Peak(s):  Little Bear Peak  -  14,037 feet
Post Date:  05/13/2007
Modified:  05/14/2007
Date Climbed:   05/12/2007
Posted By:  summitridge

 Little Bear Via the Hourglass   

This is my first trip report. If you have any questions, please ask.

After 4 hours of driving straight from work to the trailhead of the Lake Como road, Old Ickabod and I were ready to hike. We had attempted Little Bear at the end of March, but I had a serious bout with altitude sickness (the first time ever for me). This trip was therefore titled "Little Bear II."

We drove about 2 miles up the Lake Como road. I did not want to punish my vehicle any more. The road is only snowy in a few places below 10,000 but there were several substantial drifts from 10,000 to the lake. I say this only for those thinking of driving all the way. These snow drifts had no effect on the hiking and snowshoes were not needed. At the lake there is enough snow to allow for nice and deep postholes! We arrived at the cabin and settled down for some sleep before heading up the couloir the next morning.

Little Bear from the cabin

We starting out just before 8 am--not the alpine start we had talked about, but the day was clear and the weather forecast was for a fantastic day. The snow in the couloir was firm and made for easy cramponing--it was also a fun glissade on the way back down.

Looking up the couloir to gain the ridge

The route from the top of the couloir to the base of the Hourglass was a combination of snow, ice, water, and rock.

Our first look at the route over to the Hourglass

The snow was melting rapidly, so the soft snow made the going a little slower than we had anticipated. We rock hopped as much as possible. We were also treated to a close encounter with 3 big horn sheep who were happily munching away.

Our horned friends

At the base of the Hourglass, we could see that it was a continous snow line to the top.

Looking up the Hourglass

The lower part of the Hourglass had nice, deep snow that provided good plants for crampons and axe.

Old Ickabod making his way up the lower Hourglass

We did not know that right near the narrowest portion, the snow was icy and quite thin. Plants were somewhat sketchy for about 10 feet.

Old Ickabod nearing the narrow portion of the Hourglass. The snow here was very shallow and weak.

The top half of the Hourglass was good snow again we quickly made the summit.

Old Ickabod above the Hourglass just below the summit

The traverse to Blanca looked tempting, but we did not have the time or energy to seriously consider it.

The traverse to Blanca

The views were grand all around, but looking at the south summit and down the west ridge route really gave me an appreciation for what it means to climb Little Bear by that route!

The south summit of Little Bear

On the way down, the snow was really softening up. The upper Hourglass was good, but down lower several footholds broke away. The Hourglass was a great snow climb, but if you are interested in snow climbing it, you should probably get there soon. Depending on the weather, of course, I do not think the snow will be continous to the summit for much longer.

The return trip to the cabin was uneventful and we had a fun glissade down the couloir. Walking along the lake after noon on a day as hot as it was (without snowshoes) could lead to only one outcome--groin-deep postholing. Thankfully, the walk was not too far and soon we were on shallow snow headed to the cabin.

We packed up and headed home. The road was a rapidly flowing creek in many areas, but nothing to make hiking it prohibitive.

What a great day to stand on a great summit!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Looking good     02/05/2011 00:22
Did you happen to have a nice track going up? Gb and i were there on friday and skied it. Hopefully the mouse was nicer to your sleeping bag than he was mine.


Thanks!     05/14/2007 01:53
Heck yes. Thanks for the great steps! Our climb was much easier because of your tracks.


Little Bear may 12th     05/14/2007 15:53
Great report.


Mixed Conditions     05/20/2007 18:57
The hourglass snow climb was very fun. It was a little steeper than I had thought. Two weeks later, there may be some mixed climbing. The snow was quite shallow in some places making it hard for us to get a good bite with our axes. I would be prepared to navigate the hourglass on wet, and maybe icy rock--depending on the time and temperature of course.

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