| Tackling the baby bear
"South Little Bear Peak" (14,020')
Partner(s): Susan Paul and Bill Tarvin
Distance:Approx. 7.50 miles
Elevation Gain: Approx. 5,100'
If you like…
• Long, sweaty walks up steep slopes thick with thorny cactus, thistles, and dense, bristling briar…
• Skipping across miles of steep, loose talus…
• Negotiating narrow ridges with hundreds of feet of airy exposure…
• Just to get a summit that doesn't even appear on any traditional "lists," is noted in trip reports as little more than a bump to get over on the way to its more impressive (and famous) big brother, and which came to my attention as a mere cursory mention in the appendix of a certain 13er guide book….
Then "South Little Bear" is for you!
With the great weather forecast Susan and I decided to continue our quest to summit the 22 unranked Colorado 14ers, or points above 14,000' that don't really qualify as ranked peaks due to the limited drop in elevation to the saddles between them and their more famous big brothers. Our friend Bill also joined us on this hike.
Here are links to some trip reports that we found helpful for those choosing to go this way:
"South Little Bear" is also noted on page 120 of Jacobs & Ormes guide to the Colorado mountains, and page 355 of Roach's 13ers guide.
The trip reports have several ways of how to get to the trailhead so I'm excluding here. The main thing is to hike east and north to the Tobin Creek, which requires a fair about of bushwhacking through trees, thorny cactus, and thistles. We found crossing the Tobin Creek to be fairly easy just south of the waterfall, after dropping down to it, although there is very dense brush that requires a fair amount of fighting to bust through. After crossing the creek you need to gain the ridge on the east side of the creek and head north utilizing game trails to gain the southwest ridge.
We took a brief break at the top of the ridge before continuing on, where we managed to find some nice orange surveyor's tape and a faint trail that contours along the south side of the ridge for several hundred yards before getting back on the ridge crest.
On top of the southwest ridge and where you head east toward the summit following
Up to tree line you can follow the surveyor's tape, though you have to look kind of hard to see it. There are several very small talus fields below tree line however once above tree line it becomes a talus hop the whole way to the summit with no trail.
The long talusy southwest ridge.
Looking up the southwest ridge with the false bump east of Point 13,133 in distance.
This route requires a lot of time above tree line with really no easy escape. If you go, bring more water than you think you'll need. We all did, and still managed to drink it all!
From on top of the first bump on the ridge east of Point 13,133 we were greeted with awesome views of Little Bear Peak, South Little Bear, and Ellingwood Point.
Amazing views of Little Bear Peak and South Little Bear from top of the false bump west of Point 13,133.
Due to the loose rock its best to stay on the ridge rather then skirt the bumps on the ridge as you continue east and climb up and over Point 13,133.
Looking up the southwest ridge at the rest of our route.
Along the southwest ridge.
The southwest ridge with South Little Bear false summit in center.
Scrambling down into the notch.
We could see some climbers on the summit of Little Bear Peak – apparently this was fellow 14ers.com member Alpine, his brother and his son on the summit. Congrats guys!! Looking closely we could later see them descending through the Hourglass.
See Alpine's group in the middle of the Hourglass? Kind of helps put that route into perspective.
Little bit of scrambling along the way.
Continuing along the ridge we had to drop down through one notch and one other bump along the ridge before we started heading up toward the false summit of South Little Bear.
The false summit of South Little Bear on right and South Little Bear in center. Almost there!
The long tedious talus hop on the ridge.
It was here that we donned helmets due to the steepness of the slope combined with all the very loose rock, but as lower down on the ridge the closer you stay to the ridge crest the better, which was kind of nice, allowing for some nice class 3 scrambling. After the false summit of South Little Bear we could see the summit was very close, however the real scrambling starts with a nice 100 foot long knife edge that could be skirted on its south side - although that puts you on some slabby and loose rock terrain - and then you can climb back up to the ridge. We stayed high and enjoyed the thrills.
Little Bear Peak, the ridge traverse, and South Little Bear.
This is what we did. From the knife edge the climb to the summit of South Little Bear was a short, but steep scramble away.
South Little Bear with knife edge on right.
The views were amazing looking all around especially of the Little Bear Peak to Blanca Ridge Traverse. The ridge to Little Bear Peak looked pretty loose and we didn't continue over there since we did that peak 2 years ago as a snow climb and were pretty satisfied with the climb of just South Little Bear on this day.
Bill enjoying the summit.
Congrats Susan!! I bet you don't want to do this again
Me on the summit.
Looking north at Twin Peaks (13,580' – far left), Little Bear Peak with the traverse in foreground (center), California Peak (13,848' – right of center), and Ellingwood Point (14,042' – right).
Looking north-northeast at California Peak (left), and Ellingwood Point (14,042' – center), and Blanca Peak (14,345' – right). What an impressive view of the Little Bear to Blanca Traverse.
Looking northeast at Blanca Peak (14,345' – center) and Mount Lindsey (14,042' – right).
Looking east at Mount Lindsey (14,042' – left) and Hamilton Peak (13,658' - right).
Looking west at Little Bear Lake, West Ridge to Little Bear Peak, and Lake Como.
Those who choose to do the traverse should tread very carefully as part of the route crosses above the Hourglass, so take care not to dislodge anything.
The descent went fine although very long and tedious due to all the talus hoping making it a very long and tiring trip back out.
Getting a little airy.
I bet you're glad to be heading down now
Bye-bye South Little Bear.
What a long, but wonderful day!!!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):