A close look at the upper route. Blue=climb, orange=ski
Date: 5/3/2012 Who: bersteigen and BillMiddlebrook Trailhead: Lake Como, rode ATVs to 10,350', at Jaws 1 Mode of Travel: ATVs to 10,350', hike to Lake Como for overnight camp, crampons from lake to summit Dinner: Homemade grinder, fruit, almonds. Otina had hippie food, I think Elevation Gain: 3,800' RT Distance: 8 miles
Hooray! Spring ski season continues.
Recent April storms really filled things in throughout the northern half of the state and I've spent most of my time skiing in the Tenmile and Mosquito ranges but figured it was time to start planning some 14er trips. While I'd prefer to ski nice, big, snowly lines, one of my goals for this spring was to finish skiing the Sangres 14ers and snow levels down there have been pretty bleak. Time to switch to the rock skis and see if I can get a few before summer. Little Bear, Crestone Needle and Kit Carson were at the top of my list...
April, 15th: I see a Little Bear Peak conditions report by seth0687 and his forum post which read: "guys.....GET ON THIS MOUNTAIN NOW!!!!!!". Well, that certainly peaked the interest of a bunch of climbers on the site, including me. Over the next two weeks, I tried to partner up with other 14er skiers only to find they had to work (huh?) or had other weekend plans.
April, 25th: Not able to find a partner for LB, I decided to head into Lake Como for a camp and ski of Blanca on the 27th. After skinning all the way to 13,000', it was clear that Blanca didn't have enough snow on the upper 1,000' so I skied back to camp and that was that. Still, I knew LB was in.
May 1st: With snow melting fast, I PMed a few friends stating I planned to ski Little Bear on Friday and was looking for partners. Otina (bergsteigen) replied that she can join for a ski and it was on. About the same time, I find out Carl and company are planning another Crestone Needle attempt for the same day. I really wanted to ski with his group and be there to see Carl finish but he had a big enough group and I didn't want to pass up LB while it was in. Knowing the Needle would currently require at least one downclimb/rap, I'll save that one for a bigger snow year.
May 2nd: Thursday morning I load up the ATVs, drive down to the Lake Como road and meet Otina around 6pm. Our plan is to ride to approx. 10,400' and hike the remaining two miles to Lake Como for a high camp.
We strap camp and ski gear on the rigs and it’s off to the races!
Oh wait, Otina hasn’t driven an ATV since she was a kid so a bit of instruction was necessary. No biggie, it’s not like this road is rough. As soon as she got on that thing, I remembered the first time my Boston-based, cousin Jim (finished the 14ers back in 2011) rode an ATV was to ascend this very same road and he somehow made it to the lake without dying. After my infallible instructions, she was riding:
Well, after a few drunky-like maneuvers on the ATV, Otina was buzzing up the road and in no time we were at Jaws 1 where we parked and started walking toward the lake, with gear on backs and ski boots on feet. A little over an hour later, we were setting up camp near the “Como Hotel.” Geez, lots of hikers leave their trash and spent fuel canisters at this building. I melted snow and we ate dinner before crashing around 10pm.
May 3rd: We left camp after 7:00am and quickly walked over to the boulder pile below the gully leading up to the ridge. Temps were in the teens which made for some solid snow and we moved quickly up the gully (even though the “staircase” was previously made by Lurch from the Addams Family) to reach the notch at approx. 8:30. Brrr.
This gully is great with hard snow!
The summer version
Leaving on the crampons, we traversed along the ridge with little snow in sight until we rounded the main, 12,900-foot point on the ridge.
Still wearing crampons, we finally reached the snow and traversed to the base of the Hourglass and some welcome shade.
Approaching the Hourglass
The summer version
Time for some fun snow climbing
But, WAIT! As I'm angling into the Hourglass I see something so horrifying it stops me dead in my tracks. Usually, only a giant spider could make me freeze so fast. Someone took a crap at the base of the Hourglass and left soiled TP all over the place. Gack. I warn my partner and have a quick flashback to a similar event on Snowmass Mountain where some jackass crapped all over the snow slope used to gain the upper ridge - right down the bootpack staircase. Seriously. We found out who it was when we returned to Snowmass Lake and the conversation went something like this:
Me: Hey, which one of you sh!t all over the snow slope up there? Dummy: (smiles) Yeah, that was me. We didn't think anyone else was climbing and didn't plan on returning that way. Me: (I'm not going to say what I said next but he's lucky I didn't hold his head under water in the lake. )
Anyway, back to the Hourglass... After a brief inspection of poles and crampons (plus thoughts of Purell racing through my mind), we get back to work...
Starting up the Hourglass
The summer version
Wow, is the Hourglass easier with snow. We made quick progress to reach the summer rappel station and it was decision time: Left or Right.
Obviously right, but I decided on left because that’s how I roll.
Above the summer rap station
As we climb left, our ski route (orange) waits
So, we climb up through cliffs to reach easier terrain a bit to the left and traverse back to the middle of the face. Ahh, nothing like some fun, exposed, Class 4 climbing with skis on your back.
Once near 13,700’, we climbed the final strip of snow to reach the summit after 11:15.
Now, we wait. It was sunny up there but temps were cool so we knew we had to wait about an hour for the snow to soften up in the Hourglass. We shot the breeze for a while, took pictures and discussed the possible whereabouts of Carl and team over on his 14er ski-finisher, Crestone Needle.