| Little Bear
This is one of my favorite views, the dirt of Como Road leading to the southern peaks of the Sangre De Cristo. I was going to park here and enjoy the road in entirety, but in the essence of time I drove about 4 miles and parked before shouldering my pack. There wasn’t much snow on the road, nothing requiring snow shoes before you reached the lake. I put them on to scout through the trees and pick a camp site.
Finding a nice drift on the bluff across the lake I dug a pit for the night.
It snowed a bit in the afternoon, thunder echoed across the lake and the sky got dark. I was relieved when the sun broke through about 4:30 and warmed things up. I talked with two groups that summited Little Bear; both said conditions were good, but that the upper section was tough. Congratulations to Wineguy who just finished the 14’ers. It started snowing again around 7:00pm so I turned in for the night. Thoughts of the first gulley filled my head, the view from the lake of the snow filled route was encouraging.
The alarm went off at 3:15am, crawling out of a snow pit was easier when I was younger. Melting snow for a hot breakfast and filling up the camel back took longer than anticipated. It wasn’t that cold, but the fingers got chilled working the morning chores with gloves off. At 5:20am I left camp and headed to the first gulley on snow shoes. Guided by headlamp reflecting in the tracks of the previous day’s travelers, an inch of fresh snow covered the ground. It was a quiet morning, just a trace of wind bending tree branches, flakes of frost glistened in the lamp.
After reaching the ridge at 6:15am I did my best to follow tracks on the traverse. The sun was just reaching the high points of the south ridge, not yet warming the air or lighting the route ahead. There is much rock to cross between snow fields, but I left the crampons on the entire time. Walking in spikes takes practice, something I haven’t had lately. I took my time and was at the base of the Hour Glass by 7:30am. This picture of the traverse was taken on my way down, better lighting than on the way up.
I made good time up the Hour Glass which was snow filled but rather soft, I often sank knee deep or slipped backwards. The snow was very soft and flaky and wouldn’t support my weight, maybe I need to skip the post hike pizza and beer. The transition from snow to the rock above was difficult for me, at times I had to retrace my steps and find an alternate route. I don’t claim to be a good rock climber, and today it was very evident. It took me over an hour to complete the upper portion of the climb. I wasn’t winded, just stuck in place contemplating my next move. I reached the top at 9:20am, four hours after leaving camp. The views were wonderful, the sun shining brightly, and the winds were light. I enjoyed myself for a few brief moments just gazing at the surrounding peaks and valley below.
Lake Como view
Soon the thought of the descent got me moving again. I hadn’t seen anyone behind me all morning, and I wanted to get through the Hour Glass before anyone arrived. I tried to be careful heading down yet the snow broke free with each step. One fist size rock took off quickly, I hollered to warn anyone below. No return call so I figured the gulley was clear. Here is a shot looking down from above the Hour Glass.
I thought the conditions were good, not great. The snow wasn’t as solid as I would like. When shallow it fluffed off in large chunks, when deep I broke through the upper crust to the powder below. On the climb down my steps collapsed and I left a deep trench, not something a partner would want to follow. It was a great day on the toughest peak I've climbed. I can admit I was relieved to be back at camp with only the hike out to complete the day.
There were three groups headed in on Saturday afternoon planning to climb Sunday. I would be interested in their thoughts on the conditions.
Thanks to everyone for the trip reports and route descriptions. Simply put this is a great site, thanks Bill.
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