| Yet Another Little Bear TR - Hourglass
Little Bear Peak - 14,037'
Date Climbed - 5/25/2010
Climbers - doggler
RT milage - ~13 miles
RT gain - 6,200'
Seriously, I'm not sure why I should even bother with posting this. So many amazing Little Bear TR's - 5 in the past week and a half - have been posted. However, I read every single one of them to get as much beta as possible for my climb, so I suppose others may do the same with mine.
As a teacher, my summer officially began this past Saturday. While some mountains aren't exactly ready for me yet, a few are actually more desirable now than later this summer. The descriptions of the hourglass in August have always creeped me out, so I decided to take a look at Little Bear sometime during the week.
The weather forecast for Blanca Peak and vicinity called for lows in the high 30's on Sun-Tues nights. This scared me, but I figured I'd be able to check the snow once I got up there and change plans if need be. I've been around snow enough to figure a few things out - namely soft stuff on warm days and steep slopes is bad news. Knowing I'd be solo, I wasn't about to put myself in a spot where I felt uncomfortable or out of my league.
I left Colorado Springs around 1:30, got to Lake Como Rd, and powered my little Nissan up as high as I could bear. I was slogging up by 5:00.
The vastness that is the San Luis Valley.
To put it nicely, the Lake Como Road is....challenging. You must pay attention to every step you take. Too many loose rocks waiting to twist or snap your ankle. I'm pretty sure-footed, but approaching on that mess with a heavy pack tests me every time!
First glimpse of Little Bear
I passed a day hiker on my way in. Snow began to show in patches shortly before Lake Como, and I got to enjoy the barrel of monkeys known as postholing. I couldn't help but wonder what condition the snow up higher would be in. By 9:00, had I reached the cabin, made a warm dinner, went for a clear-skied stroll by the lake, and read for an hour. Even the incessant coyote calls from down the valley couldn't stop me from making a visit to zzzz-town.
My original plan was to get up at 3:00AM in order to get up and down before the snow started softening too much. Unfortunatley, I slept right through my alarm...something I rarely do! I awoke in a panic at 5:45AM, thinking my day was already over. Luckily, the weather did wonders to the snow - clear for most of the night, followed by clouds right before sunrise. I figured it might have bought me back and extra hour or two before I was climbing out of my comfort zone. I left the cabin at 6:25AM with no expectations other than to have fun and be safe.
I ascended the snow coulior just below the notch on the far right.
A closer look at the first coulior
I was actually quite surprised at how hard the snow had gotten overnight. I actually had to do a bit of kick-stepping as most of the boot marks had been glissaded over by Keith, Otina, and crew. Isn't it amazing how quickly conditions change? Halfway up, I glanced down at the grade and got the willys even thinking about glissading on this "ice".
The ridge to Little Bear
The ridge run that approached the hourglass was straightforward. I took off the points for this part and elected to stay on the ridge whenever I could. Unlike Keith's crew, I encountered almost no wind during my ascent. Eventually I ran out of rock and dropped down to the ridge's right side. I re-donned the crampons and traversed to the start of the hourglass.
This is the part I didn't want to be on when it got warm.
Physically, I was prepared for the next pitch. I wasn't sure how the psyche would hold up, though. So...I just started climbing. With the clouds still mostly delaying sunrise, the snow was still much harder than I had expected...perhaps too hard for my liking.
Looking up the hourglass.
...hey, it's still steep!
Once I topped out, I realized just how much concentration it had taken to get up the hourglass. Physically, it was doable, but I had never spent so much mental energy on a climb anywhere before! It was 8:55, and the sun finally came out while I took a quick break on the summit.
Ellingwood and Blanca
Closer up on Ellingwood. SW ridge is mostly in sight.
Looking back down the valley
I made it through most of the hourglass in the shade, and was still surprised by how hard the snow was. It still took a couple of kicks to gain enough purchase for just my front points.
Sunshine on the hourglass
A lot of stepping in today.
As I expediently traversed across the snowfield south of the ridge, the snow began to soften a bit. Not to where I was postholing, but I was finally beginning to sink in.
Much of the later route is visible here. The hourglass is where the blue line disappears for a bit.
I, too, was finally able to glissade down the initial coulior. The snow everywhere just kept getting softer and softer...I was glad to be out of there. Got back to the cabin at 12:15PM.
I said goodbye to the mice in the cabin and began the arduous hike out at 1:00PM, and was back at my car just under three hours later.
As far as I could sanely go.
This peak was an interesting experience. I can't remember feeling so indifferent upon a peak's summit as I did atop Little Bear. Once I was down, I felt relief, but that came to me in a slow trickle. Little Bear wasn't any harder than I had imagined, but it was definitely challenging.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):