| A Bear at its best
Being the Sangre's are the farthest from my house, I have not spent much time in them. An opportunity came about to do Little Bear, with a possible traverse to Blanca.
Mike at the lake with Little Bear in the background
I left GJ early, drove over to Alamosa, and waited for my partner, Kay. She showed in mid afternoon and she parked low and I drove to almost 10,000 ft. I made it past Jaws 1, which was not as bad as it looked, and stopped and parked in the "big" camp spot on the right up high...guessing around 10,000 ft. We packed up and hiked up to the lake. It was a tad busy as it was Memorial Day weekend. I had worries about the weekend being busy up there, but we found a nice spot and several other campers. Day was nice, weather forecast excellent, except for very high wind forecast. They came, but later in the day.
Kay had just bought a new tent so we worked together to get that put up. I didn't carry a tent and use a tarp so it took me about 10 seconds to have my shelter up. I slept out on my tarp, Kay in her new tent.
We woke early, about 4 am I think it was. We packed with micro's and ice axes, as we could see the access chute had snow.
The way up! The ascent chute. We walked up the trail, around the lake, and up to the chute. There we met a party of 2 from the Denver area.
Party from DenverThey were putting on harnesses and crampons. We stopped and put on micro's and harnesses too. Ice axes out, we went up, followed by up, and a bit more up after that. By the way, the route goes up! The snow was hard from an almost freeze overnight. It was easier in that condition than it was when we came down. We picked our steps carefully, following the party from Denver. They reached the saddle first. When we got there, we took a break, took off the micro's, and off we went.
At the saddle after going up the chute.
Uneventful......finding our way to the Hourglass.
Looking across to SW Ridge
Kay working her way up
Kay making her way
Looking towards the Hourglass
Heading towards the HourglassWhen we got there, the other party was putting on crampons again and getting out ropes. We put on our micro's again and asked if we could pass. We did not use ropes to go up the Hourglass. They said yes. The issue of knocking off rocks onto a party below is SO SO important. The Hourglass had ice, the fixed rope frozen into the small water run at the bottom. We started up the right side of the chute, crossed over the ice to the left side, reached the fixed rope, and the belay point. A few rocks got away from us and we yelled out. I felt terrible we had let some smaller stuff go, knowing there were people below us. They were using ropes and moving slower than us. As it turned out, they never reached the belay point of the fixed rope, deciding to turn around.
We picked our path, seeing Terry and his crew making their way across the SW Ridge to reach Little Bear.
Terry and friends working their way across
Terry and friendsThe rocks and rock fall potential is huge in here.....we all know that. A party below you on this route is counting on you to be ultra careful or you need to stay close together.
I found the climbing exciting, a bit bold in a few spots, and Kay did well also. We moved in a determined manner and made it to the summit just as Terry and his group did too.
Mike on summit...eating crackers!
We hung out, took pics, ate and drank, and I passed on the traverse. I did not want to leave Kay to descend on her own. I took pictures of the traverse as I will be back soon to do it this year.
The traverseWe began our descent. I hate going down loose crap! We made it back to the top of the fixed line, no sight of the other party we climbed with most of the day. I did carry an 8mm rope and Kay elected to rappel the Hourglass.
Kay rapping the HourglassShe did well and I cleaned the rope and climbed down to her.
It was about 2:00 pm when the wind showed up....and damn did it show up! I was in 50 mph on Elbert this past winter....that's a lot of wind. The wind Kay and I got blasted with on the descent, on the long walk from the bottom of the Hourglass to the top of the descent chute was HUGE! Kay got knocked over several times, my balance sucked as I was getting pounded. The wind would grab your pack and spin you around. It was horrible. The winds were 60+ mph. We had to stop and just hunker down so many times. We were pleased the high winds waited to show up. The dust down in the valley was epic, due to the wind.
The dusty valley
We got back to the descent chute, got out axes and micro's, and down we went. The snow was mush and we slipped and slid, post holing now and then.
Kay glissading down the chute
We left a mark.....We both did some glissading when we could. I was glad to get back to the rocks and ground.
All in all, eventful due to the frozen conditions in the Hourglass, the high winds and the snow in the chute. We arrived safe and sound back at the lake. We packed out the next morning.
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