopes in or below the hourglass; one reason to move fast through these sections, especially as things warm up.
|2014-05-26||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Started hiking at 4:00 am. Some postholing on the way to the base of the gully. Snowshoes would have nice. The gully was soft in spots in its lower parts, but got better as we ascended it. Very little snow left among the rocks in the ridge, though there are patches of snow in some sections. No need for crampons, though. Snow then becomes continuous as one gets close to the Hourglass. The snow was firm in most places, but some postholing was unavoidable. The Hourglass was in prime conditions, with good snow all the way through. There was ice just under the snow in some small sections, but it was easy to avoid. A combination of rocks and snow as one gets closer to the top, but it was easy to find a continuous snow path pretty much all the way to the top. Very little danger of rock or ice fall, though some rocks were loose. We reached the summit just before 9:00 am and the snow was becoming soft and sugary on the way down. Made it quickly down the Hourglass with no problems and it was very warm once we were on the ridge, with no wind at all. Snow on the gully was very soft on the way down, and we plunge-stepped and glissaded, with some postholing occasionaly. Some more postholing awaited for us in the trees. Hit it now while conditions are still good, though be warned: these will feel like the longest 3.5 miles ever!
|2014-05-26||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Lake Como Road mostly dry to lake. Evidence of post-holing on road going past lake into trees. We started up the first gully once you cut off the road to the LB standard route. Went up a few hundred vertical feet, and decided to call it a day. The snow in the gully was very rotten and had very little support (lots of sugary facets). We probably could have made it to the top of the gully and moved on to the traverse and hourglass, but thought the descent down the warm, rotten snow in the gully would be brutal. We saw at least one headlamp going up the gully before we arrived and did not see him (or his partner, assuming he had one) turn around. Hopefully they‘ll post a conditions report on how the hourglass was and also how the descent down both the hourglass and gully was.
|2014-05-10||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Excellent. Great snow conditions in the gully. Dry rock mostly on the traverse. Snowfield to the hourglass, mellow snow climb. Hourglass to the summit, excellent snow conditions. Starting to warm and melt during the day, turning to wet snow and exposing ice below the snow in some sections. Best to be off the summit by 09:00. Lake Como Rd is a bitch as always. You can easily drive past Jaws 1 with high clearance 4wd, probably Jaws 2. Little snow to deal with until you reach Lake Como, which is still frozen over. Leave the snowshoes at home.
|2014-05-04||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Approach is mostly free of snow until the trees before the lake. Snow shoes recommended from here around lake and up to the gully. Gully is in great condition for ice ax crampon action. Traverse is clean rock for first half and then ice ax and crampons are suggested for second half of traverse with continuous snow through hour glass and all the way to the summit (see pics). However the ice bulge has barely any snow left on it, potentially leaving about a 10-15‘ section of ice.
|2014-04-26||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: We hiked into Como Lake Friday afternoon around 4:00 pm. We postholed the last 300 yards to the cabin. The snow was slush. We stayed in the cabin. At 4:00 am, we started hiking. It did not get cold enough last night and postholed on every 5th step until we got to the trees. In the trees, we postholed every few steps. Once we climbed the hill heading up the valley to the Little Bear trailhead, the snow was much more solid. It would have been much easier with snowshoes. We used crampons and mountaineering axes to climb the first gully. There was a thin crust, but it was easy to kick through. Since this was our first time using axes and crampons and an afternoon storm was forecast, we turned around at the top of the West ridge. (This is only my second Conditions Report so please be nice.)
|2013-12-31||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: My friends and I climbed up to Lake Como on 12/29 from US 150. The truck got stuck right off the highway so we snowshoed from the road. This added 1.8 miles each way to our trip. We attempted Little Bear on 12/30, but turned around at point 12,980. We made the decision to turn around based on our route options. We could have continued the standard route, but from photo #1 you can see the route has high avy danger. We also considered maintaining the ridge route as we carried rope, and climbing gear. Ultimately, we turned around as it was 10:50am, and either decision would have us descending technical terrain in the dark. If anyone has a winter Little Bear attempt in mind I would recommend following our tracks. Three men on snowshoes packed the trail pretty well so you can probably get away with microspikes until 10,000‘. We also added plastic to the door way of the cabin so you will at least have wind protection at night. We descended on the morning of 12/31.
|2013-10-23||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: I have just returned from climbing Little Bear‘s SW Face via the "Hourglass" Couloir. As of Wednesday October 23rd there was what I would call "Lean" winter conditions along the West Ridge (approach gully) as well as the SW Face. The snow was comprised of a thin crust under which lay heaps of cold unconsolidated "sugar" lower on the West Ridge (approach) and along the base of the SW Face. The "Hourglass" was in better shape and had varying qualities of frozen snow and ice; there were two segments along the ascent of the "Hourglass" which were very thinly covered- near the bottleneck (narrowest portion of the couloir there was a 10 foot section of ice and rock (nothing unmanageable) as well as another section higher up near the end of the "Hourglass" at the so-called "fork in the road". As I began the ascent of the "Hourglass" I saw the existing fixed line underneath the frozen snow; since I was guiding two friends (Both competent intermediate mountaineers) I decided to attempt to uncover the line as I climbed in the event one of my companions felt uncomfortable with the descent. Our original plan was to ascend Little Bear and then complete the traverse to Blanca. After attaining the summit of Little Bear and pausing for the requisite photo(s) I began the down climb to assess the plausibility of our next goal- the ridge traverse to Blanca. Needless to say I encountered atrocious snow conditions approximately 150 meters from the summit. The "crux" of the down climb was under heaps of "sugary snow" which obscured the ridge and gave way as I "wallowed" & swam down the ridge. I decided the conditions were simply too dangerous to continue with my party and made the call to re-ascend to Little Bear‘s summit and descend the "Hourglass" and SW Face. Incidentally the fixed line is in relatively "good" condition (recently replaced prior to the snowfall). There were several segments which had been damaged but "butterflied" off by another climber. There was also a much older rope located higher in the "Hourglass" which, though weathered, appeared in decent enough shape to use as a hand line. I would say the route was in "relatively" good shape for this time of year and was not surprised to find the "early winter" unconsolidated snow. We began our climb at 4am and would recommend an early start for anyone thinking about climbing this particular route in the next 2-4 days; the goal should be sunrise on the summit so the snowfields remain relatively consolidated and frozen for the descent.
|2013-09-29||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: The gully to get up to 12,600‘ has quite a bit of snow and requires micro spikes, an axe is useful on the way down. The hourglass is covered in loose ice and snow and has a pretty strong stream running underneath the frozen stuff. We ascended the West Ridge Direct and descended the hourglass. I ended up repairing about 5 core shots in the fixed line which is getting to be very rotten. The descent off of Little Bear to start the traverse is covered in snow and very dangerous.
|2013-09-25||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: A few inches of snow remain in the gully and microspikes worked well going up and coming down. The traverse to the hourglass and above it were mainly dry and only small sections of snow. The hourglass had dry rock on climbers left. The rope is cut to 4 strands up high so we didn‘t use it at all. Not enough slack in the line (portions are in ice for the season). Didn‘t really need the rope ascending, but it would have been good on the way down.
|2013-09-22||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: I think mileage in the route description is wrong. My GPS tracker showed 5.5 mi from the pulloffs at 8800 to Lake Como; the guide says 4 mi. I showed 17 miles roundtrip from the pulloffs to the base of the Hourglass (zero viz above 13k Sunday); the guide has 13 for the summit from the bottom of the road. Bill, please double check that mileage :-)
|2013-08-28||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: There is a brand new orange rope in the hourglass that is well anchored and installed by the US Army on 8/27. There is a small nick in the rope about half way up but that is all. A group of four of us all used it on our ascent and descent, one by one. Still some nice water running down.
|2013-08-09||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Water was running down the middle of the hourglass on 9 August. There was also verglass on some of the rocks on the route. There were about 8 climbers (including two of us), so there was significant rockfall. There was a fairly new orange rope with some sections of an old blue rope at the bottom of it in the hourglass.