Peak(s):  Little Bear Peak  -  14,037 feet
Blanca Peak  -  14,345 feet
Hamilton Pk  -  13,658 feet
Date Posted:  10/19/2020
Modified:  04/05/2021
Date Climbed:   10/04/2020
Author:  CaptainSuburbia
 Little Bear West Ridge to Blanca and Hamilton   

Little Bear West Ridge to Blanca and Hamilton

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Day: October 4th, 2020

Trailhead: Como Road (8300 ft)

Route: West Ridge Direct (with variation)

Peaks: Little Bear Peak, Blanca Peak and Hamilton Peak

Mileage/Elevation Gain: 18.99 miles and 7585 ft of gain.

In this trip report I'll share an alternate way we took to summit Little Bear Peak. We did a variation of the West Ridge Direct route where we bypassed the 5.4 crux. I believe this route would make a better (and safer) standard route than going through the hourglass. Next, I'll share our traverse to Blanca Peak across one of the 4 Great Traverses and finally, an out and back we did to Hamilton Peak before heading back down Como Rd.

My group of three started climbing at 3:30 am from 8300 feet on Como Rd. I've come to the conclusion it's not worth the wear and tear on my truck to drive any higher. We then set a good pace up to the lake, and it was still dark when we entered the gully which would take us to the ridge. The gully was steep and loose, but there was plenty of solid rock on the far left to climb. It was just starting to get light as we topped out on the ridge. There was a faint trail to follow here as we climbed the ridge through the talus. Initially we stayed low on the ridge following the standard route. Just as the trail turned southeast towards the hourglass, we turned northeast towards a notch in the west ridge where we would join the direct ridge route.

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West Ridge route to Little Bear Peak
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Following the standard route

After a talus hop to 13200 feet we began a steep class 3 scramble directly towards the west ridge. The rock was mostly solid and fun climbing.

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Class 3 scramble to ridge
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More scrambling

Once on the ridge proper the rock got even better with more nice class 3 scrambling. There was an occasional (maybe 2 or 3) class 4 moves that were a bit airy, but not extreme, and over solid rock.

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Climbing the west ridge direct
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Fun section here as we approach the headwall
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Looking down the west ridge

Eventually we ran into a headwall and attempted to find a way around or over it. We found there were several difficult, but doable options; however, I found a ledge that easily went around it and dumped us on the very upper section of the standard route. As I'm always up for the path of least resistance, we went with it, and there was an easy scramble here to the summit. Within 10 minutes I was standing on the summit of Little Bear Peak for my 4th time. I was a little shocked at how easy it was (relatively speaking). I had been expecting several class 5 sections on this route. Although I was prepared to take them on I was glad we easily bypassed them (following the path of least resistance).

This was a great route for those looking for an alternative to the Hourglass. It was probably shorter, less difficult and we encountered very little rock fall danger.The other option for avoiding the hourglass is the SW ridge. I've done this route 3 times and thoroughly enjoy the challenge of it (and highly recommend it); however, I believe this West Ridge Variation route would be a better option for most, over the arduous journey up the SW ridge.

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Headwall
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Ellingwood Point, Blanca Peak and the Traverse from Little Bear summit
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Traverse

After a quick snack we were off for the Little Bear-Blanca Traverse and the last of the 4 Great Traverses for me. We headed north from Little Bear summit towards the down climb to the traverse ridge. Many call this down climb the crux of the route and it definitely felt that way. It is steep and highly exposed. The rock is very solid with good footholds though, so it was manageable with great care. It was challenging and fun, but I was very relieved to get past it. The other much talked about crux, Captain Bivwacko, didn't bother me much as I just slid under the overhang without difficulty.

I will not go over the details of the rest of the traverse and will just share pics. There were way too many towers and highly exposed catwalks to remember specifics. There were more than enough class 4/5 moves along the way to keep the adrenaline flowing. It took us about 3 hours to reach the summit of Blanca Peak at a leisurely pace.

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Heading north off of Little Bear
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Annie checking out the exposure
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Approaching the crux down climb
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Crux down climb
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Turning to face inward for down climb
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Safely at the bottom of the crux and looking at one of the many towers to come
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Looking back at crux
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One of the easier towers to go around
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There were many catwalks like this along the way
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Climbing over a tower
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Looking back at Little Bear
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Plenty of exposure
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A more mild section of the ridge
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Returning to the ridge after going around a tower
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Getting closer
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One of the few fat sections on the ridge
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Approaching the last 3 towers
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Climbing up the first tower
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Climbing tower 2
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The final climb to Blanca Peak
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Looking back at Little Bear Peak

The Traverse was probably my favorite of the 4 Great Traverses. It was also probably the hardest as well, in my opinion. Not necessarily because it had harder moves, but more because it seemed to have many more difficult, highly exposed moves than the other traverses. In other words, there were more chances to make a mistake with a bad outcome.

We didn't stay long on Blanca as we still wanted to get Hamilton Peak. I had just done this peak in June, but one of my partners hadn't yet and really wanted it. Apparently, I forgot how long the ridge to it took and I happily agreed. It was a 3.2 mile out and back to Hamilton Peak.

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Looking out at the long ridge to Hamilton Peak. Winchell Lakes on the left

So we headed south off Blanca down a steep talus slope towards a small saddle 400 vertical feet below. From there we followed the ridge over many small points until reaching Hamilton. Most of the ridge was class 2+ with an occasional easy class 3 section. There was almost always extreme exposure to climbers left. While the right had a more gradual slope and could be used to avoid obstacles on the ridge as long as you didn't mind lose talus. It was always best to stay ridge proper though.

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South slope of Blanca
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This is the first and highest point on the ridge at nearly 14,000 feet
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Looking down Gash Ridge with Huerfano/Iron Nipple in the distance.
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Easy scramble here
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Plenty of exposure along the entire ridge
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Some talus hopping. Blanca in the way back
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Getting closer to Hamilton
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Looking back at Blanca Peak
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A turn to the right at this ridge point for the final push to the summit
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Final climb to the summit
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Little Bear Peak from Hamilton Peak
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Mt Lindsey
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Little Bear-Blanca Traverse
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Looking back at the ridge and Blanca
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On our way home

The round trip to Hamilton Peak and back to Blanca took about 3 hours and 30 minutes. That pretty much ate up all my time, so I had to pass on getting Ellingwood Point too and headed down Blanca to Como Rd and my truck. My partner managed to run up Ellingwood Point to finish the slam and caught up down the road.

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Finally back to Blanca Peak
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Ellingwood Point while descending Blanca

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




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 48 49 50 51 52 53


Comments or Questions
CaptCO
User
Awesome job
10/19/2020 07:19
Great pics and beta, well written!


Tornadoman
User
Things that make you go
10/19/2020 15:46
Hmmmm.... I have been up the SW ridge (rather enjoyed it- but it's arduous). Have been thinking I would like to summit with my wife, but the length of the SW ridge made me question that.... This west ridge with bypass might be the ticket. Thanks for writing it up!


tygr
Great Pictures
10/20/2020 03:47
Loved the report and pictures. Fantastic job!


12ersRule
User
Nice pics!
10/20/2020 08:41
I like how you have more pics of this traverse than most reports I've seen. Apparently, exposure doesn't bother you enough to put your camera away like they do in so many other reports. Typically, you see a report....here's some class 2, more class 2. I put my camera away for the exposed part. More class 2.


supranihilest
User
Talus?
10/20/2020 10:11
Talus.


CaptainSuburbia
User
Thanks!
10/20/2020 10:39
Capt- Thank you Alec! I appreciate it.

Tornadoman- Yeah SW ridge is great, but not for everyone (you had an interesting approach to that ridge). This west ridge variation is a great scrambly route with much less stress than the hourglass. Would be perfect for you and wife (you've got me thinking now)

tyger- Thanks for the nice comment!

12er- Thanks! I've got more pics. I was holding back haha. Yeah the exposure didn't bother me much (except maybe on crux down climb). I think you just get use to it and the ridge is so solid. Next year?

Supra- Talus? Yes, lots on Hamilton for you when you go for it.


justiner
User
Thanks
10/20/2020 15:13
I added this to my article on Fixed Ropes in the Hourglass (just as an FYI):

https://justinsimoni.com/2018/12/07/should-i-use-the-fixed-ropes-found-in-the-hourglass-on-little-bear-peak/

I'd love to check this route out, myself!


CaptainSuburbia
User
Link
10/21/2020 08:15
Cool, thanks!

I'd like to go back this fall and document route better. Also, see how it descends.


greenonion
User
Thanks here too
10/22/2020 10:37
Awesome job documenting and sharing the West ridge direct w/ variation on LB. Has me thinking too... Hope to hear something about a future descent as you mentioned. Great photos from the Traverse and Hamilton as well!


Will_E
User
Nice!
10/23/2020 21:52
Great pics! Looking forward to trying this route and getting Hamilton next year.


bdloftin77
User
Descent?
10/26/2020 15:52
Thanks for sharing! I know you haven‘t yet, but do you think this would be a viable descent route as well? I‘d thought I might not do Little Bear again, but this makes it more tempting (or maybe the NW face route). Looks like a great possible bypass of the Hourglass!

I agree, this was my favorite of the four traverses! I loved the exposure and the airy ridge.


DeTour
User
Do it again please
01/01/2021 17:58
The west ridge direct part that is. And give us a nice GPS track. And build cairns. Lots of cairns. Oh, and take more photos, and put those nice lines on them telling us which way to go. For wussie flatlanders like me who want to do LB but would love to avoid the hourglass.


skyrme17
Very helpful
07/20/2021 10:37
Hopefully this will become one of the routes listed in the peak description.



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