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Little Bear, April-May

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports
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Little Bear, April-May

Postby nyker » Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:16 pm

I am targeting climbing Little Bear this Spring, the goal being to do it with some snowpack to *ideally* minimize rockfall, etc.

I am planning to do it as an overnighter; i.e. to hike up my favorite road again :shock: then camp around or above the lake and got for it in the early morning. Timing TBD but I'll be watching conditions until Memorial Day, which seems like the far end date for suitable snow conditions.

For those who have climbed it in Spring snow conditions, I'd welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

Thanks!

Rob

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Re: Little Bear, April-May

Postby d_baker » Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:20 pm

Can't argue that plan. Sounds solid. Very doable and sensible.
Enjoy!

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Re: Little Bear, April-May

Postby BKS » Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:07 pm

I'm wanting to do the same - would like to have a partner or group to go with.

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Re: Little Bear, April-May

Postby seth0687 » Sat Mar 02, 2013 8:07 pm

A friend and I are planning to do the same.

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Re: Little Bear, April-May

Postby Cool Hand Luke » Sun Mar 03, 2013 12:32 am

Hey Rob,

Went up the Hour Glass spring 2011, PM me if you would like some pictures and I will send you what I have. A storm moved in on us after the notch, so unfortunately many of the photos are in the clouds.

Few suggestions:
-Pay close attention to the "notch" couloir exit to Lake Como and the summit point exits to the Hourglass. Both can be difficult to identify in the snow until you are right up on them.
-The traverse to the Hourglass and back to the notch couloir will take longer than you expect, each direction. Not much elevation gain, but lots of rock-hopping with the snow.
-The Hourglass can ice up in the narrowest section, as with most cruxes downclimbing is harder than going up.

One of my favorite climbs, but also one of the most physically and mentally demanding with the conditions. Left the lower parking lot around 5 AM, summit at 2-3 PM and back to camp at Lake Como around midnight due to the weather. The time frame you mention is completely reasonable, just will be a long hike down your favorite road that afternoon.

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Re: Little Bear, April-May

Postby Kevin Baker » Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:46 pm

Little Bear as a snow climb is the best way to do it in my opinion, but you'll have to time it just right as you know. I'm not sure if it will still be in this year by Memorial Day unless the Sangres have a wet spring. Conditions will vary widely in the Hourglass from one spring to the next. I've rappelled it in May after doing the NW face, and it was mixed snow and ice. I also did it as a snow climb in April and the conditions were good, although the snow was very firm. We got lucky as there were already kicked steps from a team the day before. Some people are more comfortable facing in on the downclimb as the slope angle does exceed 50 degrees very briefly at the top. The slope angle is generally in the low 40's.
Always do what you are afraid to do. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Re: Little Bear, April-May

Postby Rock-a-Fella » Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:16 am

Cool Hand Luke wrote:Hey Rob,

Went up the Hour Glass spring 2011, PM me if you would like some pictures and I will send you what I have. A storm moved in on us after the notch, so unfortunately many of the photos are in the clouds.

Few suggestions:
-Pay close attention to the "notch" couloir exit to Lake Como and the summit point exits to the Hourglass. Both can be difficult to identify in the snow until you are right up on them.
-The traverse to the Hourglass and back to the notch couloir will take longer than you expect, each direction. Not much elevation gain, but lots of rock-hopping with the snow.
-The Hourglass can ice up in the narrowest section, as with most cruxes downclimbing is harder than going up.

One of my favorite climbs, but also one of the most physically and mentally demanding with the conditions. Left the lower parking lot around 5 AM, summit at 2-3 PM and back to camp at Lake Como around midnight due to the weather. The time frame you mention is completely reasonable, just will be a long hike down your favorite road that afternoon.


+1 on Navigational Focus! I might add that in addition to the other points made "mark" and or take visual note of the position of Little Bear Lake when you reach the notch.
There is a "Suckers notch and Couloir " on your return traverse that is easy to confuse with poor visibility. Stomp out a recognizable area in the snow when you top the ridge (notch) just in case you drift off of your route on the return.
Sounds like you are sleeping at Lake Como. I would not suggest the travel beyond the notch in the dark (Traverse to the Hour Glass) so plan to reach the ridge at first light. IMHO

FYI:JCWhite had chest deep snow to the notch last spring

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Re: Little Bear, April-May

Postby altidude » Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:21 pm

I'll be subscribed to this thread as a snow climb of Little Bear would be fantastic.

Any thoughts on doing the SW ridge as a back-up plan?
The mountain always wins, we do not always lose.

Carpe mañana

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Re: Little Bear, April-May

Postby Kiefer » Tue Mar 05, 2013 3:36 pm

Done The Hourglass as spring climbs twice. First time, conditions were bone dry (Mid May).
The rock is good with good little holds in getting up.
Second time, there was a generous amount of snow and neve in the couloir. I measured the pitch
at its steepest at 51° (immediately out of the constriction).

Comparing the two, I'd agree with everyone else in that it was much easier as a snowclimb.
"Wisdom comes from making mistakes.
Experience, is the knowledge of knowing what to do when one makes a mistake and wisdom,
stems from the changes we go through while learning from those mistakes."

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Re: Little Bear, April-May

Postby nyker » Wed Mar 06, 2013 9:20 am

Thanks guys, all helpful info.

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Re: Little Bear, April-May

Postby RosieTheSummiter » Fri Mar 08, 2013 3:40 pm

I plan on doing the same for the same reasons, provided it's mainly just the couloir that has the snow and not the long slog up to it.
"Don't get mad, get altitude."

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Re: Little Bear, April-May

Postby benners » Fri Mar 08, 2013 4:11 pm

Agree with others that doing the Hourglass as a snow climb is the only reasonable way to climb LB via that route. My only advice would be make sure you hit it early enough, otherwise you'll be climbing it during rock calving season when the upper slopes are half melted out and going through a huge temp swing every 24 hours. I'd imagine this would be one of the worst times you could possibly climb it. We hit it in mid-April in 2010 (TR available) and conditions were ideal, though that was a "good" snow year for the Sangres. This year I bet it might be in good shape in early-April...

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