| Standard Route
Have been using 14ers.com for years as a resource and have not been interested in joining. But lately have felt slightly guilty not contributing so thought I would give it a go. This is a copy of what I sent 2 friends that have done the peak twice with me in the past. I also see the party that we met on the way down did a great job in posting as well. This will just give you another view of the peak that really is a Bear.
Have been watching the reports of people starting to climb the Bear and stating that the conditions were getting prime. I needed to climb it again because of some dear friends finishing the 14ers but after leading 2 CMC trips climbing the peak in snow and ice/rock I pick snow as the safest. The CAIC had no reports for the Sangre's and thus I was left on my own. But watching the peak weather reports over the last 2 weeks from NOAA it seemed like the snow was lighter than the northern mountains and came mostly from the S to SW. Thus I was expecting the avy danger to be on the N facing gully that we needed to climb right out of camp. The wind side, including the peak and hourglass, was, in my estimation blow out and packed snow. The hourglass is also around 45 degrees so may be getting to the slope angle that would avy naturally because of steepness. But as we know from the AIARE course you can't always tell until you can see what the conditions are at the climb. With that in mind we headed up Thursday to lake Como road.
The road, after 4 trips, is not as daunting as the first go round. I made it up to our "normal" parking place, 2.6 miles after the lower parking lot and elevation of 9,980' with my old Jeep. About 1 mile into hiking we hit snow and it was reasonably firm but even better it saved the feet and ankles from those blasted river type rocks, especially coming out. 2 hours later we were at the lake, which was completely frozen and snow covered. It was cool and overcast. Made camp above the lake at the base of the first gulley. The night was cold but not bad, probably in the 20's with graupel snow on and off.
Next day up at 4ish and out by 5:30. We just wore our crampons out of camp. Amazingly we never took them off the entire day. The snow up the north facing gully was 33 degrees measured. This was the one I was worried about. During daylight I did not see any cornice at the top and no signs of avy's from the other similar facing slopes and aspects. In years past this has released. The AIARE instructors words kept coming back to take each bit of information as one factor, assess risk, and then use it to make an informed choice. The snow was firm below but higher we would punch through. Sugar snow below what was frozen on the top consolidated snow was the norm but by the time that was noted we were very close to the top and the snow was shallow. So far so good. It was fun climbing that 600 or so feet!
On the other side was snow but as expected windblown snowfields and partial rock covered snow. We kept our crampons on for safety and looked to climb on snow, staying off of the ridge. Climbing with crampons on in rock is always like learning to skate for the first few times. It is safer but also very clumsy! It was snowing on us at times with some wind but really nice weather.
Finally at the hourglass. It was as safe as I could have hoped for. NO signs of rock fall or avy activity. Firm snow with some new light snow on top, great for kick stepping. It was deep enough to cover the anchor rock but not too deep, will not take much warm weather to get it icy. Overall the hourglass was anticlimactic and mostly fun, measured 45 degrees max.
Above the hourglass is really the crux in these conditions. The polished rock directly above it is very hard to climb with light snow on it and I had to use my ax and crampons tips to get into rock cracks to climb the next 200 feet. It then mellows out and rock fall was no problem because even accidently kicking loose rocks (they are still there boys!), they only go a foot or two and are stopped by the snow. Head left out of the hourglass and you see some drifts. I tried to stay on these as much as possible for safety until you run into a cairn.
The next difficulty is a class 4 rock wall about 6 foot high. When dry this is no problem but with snow it is very hard. Somehow we managed to get over this with our ice ax stuck into rare cracks and our crampons tips. In a few days this will not be a problem because it will melt off and be dry. Coming back we had to belay over this with a short piece of rope.
The final summit push had a wonderful drift for about 200 feet directly to the summit. It was wild climbing measured 50 degree hardish snow at 14,000'! It was an epic end to the climb. We were up in 3 hours 15 minutes, not bad for two old guys and one young buck. The summit was cold and windy but the views were incredible! We stayed for about 30 minutes and headed down. Because of the angle we faced in climbing down, which was much faster. Ran into a party of 2 at the top of the hourglass but not sure if they summited. By 10 we had rollerballs forming from the sun on the 20 degrees snow fields already; not a great place to be later in the day. The north facing gully was our last hurdle, and we stayed to the left as we descended. Some rollerballs but because it was not in the sun long it was still in good shape.
Much different experience than our last one! We were home at 7 pm. It is a dangerous climb even with "safe conditions" from rock fall. The mixed climbing was fun but more risky. Glad to be done with that one again!