Peak(s):  Little Bear Peak  -  14,041 feet
Date Posted:  06/01/2022
Modified:  06/03/2022
Date Climbed:   09/18/2021
Author:  CaptainSuburbia
 Little Bear - Circumnavigating The Hourglass   

Little Bear Peak

Circumnavigating The Hourglass

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Here comes another Little Bear trip report, I just can't help myself...

So, I had been wanting to do this particular route again, ever since stumbling upon it last year while doing the Little Bear-Blanca traverse. I had really enjoyed it that day and found it to be a good warm up for the traverse. I didn't have any willing partners this time though, but did find someone on the forum looking to team up with others for his 14er finisher. We chatted for a bit and agreed we'd meet up and take this alternate route with a bypass of the hourglass. A couple of his friends would join us as well.

I did this climb for my Dad. A few days prior he had passed away after a long battle with covid. He was not a mountain climber, but he enjoyed following my journeys and I know he would have loved Little Bear. Shine on Dad...

Day of Climb: September 18th, 2021

Trailhead: Como Road

Peaks: Little Bear Peak

Mileage and Elevation Gain: 9.5 miles with 4312 feet of gain

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I arrived at my parking spot on Como Road around 1am early Saturday morning. I had reached my 4wd road tolerance level at about 9800 feet and parked in a pull-out. Unfortunately, I would only have about 2 hours to sleep with a 3am wake up time. Friday had been a busy day which gave me a very late start on my drive to Little Bear. I had worked until 4 and then played a pickleball tournament until after 8 that night in Loveland. 5 hour energy would be my new best friend until getting safely back to Fort Collins later in the day.

After waking from my short nap I readied myself and began walking up Como Road at a good pace. It was roughly 3 miles and 2000 feet of elevation gain to Como Lake from my parking spot. I was meeting the rest of my group at the lake where they had camped and probably got a good night's sleep. On the way I passed forum member Grisel on the road. I believe he did a solo LB-Blanca traverse that day.

My group was waiting for me at their lake campsite and after a quick introduction we headed up the road. The spilt to Little Bear came quickly and we left the road and climbed the initial gully to the notch at 12,600 feet on the west ridge of Little Bear. We then climbed out of the notch and headed east on a faint trail following the standard route towards the hourglass.

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Climbing the west ridge from the notch.
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Looking back towards the notch.
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There's a faint trail somewhere in the talus.
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A little further along the ridge with the hourglass now in full view.

At about 13,000 feet we veered left leaving the standard route and headed northeast up a steep slope. Our goal was the crest of the west ridge at 13,500 feet which would take us around the hourglass. We basically just went straight up here with the climbing being a mix of 2+ and easy class 3, and it didn't take long to reach the ridge proper. We stayed left on the way up following a cliff band for what seemed to be the best and most efficient line to the ridge. We found the slope had more loose rock to contend with whenever we strayed right.

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Leaving standard route and heading up towards the ridge.
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A quick look back.

The next series of pics show the various sections on our climb to the ridge:

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The team.
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Getting close.
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Almost there with the southwest ridge in the background.

The ridge was gained without incident and we immediately felt the exposure. The initial ridge section was very narrow with a nearly straight drop a thousand feet or more to the left. The views of Ellingwood Point and Little Bear from this vantage were outstanding. The 5 of us (we picked up a stray along the way) carefully began climbing the ridge with the crux of the route not far ahead. This short section is very similar to parts of the LB-Blanca traverse and has maximum exposure. The climbing here was not particularly difficult though and the rock is very good.

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West ridge proper.
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Ellingwood Point.
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Looking down the narrow west ridge.
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Looking up the ridge
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After not too long, we reached the exit off this narrow section and the crux of the route. There are 2 distinct choices here with the easier being to stay ridge proper. Alternatively, you can bypass the crux with a workaround below and to the right. I stayed ridge proper with the hardest move being an awkward climb over the rock in the pic below with the yellow splotches. I don't believe the move goes beyond class 3 but the exposure on both sides is off the charts. I pretty much just crawled up and over it. If you're tall (and not short legged like me) you might barely notice the difficulty. After this move there is a nice landing to chill before continuing on to the next section.

The rest of my group decided to go for the less exposed bypass of the crux and circled down below and around. This slight detour was definitely more difficult than the crux, but I guess with it being less exposed it was more appealing to the rest of the group. It was still not somewhere you'd want to fall though. I watched from above while they carefully went one at a time and joined me on the small landing. They collectively said it was class 4.

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The crux - stay left on ridge proper here or go right across that ledge and up a narrow gully. Photo by Drew Harper.
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Working through the crux bypass.
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With the hardest part happily done, we continued up the west ridge towards the headwall area. The climbing in this section was mostly class with minimal exposure. At the headwall there is a class 5 chimney that needs to be climbed if you want to continue up the ridge proper. We elected (as planned) to bypass this section and, instead, we followed a series of ledges that led around the headwall and dumped us out on the southwest face of Little Bear. This put us back onto the standard route and we could see the hourglass below.

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Climbing to the headwall.
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Ledges to Southwest Face.
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Ledges

After crossing the ledges we were only a short distance from the summit and covered the ground quickly up the remainder of the southwest face. It maybe took us 10 minutes to summit from there over 2+ and easy class 3 terrain.

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Southwest Face.
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Looking down at the Hourglass.
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A fun gully.
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At the summit we celebrated Drew finishing the 14ers with style on Little Bear. Congrats buddy and thanks for joining me on this route! It was a great crew and a fun climb. The 3 others got their first Little Bear summits as well.

I then took a moment alone to remember my Dad the best way I could. I couldn't think of a better place to do this. Little Bear has always been a special place for me and now it is even more so.

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Summit and looking over at South Little Bear.
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Little Bear-Blanca traverse.
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Looking down the west ridge from the summit.

After a nice long summit stay with beautiful weather, we began our descent back down the way we came. We briefly considered the hourglass but decided to go with what we knew. We made good time to the crux which really was the only difficulty on the route. My group again decided to pass on the more exposed ridge proper route and took the class 4 bypass. I decided to go with them to check it out for myself. There were a couple of sketchy moves around a rock bulge making it more difficult than staying ridge proper. Having done both I would recommend staying ridge proper.

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Headwall/Chimney that we bypassed with the ledges.
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Class 4 bypass of the crux.
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Climbing down from the crux area.
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West Ridge.

The rest of the descent went well and we made good time back to the campsite at Como Lake. My new friends packed up their gear and we all had an enjoyable walk down Como Road.

I think this alternate route is a decent choice if you want to avoid the hourglass. It's still a very dangerous route though, and it's probably not any easier than the standard route. I can't compare though since I've only done the hourglass with snow. I still believe the southwest ridge is the best way to climb Little Bear.


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




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Camden7
User
Nice!
06/01/2022 12:36
Looks like you had a great day on a great peak, your route looks a lot better (and dryer) than the hourglass. What a great way to remember your dad.


Fisching
User
I call BS
06/01/2022 15:34
No one has ever had an "enjoyable walk down Como Road."


greenonion
User
Thanks and sorry
06/01/2022 17:19
Thanks for helping us with details of this route. Looking forward to give it a try!

Very sorry to hear about your dad, Judd.


DeTour
User
Shine on Dad
06/01/2022 20:42
So sorry for your loss. Glad you had this climb to dedicate to him, and I appreciate you including that deeply personal part of it.

About the climb and this account - been waiting for this ever since I read your first account of this route, thank you. Planning a run at LB in late August and I expect we'll probably have a go at following this. Maybe not exactly - that GPS track looks awful squiggly! You might hear from me by DM to pick your brain for more info and maybe see if you want to climb your favorite peak yet again.


CaptainSuburbia
User
Thanks all
06/05/2022 18:08
Camden7 - Thank you! Yeah it was a great day and glad I could do that for my dad. Would definitely be good a good route when the hourglass is wet.

Fisching - I actually do enjoy that road and those peaks would be a zoo without it.

greenonion - Hope this reports helps! I think you'll enjoy the route. Thanks about my dad.

DeTour - Thank you! It was an emotional climb for sure and the best way I could think of to remember him. Yeah that Gaia track was very wonky for some reason. My first report on this route has a much cleaner track. Definitely hit me up to discuss the route more.


WVMountaineer
User
Thank you
06/06/2022 14:11
Thanks for sharing these details! After having a very close call descending the Hour Glass (climbers above sending rocks) after my first summit of LB a few years ago, I've been looking into alternate options since. I'll be headed back to do the LB->Blanca traverse later this summer and this looks much safer.


the_hare
User
Thanks
06/07/2022 12:25
Thanks for all the awesome pics and further descriptions for this route, looks like a great alternative to the bowling alley for sure. So sorry to hear about your dad‘s passing as well, this sounds like a climb anyone would be proud to be remembered by!


CaptainSuburbia
User
hare
06/09/2022 14:43
Thank you! Yes, much better than taking a chance in the bowling alley. Thanks about my dad. I'll always remember this climb.


nyker
User
Good job
06/10/2022 20:17
Sorry to hear about your Dad, Nice way to honor him in the beautiful mountains.
Keep it up


CaptainSuburbia
User
Thanks
06/20/2022 07:36
Thank you nyker!



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