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|Conditions Information||Posted By||Posted On|
|2015-04-12||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: A friend and I climbed Little Bear today via the hourglass and conditions within the hourglass are very similar to the reports from the previous week. It still holds the "ice bulge" previously mentioned and also has a small section of solid ice above the bulge which makes it hard to get solid ice axe placement with the spike side of the axe. I ended up going up the ice on the left side, using the rock when needed. Once to the top of the ice bulge I stepped over to the right (climbers right) and reach solid climbable snow for about 10 to 15 feet. At that point there were rocks on the right and in the center of the couloir there was a brief section of solid ice just beneath the snow. Again this made it difficult to get a good ice axe placement with the spike side. Fortunately this section was short enough that I was able to reach above it with the pick side of the axe and get a solid deposit in excellent snow. This was enough protection to climb over the solid section of ice. I did notice that along the rock on the left side, above the ice bulge, there is also a fair amount of solid ice. Everything above these sections were superb and made for excellent climbing around 8 am. For the approach up the road I took snow shoes but never used them. There are a few short sections that held snow but postholing was at a minimum. All in all a great day on the mountain, but found the ice sections in the hourglass fairly demanding.
Info: Looks like Coloradosherpa gave a good update on Little Bear so I figured I would just post some info on the Traverse. The first third of the traverse was mostly dry, the second 3rd was a little bit more snow and then the final 3rd was about 50% snow covered. Leave the snowshoes at home I probably post holed 15 times in 2 days. Snow was mostly bulletproof.
|2015-04-07||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Due to great interest in Hourglass conditions, I am posting this supplemental info, especially because conditions seem to be changing rapidly: we parked at the 8,800 ft pullouts, wore approach shoes up the "road" until the snow began around 10,400 ft. Near the old cabin ruins on left, I used snowshoes and my partner used skins to avoid post-holing. Soon after, we reached the creek crossing, and were not surprised along the sunny side to find the snow alternating with bare stretches, requiring a comical number of transitions to my snowshoes. The Lake Como area is entirely snow covered, I even post-holed a couple times even with snowshoes in the afternoon heat. (The ski tracks across the lake ice bewildered me). We began the next morning at 4am, and found the first couloir reasonably "safe" for our risk tolerance. Then it was a dry traverse towards the Hourglass. In the area below the Hourglass there is a lot of terrain to negotiate that is mostly covered in crusty snow, it requires confidence in self-arrest skills. The Hourglass was a blast, except the 10-foot water ice bulge at the choke will certainly become more challenging, it‘s definitely a no-fall zone. The two "fixed ropes" did not inspire much confidence with me, didn‘t really use them except briefly on the descent as a handline for part of the water ice. Probably I sound like a broken record, but this is not beginner terrain and a person must be very proficient with ice axe self arrest. Be down to Lake Como by 10am at the latest, before the daily thaw. Regarding Mrwaffles, it seems to be a great sin around here to be cocky or arrogant, or not show enough respect to the mountains. But like many others, he is far different in person than his internet persona, and very competent.
|2015-04-05||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: There is about 8 feet of water ice in the hourglass. The fixed ropes are available but buried at the bottom of the choke point. Snow on the face was mostly firm and good for tow-sized steps. Some short sections were front-points, others ankle to knee deep. Overall, conditions were good and quick, except for the ice. We took snowshoes for the approach but never used them. Only about 20 post holes were dug on this trip thanks to a solid path through the soft stuff laid by earlier skies and climbers. Snow on the road start around 10,300 ft. After it transitions 15 or so times between dry road and soft snow up to 4 ft deep.
|2015-03-28||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Took a trip up to Lake Como to give Little Bear an early Spring shot. Packed in on Friday morning 3/27. Parked @ pullout @ 9,300‘. Road is in good shape with only a few short shallow snow sections until the right turn into the trees (downslope/rolling traverse to cabins). Beginning there snowshoes can be worn all the way to Como Lake with only a few short sections melted out (near the 4x4 monument/plaque). Snow was consolidated and solid in the AM and mostly walkable without snowshoes, expect to post hole in the PM. Still deep in sections 3‘-4‘ deep. We had some time Friday afternoon to size up the West Ridge gulley and it was loaded with snow. Particularly a big patch high left (east) of gulley which looked fractured and settled, something we have not seen in early Spring attempts in previous years. When we approached on Saturday morning, the more concerning section was at the top of the gulley. The approach to 12,000‘ from the lake to the bottom of the gulley was crusty with lots of unconsolidated snow (6-8") underneath. When we got to the bottom of the gulley no one was all too happy with what we just walked through, seemed very unstable. The amount of fractured and settled areas on the upper gulley looked doable but not worth the risk. There seemed to be a small cornice still at the top of the gully with some drifting that looked cracked and settled. Having been up on the West Ridge 2x in similar time frames over the last few years, our group decided to abort and not take the risk. Consensus was it would probably hold well in the AM for the trip up, but the return once it soften up in the afternoon would be a high danger of some slab sliding. Consensus was that given a few more days of this weather this route is going to settle and be perfect, we probably missed ideal conditions by a few days. If they get no significant snow this week, I would definitely say this route will be fully in next weekend. Not sure how long it will stay that way. Lower melting is happening fast, and we stopped by Medano Creek in Sand Dunes on the way back and it is flowing strongly which is really early.
|2015-03-15||Route: Southwest Ridge
Info: In short, not-so-wintery conditions. The "Trailhead" is just the corner of a N/S "road" and an E/W "road". The E/W road is much smoother - a stock Liberty had no problem getting there from the west. I took the N/S road out of there and it was quite a bit rougher. Floatation was only used between 11,000 and 11,700, but with a little more snowmelt could probably be skipped altogether. Half of our party didn‘t use any sort of traction, but I would recommend bringing it. Axes came in handy on parts of the upper ridge. Mama Bear traverse was slower but doable, we chose not to use traction or axes as scrambling was easier unencumbered. Started at 1:15AM. S. Little Bear at 7:15AM. Started traverse at 8:15AM. Little Bear at 9:30AM. Started back at 9:45AM. Back to S. Little Bear at 10:15AM. Back to TH at 4:15PM. In other words, up to S. LB took about as long as back down. This is due to the enormous amount of talus one must negotiate for nearly the entire route.
|2015-02-08||Route: SW Ridge
Info: Conditions were pretty dry for Feb. Snow was on/off again from the TH to treeline. Very windy on the ridge during the morning, but wind stopped in the afternoon and we cooked in the sun. Crux didn‘t provide any challenges; not much snow on the bypass and the route was obvious (from prior TRs). Was surprised how stable the rock was; not much loose rock on the ledges. Technically not difficult, but it is surprising how much it beats you up for only 8 miles. I was feeling a little sick on the descent (altitude sickness?) and it took us 13 hours. A GPS is highly suggested (we used Geojed‘s gpx); don‘t count on following the flagging. We carried but did not use snowshoes, ice axe and crampons.
|2014-10-03||Route: Little Bear-to-Blanca Traverse
Info: Did the hourglass route up little bear, traversed to South Little Bear and back, then did the little Bear to Blanca traverse. Standard route down Blanca. There is snow above 11k feet, but the only significant accumulation is on north faces and the north ridge of Blanca (ankle deep) The gully that is used to get to the west ridge of little bear has some snow, and is very cold (no sun hit) so it‘ll probably hold snow for awhile. Once on the west ridge, it‘s snow free till the hourglass. Hourglass has an ice flow down the middle, but the ice can be carefully avoided by staying on the climbers left side. After exiting the hourglass it‘s snow and ice free to the top. The section between south little bear and little bear is in good shape with patchy snow. The traverse to Blanca is sketchy at best, and there are patches of snow. I didn‘t find any black ice on the route. Descent down Blanca had the most snow, ankle deep or so until the saddle. Below the saddle the snow was thinner, but there were several ice flows and black ice patches that had to be avoided. We didn‘t do Ellingwood because we ran out of time, but the standard route looked fairly snow free.
|2014-09-21||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Entire route is completely void of snow an ice on the day we climbed. The hourglass had its usual water running down it. I managed to not use the rope, but it was nice to know it was there. It appeared that all of the damaged portions of the rope were shored up. One other that was on the mountain at the same time as us used climb up and rappel down.
|2014-09-18||Route: Little Bear-to-Blanca Traverse
Info: Snow in the shade going up hourglass and across the traverse. VERY sparse however not always easily avoidable but snow patches are small and on usually flat terrain where it can handle a step. Can be frozen though into something slick though. Road was awful to walk on as always Tip, Bring approach shoes and hiking shoes, the descent off little bear requires some dicey moves where the traction can be some peace of mind.
|2014-09-14||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: No snow or ice on route. Small trickle of water coming down hourglass...easily avoidable. No bear activity at lake.
|2014-08-31||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: My fiancé and I climbed Little Bear Peak on Sunday and summited at sunrise. There was water running down the hourglass on our ascent and descent. We brought our own rope and gave it to three climbers who started the hourglass after we finished. There were also two ropes that had some knots in them. One of the ropes extended well past the hourglass. We used them as guides and they held our weight.
|2014-08-18||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Hourglass and fixed ropes: On August 18th we climbed Little Bear and inspected the fixed ropes in the Hourglass. There were two ropes tied together that went from the anchor to the bottom (400ft?). The top rope (pink) we knotted in numerous places to isolate the damage to various parts of the rope. The lower (11mm blue) one seemed to be in very good shape. However, I was dismayed when I examined the anchor. The existing fixed ropes were attached to a single piece of webbing and a rap ring. One of the pieces of webbing was partly cut. I reenforced the entire anchor system with a piece of climbing rope and fixed an old, but in good shape, green 9mm, 50m rope to the reenforced anchor. The newly installed green rope will get you about 150 ft down the Hourglass close to the lower blue rope (no knots) that extends to the bottom. We rapped the green rope and did about 20 feet of down climbing on easy 3rd class rock and then reconnected to the blue rope to finish the rap to the bottom. This allowed us to avoid the upper rope with all the knots and made for a smoother and quick descent.
|2014-08-18||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: 1. The Como Lake Road MUCH more eroded than August 2013. 2. We put an undamaged 50m 9mm green rope in the hourglass. Rebuilt the anchor. The OLD ropes (red+yellow, orange) are hanging off 1 damaged webbing sling. 50m reaches below the neck of the hourglass. Older ropes had many knots in them isolating sheath knicks. 3. Almost no water flowing through the Hourglass (due to stretch of dry weather?). Could stand in it and boots barely got wet. 4. Barney the bear was very active near Como Lake and fearless. He? climbed the tree and started working our horizontal bear line. Bear cannisters were batted around a bit. Hard to decide which "Bear" was most difficult.
|2014-08-03||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: There was a thin layer of frost on smaller rocks, creating slippery conditions. They thawed out quickly once the sun hit them, but I had to be careful on the way up. It was a beautiful clear morning overall. Light clouds and fog rolled in and out all morning, starting low and gaining thickness and elevation as they built and dissipated over the course of the morning. There was a steady stream of water flowing down the hourglass. Even though the rock is wet, it wasn‘t slippery under my boots (except for rare patches of "black ice") so I continued to the summit. The clouds built into light rain by about noon.
|2014-08-02||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: We climbed this Saturday, August 2. This is a formidable peak and actually took us 8 hours from the lake, I‘m not fast. Important things to note: the traverse from the top of the gully to the base of the hourglass was a lot of route finding as many of the cairns were no where to be found. We dropped about 25-30‘ below the ridge and charted a course to the hourglass, finding a few fallen cairns along the way. My climbing partner rebuilt them as we went...much appreciated. As for the hourglass itself, there was a steady stream of water coming down. I stayed left for a while then climbed up the water simply b/c it‘s easier, holds are solid and traction was surprisingly good. My very experienced climbing partner inspected the anchors and wet rope along the way. I did use it coming down and was very happy to have it but advise you make your own decision upon inspection. The rest of the journey is a challenge, we chose to stay left and it worked fine. Just remember to check your foot/hand holds before you rely on it. Other then that, I am just glad to be done with that one. As for Como road, we made it past Jaws 1 and based on reports from other vehicles coming down, decided to camp just before the creek crossing. This was a wise choice. There has been considerable rain over the past few days. There were several rock slides past Jaws 2-3 that made it impassable by truck but smaller ATVs did get through. That was in the morning. By afternoon, several crazy looking jeeps had managed to get through by building, pushing, moving...whatever. You best have a super high clearance, 4wd vehicle and heed all the warnings posted by experienced drivers. The creek is running fast and high as well, just an fyi. Sorry no photos at this time.
|2014-07-26||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: On Saturday 26 July there was water running down the Hourglass. The rope is in very good shape, attached to two anchors at top. I found it was necessary to rely on the rope at least in the middle where the rocks are wet. Although it was a Saturday, I was the only one on the standard route and had the peak to myself. There were a lot of people at the Lake, and upwards of a dozen tricked-out 4x4s up there as well. Otherwise conditions were good, the weather cooperated, and it was a great climbing day. I have suspicions about the trip distances reported in the route description. My GPS tracker showed 24 miles roundtrip to the parking at 8800‘, and 5 miles to the Lake. I can‘t explain the high figure, the same tracker seems to work fine on other climbs. But I can say it was an exhausting climb and took me 8 hours to go from 8800‘ to the summit. If it is really just 13 miles, it‘s the toughest 13 miles out there! I am interested to hear what others may have recorded for the round trip from 8800.
|2014-07-22||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: No bears in our camp but about half of those we spoke to had seen bears on the road and/or just outside their camp (5 of 10 or so groups). Looks like someone (NFS?) has cleaned up all the trash reported previously, and also posted signs everywhere warning about the nuisance bear in the area. Thanks for the warnings from previous posters, it made us extra vigilant. Good conditions on Little Bear‘s standard route with a fair amount of water coming down the hourglass. Anchor webbing in ok shape but obvious that rocks have been pelting them and the fixed lines, I didn‘t like that anchor point, doesn‘t actually seem to be attached to the rest of the mountain, but to each their own...bring your own gear if you will need or want it as who knows what things look like above where you can see and feel. As previously noted obvious compromises to the sheath/core of the lines have been tied off. I thought climbers used their own gear and swapped a new anchor for the old? Looks like soon another 30+ pounds of abandoned, trashed anchors and lines will need to be cut out and hauled out. Or is this a more organized fixing of gear with a plan for later removal, if so cool, and I want details on how to help. I traded out equal for what I left in (sling and ring), but admit we didn‘t have the stamina to try for the rest except for about 20‘ of static line someone else had cut off but left on the ridge.
|2014-07-13||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: Climbed Sunday, it had rained steadily for several hours till midnight Saturday, lots of water coming down the hourglass, otherwise no snow remains except patch at the bottom. At least one group of climbers ahead of us and we did encounter substantial, rockfall, just before entering the hourglass. Traction still fairly good despite water on ascent, though we tended to the left side to stay out of the center of the chute bc of the rockfall we had seen Encountered a party ascending who had used southwest ridge and from summit observed another group on the traverse. Used the fix ropes without any issues on descent. Bear reported Friday night in our camp along road at approximately 10,000 feet.
|2014-07-09||Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
Info: The entire route is dry. The rope in the hourglass seemed to be reasonably safe. There were three or four questionable nicks in it but someone had tied them with knots to bypass them. I rapped down it with no issues. We did spot a largish sized bear on the "road" to Como Lake about 1.5 miles below the lake. Our camp was attacked by very curious three-striped squirrels and a rogue deer who ate a lot of charcoal from the fire pit next to our tents for half the night. We later heard noises similar to vomiting and wondered if it was our deer friend realizing his folly.