| Getting The Bear off my back
Little Bear Peak
Chris P and Realhillboarding
Standard route – West Ridge to SW face (hourglass)
The most important info you can get from this report is this- climb it now. It's still primarily a snow climb, but is melting fast and will probably have significant sections of rock and verglas within a week.
The snow leading up to the West ridge was quite rotten on the climb up, and we ended up climbing most of the gully using the rock along the edges. The going was extremely slow due to excessive post-holing, and it took us nearly an hour and a half to reach the ridge starting from Lake Como. From here the traverse along the ridge was mostly dry rock, with a few snowfields to cross. Through this point our ice axes came in handy, but it never was necessary to spike up.
As we neared the southwest face, we started to get very anxious to see what conditions the hourglass would hold. When we got to the base of the hourglass and peered up, we saw that there was continuous snow all the way past the crux. This put a spring in our step, as neither of us was particularly excited about climbing on verglas (OK, I was downright terrified of climbing Little Bear on verglas).
Looking up the hourglass
The narrowest part of the hourglass had a small stream running down the side of it and appeared to be melting quickly. We counted 6 ropes running down through this section, and although only one of them was melted out of the snow, the rest should be melted out in no time. I wouldn't trust the ropes enough to take a lead fall onto them, but they seemed solid enough for a rappel. While the ropes appeared to be in decent shape, the anchor was in disrepair. Bring webbing and reinforce the anchor if you plan on using the ropes.
Ropes running down the slope
Looking down the hourglass
The crux of the route was above the ropes, where the snow had transformed into about 15 feet of
Ice. We bypassed this on the rock, which had a little bit of verglas but nothing too bad. On the way up this wasn't too difficult, but downclimbing it wearing crampons commanded my full attention. Just below the crux was a section of snow that had water running underneath it and felt quite hollow. Use caution on this part, as if felt as if it could release at any moment as we climbed down.
Looking down on the crux ice, standing on the rock
Looking up at the crux, hollow snow circled in red and ice circled in blue
The snow at top of the mountain was thin (some snowfields had diminished to less that 6" deep) with patches of rocks, but we were able to stay on rock most of the way to the summit.
When we reached the summit we relaxed for a few minutes to get some food and let the snow soften slightly. We took the obligatory summit shot with the previous day's peaks in the background, and then prepped for out descent.
After 10 minutes on the summit, we started back down. Neither of us was excited about the snow melting too much and throwing rocks down the gully in our direction, so we were more than willing to downclimb slightly solid snow to avoid the unpleasant alternative of rocks hurtling towards our faces. Parts of the downclimb were a bit hairy, and as we approached the anchor above the hourglass, little bits of ice began falling off the rocks. I stood above the anchor and spotted for rockfall while Chris backed down to a safe zone, and then he spotted for me as I climbed down past him. We both breathed a big sigh of relief and visibly relaxed once we were clear of the mountain's shooting range at the bottom of the hourglass. The rest of the descent went quickly, including a sloppy wet glissade off the ridge towards Lake Como. When we reached the cabin we grabbed some food and a little rest, and then packed up and headed down the miserable excuse for a road.
A quick note on the cabin…
It's big enough to comfortably sleep at least 4 people plus gear, but don't count on it keeping you dry. The roof had abundant cracks, and a light rain would quickly soak everything inside.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):