Peak(s):  Little Bear Peak  -  14,041 feet
Date Posted:  05/28/2015
Date Climbed:   05/23/2015
Author:  SchralpTheGnar
 Like Powder in the Hourglass so is Little Bear   

The plans for memorial day weekend came together late this year, with kids off to places and other people doing other things, it seemed for a while like nothing was going to happen. Back in early April it also appeared as if there wouldn't be any snow left around by that late in the season so I wasn't too upset. Then it snowed, and it snowed, and it snowed some more, and after that it snowed a little more. A trip to ski Blanca the week before confirmed what the rumor mill was circling, the grahs were skiing at all time levels.

I called up my brother Mike.
"Yo, bro, you down for a trip to the grahs to ski Little Bear?"
"You know it bro"
"Sick brah bro"

That's the way we talk, we connect on a level that bankrupts the English language.

We geared up the car, grabbed some beers from the Lone Tree Brewery and headed down for the 2nd trip in 2 weeks back to the Sierra Blanca region of the grahs. The weather forecast for the weekend was less than stellar but there appeared to be a window on Saturday that was our best bet.

First order of business is a bucket of fried chicken from the grocery store in Walsenberg, Mike gets the job done, grease loading for maximum joint flexibility.

When we arrived at the start of the Lake Como road the high clouds still lingered over the high peaks, the downside to all this snow has been a lack of opportunities to get out especially on the weekends.

We were able to drive up to 9,600 feet thanks to Mike's sick Jeep, set up camp for a brief nights rest, up at 3am, we hit the trail around 3:30am. Hiking at night on a well defined road or trail is always a treat, cool temperatures, and views like this
"Lights of Alamosa", I'm thinking about doing a painting series of all the mountain towns lit up at night, stay tuned.

Arriving at the base of the couloir that gains the west ridge right around 7am, I looked up and said "damn, that looks nice and steep".

The snowpack in this couloir was deep, 3" of storm slab over 3-4' of rapidly consolidating damp snow. Definitely not a consolidated spring snowpack, but no red flags, so we pressed on.

The clouds above were lingering languidly, softly, cautiously, and nervously across the valley, wondering what would come to be this day ahead.

Break time at the saddle, that climb took a lot longer than we thought and by this point the clouds were gathering thick and juicy. Nevertheless Mike found the time to crack open a starbucks iced coffee and refuel, Mike, worry will ya, it's 9am and we're in the steeze now.

Turning the saddle from the lake como valley, we entered the roc noir, leaving the land of the living and entering the land of the dead. The traverse, infinite in nature, side hill traverse, traverse side hill, all along the clouds threatened to end our day.

More traversing to the base of the hourglass, the snow pack was more of the same, breaking trail now for 3+ hours, totally exhausting, for Mike it was that is. Hey look, it's my favorite planet, the sun.

Finally at the base of the hourglass, around 11:30am, 8 hours on the go, getting tired, tired of climbing, tired of breaking trail, tired of the clouds and weather, tired of being tired. Nevertheless, we persevere higher, into the hourglass, into the deep, the couloir of our dreams.

The higher you go, the steeper the snow.

Just below the summit the snow continues to get steeper, pushing 60 degrees, with about a 2" storm slab covered by frozen snow. Mike pushed the route higher, there'll be nothing to stop us this time.

At last we arrived on the summit, right around 1pm, 9.5 hours from leaving the car, weather was holding off ok, nice views from up there. Both of Ellingwood and Mike's awesome winged hair.

The descent having been ascended.

The Mullen bros about to ski Little Bear.

Blanca in the distance.

Oh man, this looks rugged.

I took off from the summit and made a couple of turns but was unable to get an edge on the firm underneath, remind me to tune my skis before I try to ski 60 degrees next time. Fortunately I was able to throw my skis on my back and downclimb for a bit to where the snow got softer. Mike with his fresh edges was able to side slip down the steep section. Here he is getting ready about to side slip his way to greatness.

After that short upper section of tomfoolery we regrouped and began the descent down the hourglass, the hourglass in spring powder conditions. Like you read about, only I hadn't read of anyone skiing the hourglass in such amazing conditions.

More turns

Ready to make some more turns, with the hourglass behind me.

Lower and lower, not wanting to stop such glorious skiing, we decided to ski down to Little Bear Lake and climb back up to the saddle from there. In conditions like this in surroundings like that you want to keep skiing.

Lower down by the lake we found a weakness in the cliffs above, a sweet looking snow chute that would take us to just above the saddle back to lake como.

The climb was straight up fun, narrow and steep, and with the descent of Little Bear behind us we were able to relax just a little bit.

Mike, with Little Bear Lake about 700 feet below, 300 feet to go to the saddle. Sweet chute!

We intersected the ridge about 200 feet above the saddle, so more ridge walking and traversing back to the saddle.

Back at the saddle around 3:30, 12 hours on the go. After 12 hours on the go and with the cold beers back at camp, the goal quickly becomes let's get back to camp ASAP. So we skied the chute back down to Lake Como, stopped at Lake Como, looking back on where we've been, what we've been doing.

The contrasts in the Sierra Blanca range never cease to amaze me, steep alpine snow, vast valleys, desert brush, dense woods, it's got it all baby!

16 hours later, finally back at camp, we do this so we can drink beer and not get too fat.

The rest of the weekend was fun, no skiing, just chilling up in the high country. Mike dropped me off at the entrance to Lake Como road and my buddy Gabe picked me up 2 hours later. He and I planned to ski California peak the next day. The ghetto show.

We scored a fat camp spot near zapata falls, nice sunset brah.

No skiing went down, but we did end up doing some hiking in and around the great sand dunes, which just further cemented the sangre de cristo range as the worlds greatest range, which is better than #1.

Comments or Questions
05/28/2015 13:24
So much snow in the Hourglass. Way to get after it, and thanks for posting this! 8)

05/28/2015 13:53
It is insane what that month of snow did to that peak! Thanks for posting and providing the beta earlier in the week.

love the teener stoke
05/28/2015 14:33
Great TR –– Great Route – Great Bro – Brah.

05/28/2015 15:03
Ok, I enjoyed that! Especially the ski down to Little Bear Lake. Most excellent.

Way to get that pig in a day.

You guys should go back this weekend for Ellingwood and make it three weekends in a row up that stupid road.

Groundhog Day
05/28/2015 15:30
I suggest you ignore Bill’s suggestion, lest you slip into some horrific groundhog day scenario where you continually wake up in the dark at 9,600ft on Como Rd.

Unless you’re into that kind of thing, brah.

05/28/2015 19:50
Nice work, great TR

Very Nice
05/29/2015 02:33
Great write up. Did I spy some pocket rockets in one of those pictures?

05/29/2015 06:40
Thats a bad ass pair of brothers right there. Well done.

snow climb and skis
05/29/2015 10:51
Should be a good snow climb for a couple of weeks but who knows that peak changes so fast, but I can’t imagine it gets much better than this.

I ski on pocket rockets, I need some new skis though, but I like them enough, especially when they’re tuned, been rocking them for almost 10 years now. My bro skis on salomon guns, different, but also good, He needs new boots though, he’s been the sportiva’s for about 15 years now.

I would love to do ellingwood this weekend, but alas I have to take care of my children this weekend. I got this world’s greatest dad mug that is rapidly becoming inaccurate.

05/29/2015 15:32
Nice pictures. Looks like a long hard day.

05/30/2015 17:44
Really great TR. Also your accomplishment is exceptional as well.

06/02/2015 09:59
Way to bide your time and get LB in prime condition. Looks like an awesome day out, fellas.

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