| Sep. 14 Little Bear Balanca Traverse
The Little Bear Balanca Traverse is the ultimate climbing experience I have ever had; not only was the traverse physically demanding, the psychological endurance and sheer will power needed to complete the route was an unpresidented experience for me.
1.UNDERSTAND YOUR CAPABILITY'S, CLASS 5 LOOKS GOOD ON PAPER AND FEEDS AMBITIONS, BUT NOTHING LIKE ACTUAL EXPERIENCE CAN COMPENSATE FOR COMPETENT ABILITY.
2. RETREAT IS NEAR IMPOSSIBLE!
3.THERE IS MORE THAN ONE CRUX TO THIS ROUTE! RE-TRACING YOUR ROUTE BACK TO LITTLE BEAR MAY NOT BE THE MOST DESIRABLE OPTION! COMMIT!
Ok, so a picture is worth a thousand words,
With eager ambitions, I cleared my weekend for my summer culmination of hiking/climbing goals. Leaving Greeley Co at 3:00am Saturday morning, my climbing partner Mark and I made it to the Lake Como road by 8:30am. My Ford Explorer took us about 2 miles up the road before we decided that walking would be faster. With excessively heavy packs, we made camp by 12:00 in the afternoon. A small group of people had just completed Little Bear, and seemed somewhat shook up because of the difficulty's in the Hour Glass; filled with ice, the only reasonable options to climb the Hour Glass were the class 5 routes to the left of the ropes, or to trust the ropes for aid climbing. We parted ways, and Mark and I walked the remainder of the road, scouting out the route for Little Bear. We returned to camp and went to bed at an astounding 6:30PM. With much hesitation, we were up at 5:00am on Sunday, and on the trail 30 minutes later.
The Hour Glass.... We took our chances/risked our lives to the fixed ropes. By grabbing all 5 (Who leaves ropes!) fixed ropes, we shimmied our way up the hourglass, holding the ropes and pushing of the rock with our feet. We felt we could descend this route in the same manor and felt comfortable with this maneuver.
The difficulties above the hourglass... The intensity of slope relents substantially, however there is a lot of class 3/4. Essentially, after the fixed ropes, go left up the gully all the way to the summit.
Negotiating the traverse; the Little Bear side
In my opinion, this is a very straight forward route, stay on the ridge on the Little Bear side of the traverse. The initial down climb is intense, very exposed class 4/5 that descend to a very exposed and sharp knife edge .
After this, more of the same, yet uniquely different.
The exposure on this route is spectacular!
Left, and then..
This Move was unique, a knife edge with concavity to the left, followed by a class 4 (?) up climb with lots of exposure to the right!
This photo represents the entirety of the route up to this point (about half way across). Its simply the top of the ridge crest.
More difficulties are present, however, I'm only human... i don't remember where they all are!
For the Balanca side of the Traverse:
This is where the difficulties subside.
From this point, continue along the ridge to the second high point from the summit of Balanca. You can see a scree slope on the right of this point. The goal is to traverse below this high point on the scree slope to avoid the cliffs on the Balanca side of this point. As you round this point, there is an obvious gully separating the Second high point from the first high point beyond the summit of Balanca. climb to the right of this gully to re-gain the ridge crest. From here, you are faced with the last difficulty of the traverse, the "cat walk". Its exposed! Go across it and scramble up some 3/4th class rocks.
From here, follow this gully, that peters out to the summit of Balanca.
Admire your accomplishment.
Balanca had quite a bit of snow on the summit, considering how little the surrounding peak had. Down climbing the standard route off of Balanca was a little challenging considering the snow.
Getting to Ellingwood was fairly straight forward. There is a cliff/rock band at the Ellingwood/Balanca saddle, just go around it, then up. There are two viable gullies near the summit of Ellingwood, aim for the gully on the left. There are cairns visible on the ridge crest, its not necessary to follow them, instead, continue walking up the boulder field to the left gully. Don't worry, its not more than class 2+. Return via the route you came up, to the Balanca/Ellingwood saddle and follow the well cairned trail back to the road.
By the way, Marks amazing pink windbreaker was $2 at a thrift shop.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):