Peak(s):  Little Bear Peak  -  14,037 feet
Date Posted:  07/15/2009
Date Climbed:   07/11/2009
Author:  globreal
 A Big Day on a Little Bear  

Little Bear Peak: 14,037' Route: North Facing Gulley/West Ridge/Southwest Face ie: "The Hour Glass" (Standard)
Climb date: Saturday, July 11, 2009
Start Time: 4:03am
End Time: 11:15am
Total Time: 7.25 hours (12 hours total hike time from vehicle)
Trip Length: 3.5 miles (11.5 miles from vehicle)
Elevation Gain: 2,300 feet (5,900' from vehicle)

This trip began on Friday, July 10th with a drive from Colorado Springs starting at 12:30pm. And I've got to tell you, from all of the "hear-say" about Little Bear (and the actual deaths), I had butterflies in my stomach driving over AND for the 3 days prior to this climb!

Upon arriving at the start of the Lake Como road, even the Little Bear summit had this ominous "dark cloud" looming over it.

There were only three of us today...I actually wanted to keep the group size small to help cut down on rock fall...(from L to R) lostsheep5, globreal, native_mntguy. We got our packs together and were ready to head up the road at 4:55pm.

And "Lake Como Death March" began! It was hot at the bottom starting this trudgery.
photo by lostsheep5

I was glad to have had a 4WD to be able to drive about 2 miles beyond where the 2WD vehicles were getting to... however, I soon realized it wasn't very far in comparison to the distance needed. And what IS needed is a big honkin' 4WD vehicle with ARB lockers and large fat tires that give lots of aint' gittin' far on this road to Lake Como without a super 4x4!! Welcome to one of the "Jaws."
photo by lostsheep5

We got rained on for over an hour during the last half of our hike up the road. We finally arrived at Lake Como; 2 hours and 45 minutes after we started. It was 7:40pm. I was really happy to find the abandoned cabin/shack right there at the Lake. It was really nice to have a place to come in out of the rain and get dried out, both from the sweat of the workout and the rain. We took our time and cooked dinner inside the shack. A short time later the rain died down to just sprinkles and we hiked around the lake to set up our tents.

Saturday, July 11 we started at 4:03am as we wanted to be the first ones up the mountain to avoid having rocks kicked down the "hourglass" on us.

Just a short hike past the lake was the north facing gulley. We climbed this 40˙+ slope in the dark. (This photo of the gulley was taken on our way down.)

It took us exactly an hour after we left camp to reach the top of the north gulley.

This is a shot from the top of the west ridge at first-light looking over at Ellingwood.
photo by lostsheep5

Looking back down into the San Luis Valley, you can see the shadow of the mountain on the valley floor.
photo by lostsheep5

I thought I had read it would take 1 hour to traverse from the top of the north gulley over to the bottom of the hourglass. Nope. I was way off on that. It took 1 hour and 45 minutes. (This photo was taken during our descent looking over at the southwest face and the hourglass.)
photo by native_mntguy

At 6:45am we begin our entry into the hourglass. I left a walkie talkie radio at the bottom with a sign saying "Call up to us before entering the hourglass." (We didn't want to kick down rock-fall on anyone!) This is lostsheep5 leading the climb off to the left on the class 4 rock and off of the wet/slippery rock in the middle of the gulley. And for those that are not climbers, yes, those are ropes in the middle however, the conventional wisdom is, you don't use them as they are old & are not safe.

globreal following behind. And I have to admit, I was checking every hand hold and foot hold before committing!
photo by lostsheep5

lostsheep5 and native_mntguy carefully picking the route.

lostsheep5 and native_mntguy trying to avoid the wet rock. The rain the night before didn't help dry things out.

This photo is a bit blurry however, I think it shows the steepness pretty good.
photo by lostsheep5

This upper section is loose and ugly. The "hourglass" is the infamous name for the section of Class 4 climbing. However, the other name it's been given is "the bowling alley." These are the bowling balls!! It's SO easy to take a step....and off goes a "bowling ball"....getting up to 60 mph in no time. I know cuz I took a step and a rock scooted right out from under my foot....gone! In no time it was rolling so fast it would bounce and launch 30 feet in the air! It went straight down into the throat of the "people passageway." Praise God no one was in there behind us.

From what I understand, Little Bear is either one of the top 5 most difficult or most dangerous 14er mountains (standard routes) in Colorado. So it really felt good to summit.

This is lostsheep and native_mntguy reaching the top. The sweet taste of victory!

At 7:45am, exactly one hour after we entered the hourglass, all three of us were together on top really happy to be successful. From (L to R) native_mntguy, lostsheep5, and globreal with Ellingwood Point off behind us.

Ellingwood Point off to the left, and Blanca Peak off to the right, with infamous "Little Bear-Blanca traverse" between us.

Off in the distance to the north is the Great Sand Dunes and the Crestone Peaks above them.

Looking down on the west ridge and Lake Como.

I am sure this is one of the "bowlers" at the bowling alley. Even though, I am sure he would never "own-up" to it.

We start heading down at 8:10am. We wanted to get down and out of the hourglass before others got in there and above us.

"Holy Crap" lostsheep5, get away from that edge!!! That drop off has got to be a 1000 feet!! Geez! (This picture in NO WAY does this cliff justice.)

Down climbing. We all spent a lot of time facing into the rock going down this. (And I was fine with that thank you!)

It took the same time for us to get down and through the was 9:10am. Getting safely out of the hourglass felt so good! When I looked for my walkie, the sign was gone. Okay...did a marmot make a meal out of the cardboard.....or did a 60mph rock take it out! I never did find it.

And during our climb across the traverse of the west ridge, it was interesting to see such nice looking flowers on such a notorious mountain! It's like they didn't belong on such a "bad guy" of a mountain.

A parting shot. Good-bye Little Bear. Thanks for being kind to us today.

It turned out to be a really BIG day on the Little Bear!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Big Ugly Bear
02/05/2011 00:22
Congrats on getting ”the big ugly bear.” When I started doing peaks, I think I was most freaked out about this one and Pyramid - Pyramid turned out to be a big pyramid-o-fun, but this one really lived up to its reputation.

And about your hiking partner... that lostsheep5 is amazing, isn‘t he? Smart, funny, kind, adorable, and one heck of a climber. He‘s going to be fighting off the ladies in high school - poor kid!


07/15/2009 15:52
So happy for your success with all three peaks ... what a blessing to have such good weather and enjoyable company. That‘s a summit shot worth putting up on a wall. Take care. Looking forward to more reports in the future. Happy Trails!


very helpful!
07/15/2009 15:54
Thanks for the great TR! It will help us plan our trip up LB this weekend. We were thinking exactly the same thing - a 4am start to beat the crowds and weather. I was contemplating taking a 9.5mm rope for the rap down the hourglass, but it looks like you guys successfully downclimbed it without any problem. If you had it do over again would you rap down? Was there any snow left in the hourglass?

Congrats on your successful summit.


07/15/2009 16:09
To answer your do it over, no I would not take a rope. The rock on the left is solid, you just have to take your time to find hand/foot holds. I would not want to take the time to use a rope...I‘d rather get out of there ASAP! And no snow inside....just some snow below outside.
Good luck!


Falling masses
07/15/2009 16:20
Sounds good and thanks for the good pictures it looks pretty solid from what I am seeing, which I think is my big concern. Did you encounter any falling masses? I will never forget waking up to all the rock avalanches when we where up there years ago - that plays with the head before a climb :-)


Hearing the rock fall....
07/15/2009 16:35 we were traversing the west ridge, we heard lots of them on the ridge just south of us. Then when we were traversing back across the west ridge, a loud one came down the hourglass. In fact, I took note of the time, 10:01am as I was just certain if anyone was in there, they probably got hit. However, I never heard of accidents. So‘s amazing & erie to listen to the mountains constantly succumb to gravity!

Daniel Trugman

Nice Idea!
07/15/2009 16:57
That was pretty clever leaving a walkie-talkie at the base of the hourglass. This the one route I hope never to do again (at least on rock). Nice work all of you!


Walkie-Talkie at the bottom
07/15/2009 17:04
When I knocked that rock down, I not only yelled down the hourglass ”ROCK”, but I also was keying the walkie mic! And actually, a solo climber we met coming down said he heard it. He said...”What? Where is that coming from...but he heard ROCK from the walkie??” So yeah...leaving a walkie down below can actually serve two purposes.

Matt LaCoco

Great report!
07/15/2009 17:27
I was a bit sketched in places on this route too. Didn‘t think it was all that bad until a cantaloupe sized rock whizzed by my head at warp 7.3 in the hourglass.

When I returned to this mountain, I went up the NW Face route. I found it to be much more solid, less arduous, and a lot more fun.


Excellent report
11/30/2010 17:28
And pictures. Thanks for sharing. Congrats to all of you for finishing one of the more dangerous 14ers. In the three times I've been up there I don't think I ever not had to dodge rockfall. No more of that rough road for you either.

Matt LaCoco

Love the road!
07/15/2009 17:57
Doug, I take the easy way up the road now!


07/15/2009 17:58
That is one nice Scout!! More room the my poor little Jeep.


07/15/2009 18:22
Way to go, guys. That‘s a huge accomplishment. This peak gives me palpitations AND indigestion!
Nice pictures and TR once again.

Matt, do you provide limo service?


07/15/2009 18:27
Good trip report. Glad you guys made it up! I had a question regarding the times that you have in here. Do you think you were moving really fast up the road or was it more of a slog because of heavy packs? Thinking about doing it this weekend but starting at the 2wd end of the road around 4am and trying to nab it all in a day. I‘m just wondering if I travel light if I would give myself enough time by starting at 4am. Thanks!

Matt LaCoco

07/15/2009 18:39
It‘s sure easy to find a partner or two for the peaks while on the road!

Doug, from what I remember, your jeep has got to have more room than the little ol‘ car you used to punish going to these trailheads!

Again though, I‘ve got to give props on this TR. Great photos in all the right places!


07/15/2009 18:42
Yes, we were moving pretty fast up the road and it still took 2 hours 40 min...and that was starting up the road 2 miles beyond the 2WD start point as I do have a basic 4WD. (Ford Explorer.)
You can do it in a day, but it won‘t be fun. That‘s why I packed in one day, climbed Little Bear one day, then did EP & Blanca with the hike out one day. Make no‘s not called the ”Lake Como Death March” for nothing! If you decide on doing a peak & the road all in one day, I would suggest starting 1am.


07/15/2009 19:21
I was afraid of that. Thanks for the info!


Thanks...Great report !
07/15/2009 19:35
I am planning this peak in a few weeks and have the same jitters that you first expressed.
Can you stay high enough on the left side of the hourglass to avoid the falling rocks?
Thanks for this and any additional help you can provide.


07/15/2009 19:41
Aaron, you just love to make it harder, don‘t ya???
Britt, Matt, Eric, nice job!! Man, that is one intimidating mountain. Congratulations on a safe climb!


11/30/2010 17:28
Avoiding They come down random. And when I said they bounce up 30 feet....I mean it! They can literally go anywhere down the chute. My thought was, if I heard "ROCK" or one ”in-coming,” I was literally going to hug the ground underneath me and get as low as possible. But, thankfully, I never had to do that.


07/15/2009 21:41
You continue to amaze me!


Late Starters
07/15/2009 22:06
Globreal: A friend and I arrived at the lake at 3:30am as you were preparing to leave. It was good talking to you, although we didn‘t start early enough to use your walkie, very smart!

We slept for a few hours and started the climb around 7:30am. We completed the climb around 3:30 or 4pm. The ”bowling alley” is right! A rock fall occurred just before we entered the narrow part of the hourglass. Definately extrememly dangerous.
My group used the ropes on the down climb and they proved to be sturdy; however, we checked them prior to descending and did not use them on the ascent.
Happy and safe climbing to all!


Strong Work!
01/19/2011 03:38
Wow, Britt, you‘re making the most of your summer, eh?


Thanks for the water!
07/16/2009 15:10
Nice meeting you and Lostsheep. Thanks for letting us use your filter, and avoid the god awful tablets! I enjoyed reading your report. Thanks!


Hour Glass
04/18/2014 19:27
These are probably the most realistic photos i‘ve seen of the hourglass. I feel more comfortable with the idea of climbing LB after seeing them.You can see the holds are good and its nice to see where all the falling rock comes from in the gulley above the hourglass. This is a hard/dangerous climb but doable.


11/30/2010 17:28
Good job and good planning. It looks like your all having fun.

Susan, I'm certain "adorable" is not quite the label an incoming high school freshman wants to drag along. Studly, handsome or, better yet, HOT. But, not adorable!

Is it me, or does that marmot look like a puppet?


Nice TR!
03/04/2012 18:31
Good write up britt! Susan, thanks for your imput lol. Gladbach said what was on my mind.

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