A couple years ago I hiked Blanca and Ellingwood. That time we hiked and camped at Lake Como to get an early start the next morning. Set back quite a number of hours in order to fulfill our human duty of carrying out an injured climber, we were lucky to still make both peaks thereafter: Here's that trip report.. The next year, I returned to Mt. Lindsay (poorly prepared without an axe or traction) and got spooked in the gully. With Little Bear being the "only" peak left in the Blanca group, it was a must for me this year. This time, however, I had to go solo and decided to make a day trip out of it.
Around 6pm on Thursday night, I checked the weather and decided to pack my gear and drive to the base of the nasty Como Road. The goal was a 2am start to avoid any storms and potentially avoid any other groups that may try to strike me out in the hourglass. Instead, I over-abused the snooze function and was not on the "road" until 6! Getting to the TH at 10pm the night earlier was going to be asking a bit much for a 2am start. I kept the weather in mind and continued to aim for milestones (not the summit).
I put on some tunes and booked it up to Lake Como. No alpine start by any means, but I had to make up for it. In about 2 hours I was at Lake Como.
Little Bear glared out by the sun. I checked in with my emergency contact and informed them I was about to ascend the first couloir south of Lake Como. The cairned exit was an easy find as I had recalled from a couple years ago. The ascent up the couloir was quick and relatively painless. As long as you stick to a side with solid rock, you can avoid the half-step scree charging. After making it up to the notch, I noticed clouds forming to the north so I got on my phone (pretty much good signal on the entire route) and checked the radar. All was green, so I pushed. I ran into a group of three guys descending the ridge towards the notch who informed me I was the only one (after them) on the route. Very thankful for this as this is really what makes the hourglass dangerous (as everyone knows).
Getting closer to the base of the hourglass, I began looking for a set of trekking poles I'd been PM'ed about. Sure enough I found them so I decided to leave mine at the cairn as well to begin the class 3/4 stuff. The base of the hourglass was not bad - dry and pretty solid. Approaching the controversial fixed rope, moves started to get a bit harder, but again still solid rock as long as you test holds. Ascending the left side provided better holds. I made sure to inspect the rope as I ascended to get an idea whether or not it was worth hooking into on the descent. Overall, it was in great shape and so was the anchor.
At the anchor, I turned left to continue up the unclear remainder to the summit. There was quite a bit of loose stuff that could easily make its way to the hourglass, so special care to find solid ground was made. Lots of fun 3/4 (and even some quick 5) moves were made until I started to make out the infamously gnarly summit. I topped out at 11 - five hours from the 2WD TH and could not have been more happy with a summit. I was enthralled by the views and ecstatic to see the mostly clear skies that were most certainly going to make for a dry descent. Took in the views, updated my contact, and made my way back down. Downclimbing was easy enough to face forward which also made it easier to cautiously avoid sending debris down. I yelled down to ensure no one was ascending, but still took care with each step. Anyway - enough blah blah, here is a pano shot followed by some pics: PANORAMA OF LITTLE BEAR
A summit bringing beauty and absolute joy.
Blanca and Ellingwood Pt..Evokes good memories.
Lindsay peering in the background.
Towards the plains.
The first summit post I've seen in good shape. Proof that the difficult peaks don't see as many hoodrats.
At the top of the hourglass with the anchor.
The ever-so-controversial fixed rope. Should state: your life is literally on this line - use at your own risk.
Last look at the gnarly LB.
Amazing view from Blanca, CO
To finish things up the story ends as a tragedy, but only for tbaileymd's and my poles. I believe I stayed too high on the ridge, although still following a cairned route. I could not locate the poles and after making it to the notch/top of the couloir, I decided going back up was not going to happen. Unless anyone is genuine enough (or knowledgeable for that matter) to find their owners, they shall remain guardians of the hourglass.
On a serious note, I dedicate this trip to Kevin Hayne. I didn't know him but he was in my thoughts on the entire trip. May his spirit live on beyond any mountain or tale.