Peak(s):  Little Bear Peak  -  14,037 feet
"South Little Bear" - 14,020 feet
Date Posted:  02/07/2020
Modified:  08/14/2020
Date Climbed:   06/23/2019
Author:  CaptainSuburbia
 Little Bear Peak Southwest Ridge x2   

The Southwest ridge route to Little Bear has been gaining a lot of interest lately, so I thought I'd put together a quick trip report. Last summer I used this ridge twice to summit Little Bear, and I will attempt to describe it using both trips. On my first climb, my partner and I encountered a snowy ridge as this was the morning after the summer soltice snow storm. My second climb the ridge was dry.

Day: June 23, 2019 and July 28, 2019

Peaks: Little Bear Peak and South Little Bear

Trailhead: Como Road

Route: Southwest Ridge

The Southwest Ridge route to Little Bear Peak can be broken into 4 sections:

1st- The Bushwack

2nd- The Boulderfield

3rd- The ascent up South Little Bear

4th- Traverse from South Little Bear to Little Bear Peak

Both my climbs to Little Bear Peak started very early after long drives from Fort Collins. For the first one I started at 1:00 am and for the second climb I started at 2:00 am. Unfortunately, sleep wasn't possible before either climb. For each I parked 1.1 miles up the Como Road in a large pull out which I think is meant for camping. The elevation was only 7800 feet. From here I crossed the road and headed Northeast over desert terrain towards the ridge. At first the vegetation was very sparse as we traveled over gravely ground with a moderate slope. Slowly the incline increased as we ran into more trees and then thick brush. At 9800 feet and about 3 miles from Como Road we reached Tobin Creek, and this is where the vegetation got machete thick. After crossing the creek we went up a steep, heavily forested bank to the beginning of the ridge. The ridge is narrow and rocky at first, and then widened to a boulderfield as we emerged from the trees. From here it was a steep, endless rock hop up talus to the top of the boulderfield and the ridge proper at an elevation of 12,900 feet.

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Nearing the top of the boulderfield

After gaining the ridge Little Bear Peak comes into sight and it's still a long ways away. The Hourglass route can be seen just above some snow remnants in the pic below. Happy to be finally on the ridge, we continued over rocky terrain towards what I call the camel humps.

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Finally on the ridge
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Looking back towards top of boulderfield
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Caption Here

The camel humps are a series of rocky bumps on the ridge. Easy climbing but it was annoying to gain and then lose altitude multiple times. The last hump didnt need to be fully climbed as we lost elevation again to go around a cut in the ridge. From here we began climbing in ernest towards South Little Bear. The ridge noticeably narrows here and begins to slowly turn towards the north.

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Camel humps
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Looking back down ridge
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A good overall view of ridge (taken on descent)
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Caption Here

Before the final ascent to South Little Bear there is a knife-edge that needs to be crossed. It wasn't particularly difficult, but the exposure is off the charts. It was possible to walk across, but it felt better to slide across while grabbing the top of the knife-edge. After the knife-edge the ridge made a sharp turn to the North as we scrambled to the summit of South Little Bear, an unranked 14er.

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Approaching a snow covered knife-edge
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Knife-edge
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Knife-edge and turn to the north to climb South Little Bear
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Approaching dry knife-edge
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Knife-edge
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Finishing off the knife-edge
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Looking back at the knife-edge and ridge
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Starting final climb towards South Little Bear summit
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Caption Here
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Climbing up to South Little Bear Summit
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South Little Bear summit and views of Ellingwood and Little Bear-Blanca traverse
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Looking towards Little Bear summit
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South Little Bear

The views from South Little Bear were stunning, especially during my first ascent with everything being covered in snow. Ellingwood, Blanca, LB-Blanca traverse and Little Bear Peak itself all revealed themselves. From here there was a good look at the traverse from South Little Bear to Little Bear Peak. It was definitely intimidating looking down to the saddle, especially with snow.

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Ellingwood, Blanca and LB-Blanca traverse
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Looking across to Little Bear on first ascent
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Looking across to Little Bear on second ascent
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Caption Here

There are a couple choices from here to get to Little Bear. You can go, A) the direct route down the spine of the mini knife-edge, B) drop down just to the left of mini knife-edge to find a ledge leading to the saddle(this move is not super difficult but, like the mini knife-edge, the exposure is high) or C) and this is the easiest way, there is another ledge back a bit coming off the summit of South Little Bear.

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Me going directly down ridge
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Jeff taking ledge from South Little Bear. Ledge starts in the upper right of pic just above the snow patches
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Another look at the ledge

Once at the saddle you can go up the ridge for a fun class 4 climb, or you can continue along the ledges for an easier route. The ledges eventually connect back to the ridge with much easier climbing then the direct ridge approach. Once back on the ridge proper there's an enjoyable class 3 scramble to the summit.

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Ledges
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Climbing back to ridge from ledges
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Almost back to ridge with a beautiful view of the valley far below and Little Bear Lake
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Back on ridge for final scramble to summit

Before reaching the summit there's a cool catwalk to cross with incredible views. After that it's an easy scramble to the summit.

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Catwalk, Ellingwood and Blanca
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Keyton crossing the catwalk
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One last scramble before summit
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Keyton finishing strong!
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View from summit back to South Little Bear
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A snowy summit pic with Blanca to the left
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Little Bear-Blanca traverse

For my descents off Little Bear I did two different routes. On my first climb my partner and I decided to do a loop, and we went down the hourglass route to Lake Como. We then walked the entire length of the road back to our cars for a total distance of 14.5 miles car to car. The pictures below show my hourglass descent. There was still a lot of snow on this route for the first day of summer. On my second climb of Little Bear I descended back down the Southwest ridge. I gotta say that getting down Little Bear was much harder on my body than going up, especially the boulderfield, and took just as long to descend than it did to climb. Took 13 to 14 hours each time.

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Looking down the Hourglass from just below summit
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Ropes in the Hourglass
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Hourglass

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 6 8 10 11 13 15 17 19 20 21 22 24 27 29 30 31 33 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 47 48 49 50 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65


Comments or Questions
greenonion

Super thanks...
02/08/2020 09:01
for these TRs. I haven't read this fully yet, but a quick scan looks like you are attempting to answer all the questions I have about this route. Can't wait to absorb all of this!


supranihilest

Excellent beta
02/08/2020 11:07
Thanks for sharing the beta on this one, it looks like it nicely wraps up all the questions I had about this route that other TRs didn't answer!


Jay521

Made me gulp some...
02/08/2020 13:42
... but I still enjoyed it. Very, very well written report documenting what must be a tough climb.


Jay521

And then...
02/08/2020 15:09
... I managed to post the same comment twice. Well - you climbed it twice so it deserves a second "thank you"!


Tornadoman

Insane
02/08/2020 20:00
Climbing that route twice in the same year is the definition of insanity. The high part of that ridge is a blast, if it just didn't take so much effort to get there!


CaptainSuburbia

Late response
03/10/2020 18:13
greenonion - Thanks! I hope you enjoyed reading the rest. Good luck if you attempt! It's a fun route.

Ben - Thanks! I was happy to share the beta for such a fun route. Glad we got to enjoy the ridge together!

Tornadoman - I just did that ridge for the 3rd time in less than a year. I must be really insane! You're right though, the upper part of that ridge is as good as it gets!



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