Peak(s):  Little Bear Peak  -  14,037 feet
Date Posted:  04/12/2010
Date Climbed:   04/10/2010
Author:  KansasBoarder
 Little Bear (Hourglass to Baby Thunder)   

Who: Jarrett Luttrell, Brennan Metzler
What: Splitboard of Little Bear Peak
When: April 10th, 2010
Where: Blanca Group, Sangre de Cristo Mountains
How: Hourglass Couloir to Baby Thunder

Our trip began last Friday, when Jarrett called. Needing just six more 14er descents to become the first snowboarder to complete the 54, he was interested in checking out Little Bear and Blanca Peaks. Unfortunately, there has not been a whole lot of alpine activity in the Blanca group as of late (or at least not of the intraweb/beta variety), so our adventure was planned with the understanding that we would check things out and climb as high as the snow conditions would allow.

"Sometimes you have to be the beta"

Friday's Spring Sunset guided my drive south down highway 24, providing a beautiful beginning to the trip.


We spent the night car-camping around 9,000 feet on the Lake Como Road, just below the first set of switchbacks.

Note: the road is passable to approximately 9,500 feet (4x4 vehicles only). Deep snow blocked the last set of switchbacks before the road winds into the Lake Como Canyon, where it is entirely snowpacked.

We began our Saturday with a nice skin up to Lake Como. Watching the San Luis valley gain an early morning glow was especially pleasant during the approach, as the valley is framed by steep canyon walls. When we arrived at Lake Como, we were treated to another awesome sight.


Jarrett dropped off his camping gear at the lake, and we made out way up the base of the northern "notch" gully (see standard summer route). The view of Ellingwood did not suck.


Climbing the gully involved passing over, across, and often through a snowpack composed of thick windslab, breakable crust, and other standard Crestone wind-hammered conditions. With the exception of minor crampon issues (soft snowboard boots are less than ideal for steep snow climbing), the ascent of the 600'gully went quickly. Soon, we found ourselves enjoying the warm sun on Little Bear's West Ridge.


We chose to stay on the relatively exposed ridge to avoid loose snow on the southern face, across which the Summer trail traverses. The climbing remained non-technical as we progressed towards our day's goal.


Our progress was both steady and slow, as we carefully picked our way across soft snowfields to Little Bear's southwest face. The sun was hot, even at 13k.


Any concerns about wet/loose slide activity in the Hourglass were alleviated once we gained access to the couloir, discovering firm and stable conditions through the crux. Another concern of mine was the potential presence of an iceflow/bulge that frequents the skinny point of the Hourglass at various points during the year. Thankfully, recent storms had covered the ice, as well as the numerous anchored ropes used by hikers to gain the summit in the summer months.

Jarrett nears the top of the hourglass crux.


A different perspective of Jarrett showing the route's pitch (darn steep, in my humble opinion).


After negotiating the steepest pitch of the entire route near 14k, a snow ramp/rib described as "nearing 60 degrees" by other climbers/users (certainly steep enough to get the palms sweating, who cares about degree specifics) we found ourselves enjoying a remarkably calm summit.

The time was 1:30pm, and we had been climbing for close to seven hours. Both Jarrett and I found our condition to be less than energetic, an interesting reality when standing atop the steepest and most committing line of your life (for me, at least). Yet, the minute we snapped into our boards, an incredible transformation took place. In lieu of nausea, cottonmouth, and lactic legs we found the comforting conditioned sensation of our glisse. Focused turns were linked in rhythm down the soft upper pitch.

As we rounded the corned into the crux of the route, the snow changed to a lovely blend of firm wind-effect and refrozen. A few big breaths and the commitment was, two, three turns were snapped with precision down the narrow rock-walled chute. Four, five, six turns and we're out, blasting turns down the soft south slope. Observing Jarrett's smooth style through this technical section was a treat, the product of year's of riding the challenging terrain of Crested Butte. "Perhaps I should move from Keystone..." I thought to myself.


Nailing a steep committing line, the first of the season for both of us, brought us back to an excited reality. What fatigue? What thirst? We just rode the hourglass in bomber conditions. Sweet!

We exchanged high fives and smiles as we repacked for our traverse to the West Ridge.

Rather than retracing our steps to the northern gully, we decided to check out Baby Thunder, a more aesthetic couloir carved into the side of Little Bear's west ridge. Sure enough, following a sporty mixed down climb, we found ourselves standing atop the hanging snowfield that serves as a non-repel entrance to the route.

Jarrett negotiates the down climb in fine style.


Steep moves on thin snow required....


The reward for our efforts: "Baby Thunder"


Baby Thunder's northern orientation and deep inset into the ridge kept the snow chalky and smooth. Powerful turns were taken down the couloir, each rider carving his signature out.




A wind buffed apron provided the icing on the cake for an awesome day on Little Bear. Soon, we were sipping warm drinks on the shores (see snows) of Lake Como, and I found myself buzzing with adrenaline and excitement. Despite several split ski face plants on the way out the Lake Como road, I was grinning ear to ear. We had just safely climbed and ridden a committing line in the Sangres, and done so in pretty darn optimal conditions. STOKED!

A parting San Luis Sunset:


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Sounds a little harder...
02/05/2011 00:22
.. than my weekend on Sherman, Horseshoe and Elbert. How do you think they compare?

Excellent work and great photos!

I see by your profile that, at least when it comes to boarding 14ers, this is a BIG step up for you!!! Congratulations on that too! (I'm certain you have beaucoup other descents.)


Easy Rider

Great Photos!
04/13/2010 16:20
Great day! Hope to meet up with you again partner, but it will have to be some other place, because I‘m done with the Sangres!


be the beta
04/13/2010 15:59
great quote, thanks for posting the beta. Let the onslaught begin! We spent 3 days in that basin last year and came back with exactly 0 summit ski descents. You dudes killed it on your first try, must be nice.

Did Jarret get Blanca and Ellingwood the next day?


Excellent Pictures
04/13/2010 07:39
Great photography.


Setting the Standard
04/13/2010 13:06
Sweet pics and awesome climb. I am jealous of the climb, let alone the descent. I would have crapped in my pants. Anyhow, more details would be awesome.



Well done fellas.
04/13/2010 04:37
Excellent timing indeed. Those photos are very respectable. Few more Jarrett.


Thanks for the beta
05/02/2011 14:23
Sweet trip report. Good to see quite a bit of snow up there. Cool that you guys got in the baby thunder descent too. I remember being pretty tempted. Any part of the lake melted out so you don‘t have to melt snow for water?


Fantastic TR
04/13/2010 03:49
Excellent write up Brennan. Way to get that one good. Getting close Jarrett 8)


05/22/2011 14:11
Nice TR Brennan, it does look like you timed it perfectly and had great weather as the cherry on top.

Doctor No

Good Lord!
04/13/2010 03:00
Sounds like quite an adventure - well done!


Very nice...
04/13/2010 02:51
... to get LB under those conditions! Thanks for a great TR.


Good stuff!
01/19/2011 03:38
This is the kind of report I like to read, and your pics tell the story quite well. It looks like you did it right.
I never thought a TR would make me consider returning to Como.
Three times is enough, but that looked like a lot of fun.
Oh, and "Perhaps I should move from Keystone..." I thought to myself... Good one.


Crazy Cool
04/13/2010 02:34
Hats off to ya! That was sweet. Great trip report and excellent pictures.


06/02/2011 14:57
Very cool to see this report. Congratulations on this climb and board decent.


little bear
04/15/2010 01:21
That is a dream of mine to do those descents which you guys did!!!! Way to go!!! Keep up the good TR..


Thanks y‘all!
11/30/2010 17:28
Appreciate all of the compliments and congratulations - was a great day up there. Fun to start to see the rewards of taking a season away from work to train and get out there. Things are looking VERY good up high, let's get after it!


11/30/2010 17:28
I enjoyed the TR. Quite the adventure. That downclimb looks wicked.

Kudos on the well-documented imagery; text is just enough to keep the reader's interest and the photos do the talking. Great job!


"Shamelessly pumped saturation"
04/16/2010 02:45
I encourage you to neglect to look at my future trip reports if you desire to offer insulting criticism. ESPECIALLY WHEN THAT CRITICISM IS INACCURATE.


04/16/2010 17:43
Guys -- I‘m a ski fan myself, but you did yourself proud on this one. That looked like so much fun!! Great job, very nice trip report, and fabulous photos. Encore . . .


Good vicarious living...
04/17/2010 04:02
Enjoyed the artful report. Nice photos. Thanks.

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