| The Traverse of LB/Blanca
Yeah, so Nathan and I (Tommy) decide to take a shot at the traverse if the weather holds as predicted… we at least assume we'll summit Little Bear. We borrow my brothers 87 mod Toyota (sick, sick 4x4) and leave CS at 1100am on Saturday. We hit our first snag in Walsenburg when we realized I didn't have my brothers GAS CAP KEY. So I take apart a section of the gas tank, so we could get fuel in, and shortly after we were on our way. We munch down our last cooked meal at the "Elvis Dinner" in Fort Garland and start up Lake Como Rd. This year seemed more eroded than the last couple of years. We ran into an H3 that got hung up on the way down and almost spilled over one of the nasty sections. An extra challenge that just added to the story. We make it to Jaws 1 and parked it. About an hour later, we made the upper side of Lake Como and found a great spot out of ear shot of our "4x4 enthusiast" neighbors. We didn't have our tent poles and so the plot thickened. Thank God for hiking poles, climbing webbing and rocks.
We awake at 4:10 and hit the trail 4:45. We were still using headlamps when we hit the ridge at the top of the boulder strewn gully. Here are a couple of shots over the overrated "hourglass". Not a good place to be if there are other climbers above (or below) you. Easy class 4 though. We certainly did not utilize the series of aged ropes.
We summit Little Bear at 7:15, eat, harness up, and mentally prep for the longest and hardest of the Four Great Traverses. Roach describes it as "the most astonishing connecting ridge in Colorado". That in mind, we started across at 7:45 under perfect conditions. We were immediately welcomed by one of the first cruxes of the traverse. This initial down climb is very exposed and a bit tricky. Our options were reduced to the width of 1'. Once into the ridge, there really isn't any turning back. We estimated that about 10% - 20% of the entire ridge is 2' wide or less. Some stretches are so sharp, that straddling is simply not an option. Most of the ridge is very exposed on both sides to fatal drops. I recommend stopping occasionally to regroup your thoughts and get your head around what you're actually doing. This is no place for mental blinking.
Here are a couple of shots of two different towers, one of which must be "Bivwacko Tower". We went around the left of both towers just to be sure. Nathan has a substantial amount of 5th class experience and has absolutely no fear. Therefore he led almost everything we did. I must say, he is the single-most reliable and professional person I've ever climbed with.
Some shots we just could not get due to the danger of stopping and whipping out a camera and putting it back. But here a some shots of the "safer" places.
Here is the famous "catwalk". Unreal exposure, but definitely doable. The bad part of the catwalk are the gaps you have to cross and the occasional down climb. Once you're past this you're home free, sort of. There are still a couple of tricky spots, but nothing compared to the first half of the traverse. Here's a zoomed in shot of some people on Blanca's summit. After about 30min. of safe class 3 scrambling we summit Blanca at 11:35. The traverse had taken us 3hrs. and 50min. Not bad, since we did take breaks.
Anyway… we down climb Blanca, pack up camp, hike back to the truck and get back down to the highway.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):