Peak(s):  Little Bear Peak  -  14,037 feet
Date Posted:  07/06/2010
Date Climbed:   07/05/2010
Author:  James Scott

 Little Bear Schmittle Bear  

Standard Route:
11.5 miles
5800 feet
Car: 4:02 AM
Lake Como: :6:35
Gully Notch: 7:20
Summit: 9:20-9:45
Lake Como Return: 12:10-1:00
Return to Car: 3:02

Late on July 4, Derek, Janelle, Matt, and I left Denver towards Lake Como. Driving down the Front Range was interesting- a rain deluge, and consistent fireworks until Pueblo. We drove .9 miles up the road beyond the trailhead parking, and got to sleep just past midnight. A driving wind got our attention, but at 3:30 we got up and started fighting over who would eat the brown, smashed banana I had brought. The banana would take it's revenge on me later that day. Meanwhile, we got started, and felt strong to the lake. I walked this road once before, but my memory was kind- that is a piece of crap. Every step is contested by gravel and boulders. It's also steep.

Matt had slept only six hours in the last three days, and given that he decided to join us the day before at around 7PM, and he hadn't eaten enough, he had bit off a lot in this attempt. He battled up the gully, but soon after decided to call it a day. Still, a good 4500 foot work out for him before 8AM- no apologies needed. In the gully, we met Bobby, who'd climbed several mountains over the last few days. He joined us for the day.

We got to the hourglass, and the sky was still perfectly blue. I meant to check the time and take more pictures, but my pulse was high, and I was focused on the climb. First glance was reassuring- it appeared to be doable. I had been nervous about this section for a week, bouncing back and forth between excited and frightened. Derek took the lead, and we were grateful for his route finding. We stayed close together, and thanked the mountain gods for giving us no company above or behind.

Remembering this is a little surreal- I think on a climb like this, I'm hyperintense, so I find myself remembering bits and pieces, more like frozen images than the entire experience. What I can say is this- the overall climb from the bottom of the hourglass to the top seemed overwhelming, but there was never a moment or move I had to do that really freaked me out. I've been on mountains before and suddenly thought, "What the hell am I doing here? I could be at home watching the Simpsons, and instead I'm here risking my life and about to die." In the hourglass, and to the summit, I really did enjoy every moment. It was such a challenge for a non-rock climber like me, but I had so much fun, and always felt comfortable. I pushed the downclimb from my mind, followed Derek's lead, and did each move. Next thing I knew, we were making that final glorious push to the summit. "Really? Is that it? That was the hourglass?"

An amazing summit- the weather had called for 0% chance of rain, which I made fun of all day. Really- 0% chance of rain??? But the summit was completely blue skies, little wind, and four very happy climbers. I expected to be too stressed about the downclimb to enjoy my time on top, but we all sat and ate, laughing and loving the views. I kept thinking of the trip report by shredthegnar10 with her little gummy bears on Little Bear. Wish I'd thought of that. After a bit, a couple came up from the north side and joined us on the summit. They were going to do the traverse, and I was happy to have the hourglass all to ourselves on the return. Pictures and snacks- thanks for the animal crackers Derek- and we were off. Time to admit that we actually had to downclimb that coulior.

I don't know if it was on purpose, but Derek let Janelle get out and route find the first section down to the hourglass. On the way up, we took a hard left out of the hourglass, but on the return we stayed to the right (facing the top), so Janelle had to lead us out of a small gully and a ledgy section that looked like it would cliff out. She was golden, and suddenly I found myself out front at the top of the hourglass. Luckily, there's not much route finding- we just followed the ropes. There were five or so ropes, and although we didn't trust them completely, there were one or two spots we grabbed the bulk of them to help balance and reach. Before we knew it, it was over. It's not often that I actually raise my hands in triumph, but now I did!

I won't bore you with details of our return- pretty much by the book. When we got to the lake, Matt was waiting, and we relaxed with a long lunch. It's rare that at noon, there is nothing but perfectly blue sky. I guess there really was 0% chance of rain. The road, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, was the suckiest sucking road that ever sucked. Eventually we made it to the car. The browning banana, which I had mocked, had been left on top of my copy of the Gary Roach 14ers book. In the hot car, it had oozed enough to leak onto the book, stick pages together and deface the cover. Come to think of it, it's not actually by book- I borrowed it from my friend John Kocktoasten. Sorry John! I guess now I'll never read that book again without remembering this day. Maybe that's the fitting end.

Daybreak on the road, first look at Little Bear's silhouette
First real view of Little Bear
Looking back at the road from the base of the gully- Janelle and Matt
Looking up the gully
First look up the hourglass
Below the hourglass
Hourglass, Derek finding the route
Looking down the hourglass
Higher up in hourglass, butt shot of Derek leading the way
Back down the hourglass
Happy climbers on the summit- Janelle, Bobby, and Derek
Ellingwood, Blanca- check out the blue sky
Looking down at our route
Lake Como far below
Derek and Janelle!
Sangre De Cristo finisher- me, happy on the summit
Me & Janelle
The start down toward the hour glass
Below the hourglass, looking toward the notch
Back in the Lake Como basin, blue sky over Ellingwood, Blanca
Janelle near the end of the gully
Lake Como
Little Bear from the lake- is it just me, or are mountains more beautiful when you just climbed them?
Lunch at the lake
Blanca mastiff from 160

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
James Scott

07/20/2010 22:07
Yes the name is Scotch Romanian. His car just hit a water buffalo.

Yes, we went without any snow gear. There was snow underneath, and some water running down the lower section with some avoidable ice on the way up, but it had melted by the time we went down. Have fun, MountainHiker.

emcee smith

John Kocktoasten?
07/07/2010 12:52
That‘s a beautiful name, is it Scotch-Romanian?

Great Report


Axe Needed?
07/20/2010 01:46
Nice report. From your pictures it looks like the hourglass and gulley are snow & ice free so no axes needed. Can you confirm that please?

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