Peak(s):  Little Bear Peak  -  14,037 feet
"South Little Bear" - 14,020 feet
Date Posted:  02/01/2012
Modified:  09/18/2012
Date Climbed:   01/29/2012
Author:  Mountain Ninja
Additional Members:   ChrisinAZ
 A Little Bare on Little Bear  

A Little Bare on Little Bear

Sunday, Jan. 29th, 2012

Route: Southwest Ridge
Partner: Chris (ChrisinAZ)
Mileage: ~8.5
Elevation Gain: ~6,000’
Time: 17.5 hours

Gear used: Microspikes, Helmet
Gear unused: Crampons, Ice Axe
Didn’t even bring: Snowshoes

Chris and I saw that the weather was ideal for an attempt at Little Bear’s SW Ridge route. We got amped up throughout the week, and drove down Saturday afternoon, perfectly timing our arrival at the Blanca group at sunset.

The route

We drove up the 4wd road to the “TH” and parked as flat as we could, then set up our Holiday Inn in the back of my XTerra.


We wanted to get an early start, so after playing some Texas Hold ‘Em and Go Fish in our sleeping bags, we hit the hay at 8:30pm. Chris got some sleep, I seemed to stay in the half-asleep phase throughout the night. Our alarms got us up about 2:30am, and we fumbled around to get ready to rock, and we were off by 3:25am!

Bushwhacking seemed pretty easy in the beginning as we headed NE through the trees, then we crossed the Tobin creek, and it slowly got more dense as we headed North toward the ridge.

Frozen Tobin at 9,040’, happen-chanced surveyor’s tape in foreground

By 4:45am, we were on the ridge at about 10,100’. Wahoo! Bring on the talus, baby.

As we hiked up the ridge and broke free of the trees’ protection, the wind blasted us from the left side. Hmm, didn’t the forecast say “5mph winds”?? Eh, it’s just wind. The talus was dry, and we appreciated it.


We got a nice view of the Spanish Peaks at sunrise:

Spanish Peaks

Before we knew it, we crested Pt 12,900’ at 8:00am and just about peed our pants at the classic view of Little Bear from this route:

Little Bear

Above: Ellingwood Point on the left, Little Bear Peak slightly left of center (big bump), and “South Little Bear” slightly right of center (flatter bump that’s almost as high as Little Bear).

A zoomed-in view of the “Mama Bear traverse”:

Little Bear on left, South Little Bear on right. Connect the dots!

The climbing got more interesting as we ascended up the false summit (~13,800’), and the wind was slowly relenting as we got higher in elevation. Whew! I sure was hoping it would calm down for the traverse; that ridge wind was non-stop. We mostly stayed very close to the ridge, sometimes on the ridge proper, as the snow lower down seemed like more trouble than it was worth.

Little Bear on left, South Little Bear center, Chris ascending false summit on right

Chris on the ridge

Chris enjoying the rock

The winds were completely calm as we popped up on South Little Bear at 11:40am.

Gaining SLB. Little Bear’s summit is on the left, Blanca peeking in the pic on the very right

Picture time, baby! We snapped some shots of the SWEET views from the top of SLB. Even if we just climbed this sub-peak today, the views made it worth all the effort.

Little Bear & the Mama Bear traverse, Ellingwood blanketed in snow in the distant center, and Blanca on the right

Now, the traverse! Chris took a good look at it from SLB, and decided that there was too much snow for his comfort, and he’d look forward to returning for this in summer. I admire Chris for having the ability to follow his instincts. He sure has his head on straight.

Little Bear and the Mama Bear traverse from SLB

I wanted to give it a shot, though. If it got too dicey, I’d turn back. Chris, being an awesome friend, agreed to wait while I scoped it out. So I ditched some gear to lighten my pack, and headed down off of SLB, enjoying my microspikes.

Some people say the crux is coming off of SLB, but I didn’t find it that hard. Just taking it slow and safe, no prob. I went to the left of the “jutting fin” immediately on the ridge.

Once around it, I decided to climb the ridge proper for as much as I could, to avoid the sketchier snowy ledges below that didn’t look to have great hand holds.

The ridge is exposed, but dry from the wind and sun. Here’s a quick video I took while on a narrow point on the ridge:

Some pics along the ridge:

Little Bear, notch at bottom of photo

Dropping down into the notch above the Hourglass was the crux for me. The easiest way to descend wasn’t obvious to me, so I just went pretty much straight down on a class 4 wall, including a finale sideways jump into the notch as I grabbed some solid rock in the notch itself.

That was fun!

Then I just kinda found my way up to the summit, and was there before I knew it at 12:55pm. Wahoo!!! Time to bust out the little bears.

Teddy Grahams, oh yeah!

10 minutes on the summit, didn’t want to waste time ‘cuz my good buddy was still patiently waiting for me on the other side of the Mama.

Can you see Chris?

SLB and the Hourglass gully in the foreground

Infamous “Looking Down the Hourglass” shot

It had taken me just over an hour to come across, and I wanted to get back safely but swiftly, because I felt bad for Chris having to sit there.

I came to the notch again, and saw a slightly easier-looking couple of holds to climb just to the right of inside the notch, so I ascended it that way. Then when I was almost to the ridge, I noticed a small cairn I had missed, below the wall I downclimbed into the notch! “Oh, that must be the way.” So then I downclimbed again, went over to the cairn and then realized, “What the heck, this isn’t a good way, at least not with a bunch of snow. Screw this, back up to the ridge.” So, up again I went, haha.

The notch on the way back to SLB:
The notch, top of the Hourglass

Regardless of that retarded mini detour, I felt comfortable retracing my basic path on the ridge (mostly) back up to SLB. This sure was fun climbing!

From LB to SLB, it only took 45 minutes, making it about…


“Grin a little and Bear it.” –Gerry Roach

Okay, okay, put your clothes back on. We got some descending to do.

And that we did.

Chris coming off SLB

Cool, the sketchy stuff is out of the way, and God kept us alive! I’m happy.

Little Bear in the afternoon

Oh but wait, our lovely windy ridge wants to visit us again! As we descended, the wind picked back up (it’s probably just the ridge, not the weather) and kept on us for the length of the ridge. It was making my eyes soooo dry, especially since I didn’t sleep.

Chris cruising down the ridge that blows

At 5:45pm, we turned on our headlamps at around 11,200’, where the trees sufficiently block the wind. Yes! Only 2,400’ to go, this shouldn’t take long…

At 7:30pm, we were back to the base of the ridge at about 10,100’, and now we only had the adventure of bushwhacking between us and the car. Somehow, bushwhacking absolutely SUCKED now. We seemed to zig-zag a whole lot more, and our Tobin Creek crossing never seemed to come. Then it did, and the car was not far away at all. But the trees wanted to play Red Rover and grabbed us & our packs every chance they got. I wanted to unleash my axe and fiercely start hacking a direct path to the car.

9:00pm, THE CAR. Flippin’ wonderful. But not as wonderful as it felt to take my feet outta those mountaineering boots!

What an exciting day!! I’m glad Chris was able to stay within his comfort zone, so we can enjoy being alive together! I drove us down the 4wd road, then Chris agreed to drive for 2 hours so I could sleep. Nice, thank you Chris! Then at midnight or so, he woke me up as planned and we decided on a celebration at Denny’s in Pueblo. As the waitress took our orders for burgers, eggs, and skillets, I realized how much I needed a shower, haha!

After that refreshing stop, I drove the last couple hours back to Longmont while Chris got some well-deserved shut-eye. 3:00am – in bed, at last! (after a brief shower, of course)

Sweet dreams…


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Karate chop
02/01/2012 13:38
Nice work. The way this winter is going I won”t have anyone to partner up with this June! I was expecting some Ninja action through your return of the forest! Nice work guys.


02/01/2012 14:48
Way to get it, Brad!


02/01/2012 14:58
Beautiful route, but I think I'll take Chris' advice and save it for summer. Well done!

I Man

Great TR
06/20/2012 13:38
Great write up, dude! And thanks a ton to both of you for the invite, glad I didn't go though as I would have been dead tired for my first day of work
Glad to see you didn't think the descent of SLB was too bad, and you aren't the first who thought the Hourglass notch was the crux of the route. Weather dependent I should be getting back out there next Saturday and give it a go. Looking forward to climbing together this weekend. Congrats again on this stellar climb!!

Brian Thomas

Well done!
02/01/2012 16:11
Nice job Brad! Chris let's come back for this in June, am looking forward to a successful summit under dry conditions, and the Mexican buffet in Alamosa afterwards.


04/02/2015 19:45
It was one Bear of the Return, wasn't it? The crux of the route for me is pictured in your Image 15. We went with ledges to avoid the knife-edgy section.

Btw, we saw 2 people heading to LB from Lake Como on Sunday (Hourglass route). You did not happen to see them?


Teddy Grahams
02/01/2012 17:31
OK Brad, thanks for making me laugh out loud at work. Now everyone's looking at me funny. That route looks a bit tedious for me, but you rocked it. I'm looking forward to a snow climb of the Hourglass myself. Good luck on Culebra, I wish I had the dough to join you. Chris -- I was wondering where you were, man!


Burly to say the least...
02/01/2012 17:40
Congrats on a hard-earned summit.


04/14/2012 00:26
Photos are kick-ass! Looks like you guys had a great time. Can't wait to see that mountain up close and personal.


02/01/2012 18:07


02/01/2012 18:23
I like that you looked at it as an ”adventure”, if only for a fleeting moment.

Congrats on conquering this beast of a route.


02/01/2012 18:50
On tagging them in winter, seems like a long brutal day.


I suddenly realize...
02/01/2012 19:04
That I forgot to respond to your email. Sorry, Brad. I'm horrible about that. Glad you guys made it safely!


Damn Bushes...
02/01/2012 20:01
”I wanted to unleash my axe and fiercely start hacking a direct path to the car”

I think Lord Helmut and Benners can relate. I whitnessed some fairly aggressive path clearing as we descended LB earlier in the month.

Good work on a long, hard day!


Sweet report!
02/01/2012 23:06
Nice writeup and an amazing job getting LB! Seems like that ridge is just always windy. It sucked coming up, got better for the traverse and back, and then picked right back up again for the duration. Also seems like even less snow than when I climbed it a few weeks back.

Congrats again, good luck on Culebra


02/02/2012 03:05
Wow. This winter climb seems to be getting quite popular. Well done.


02/13/2012 01:48
that's all I can say... amazing

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