| LB-Blanca Ridge - enhanced report
Drove down to Southern Colorado from the Springs, ate a footlong chili cheese dog from A and W in Walsenburg, got all our gear and made it to lake como road around 5:30pm. After teasing the cattle for a bit, we hit the rough part of the road. Although I was driving an Xterra, I did not feel comfortable driving it too far up the road, despite the clearance and v6 engine. I could've driven it up to the first Jaws with no problems most likely, but I just bought the car and want it to last for a while, so I parked about a mile from rt.150. We walked faster anyway so it worked out. It took us around 3 hours to get to our campsite, it was dark by the time we set up camp. We quickly pitched a tent, drank a few sierra nevadas and then hit the sack. Woke up around 4:30am, on the trail by 5am. We found the standard route up Little Bear to be suprisingly easy. The hike up to the notch was straightfoward and we had some nice views of Ellingwood in the sunrise. We got to the hourglass gulley easily as well, it was a nice hike along the backside of the mountain, only problem was that the fog was so thick you could barely see 10 feet in front of you. The rope in the gully was somewhat useful, it was pretty wet, so I was more concerned with slipping rather than any rockfall. We waited for a couple to get up the gulley once we reached the top so they didn't have to worry about any rocks falling on them. They accompanied us to the summit, which wasn't found too easily due to the intense fog, our sense of direction was nill. It took us 1.5 hours to get to the base of the hourglass gulley, but another 2 to get to the summit of little bear, you get the picture.
Once on the summit, we exchanged photos, hung out and then decided to attempt the traverse to Little Bear. The fog was so thick we went the wrong direction, picked the wrong ridge. Suddenly the clouds started to lower and we saw Blanca appear from the mist. It made for a really cool picture but we had just gone an hour off route. We backtracked pretty quickly to the Little Bear summit and then saw the daunting ridge. What made it so mysterious and scary was the fact that we could only see sections of the ridge, the clouds were playing games with us. Anyways, to make a long story short, the traverse was the scariest experience of my entire life. Route finding was real easy cause there was only one way to go and that was right over the long, 1 mile ridge. At times, there are places to go to the right and left to make life easier, but easy in the world of the LB-Blanca ridge is still tough. I thought the "knife edge" section of the ridge was the scariest part, but not by far. It was the only part where my brother and I looked at one another and said "are you f$$king serious". Anyways, the stroll down the scree of Blanca was miserable as was the long journey back to the car. For the record, Alamosa is the biggest sh**hole, there was no outback, no chipotle, no open restaurants at 9pm, so we had to settle for Mcdonalds, but at that point, we really didn't care. After 4 red bulls and amps, we made it back to Air Force and passed the hell out.
Biggest advice for this route is know what your getting yourself into, because my brother and I surely did not. The LB-Blanca ridge is no joke, it shouldn't even be grouped with the other 14er traverses, its in a league of its own realistically. There are times along the ridge where you have to put 100% of your trust and your life into a small rock knob while pretty much hanging overlooking 1000 feet of drop off. We made a couple mistakes that weekend. First, this was the first big traverse we tried, instead of working our way up with the other, easier ones. Also, we heard thunder right when we were in the middle of the traverse but had absolutely nowhere to go and even if we did, the whiteout cloud cover prevented us from finding it. So, word to the wise, know what you are doing when you commit to this ridge, Gerry Roach said it best "this is a great route to hone your mountaineering skills, not learn them", he wasn't saying this for his health.
Here are some pics.....
Hugh w/ san luis sunset in background, great hike on the way up, never been more miserable on the way down
sunrise behind ellingwood pt. near the little bear notch
blanca and the ridge through the clouds
hugh traversing one of the more exposed sections, mother nature was a real bitch that day
My brother thanking me for taking him on this route
Little Bear in all its glory
Blanca Group from 150/160
Brother looking like he belongs in the special olympics
Can't see the ridge, why not try it?
Traversing the ridge at a crawling pace w/ no visibility, can't remember the last time I made a worse decision.
View of the ridge from Blanca, how convenient of the clouds to clear
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