Peak(s):  Little Bear Peak  -  14,037 feet
Date Posted:  08/07/2012
Date Climbed:   08/02/2012
Author:  mikefromcraig
 A finisher's unique perspective   

A lot of finishers write about how climbing the 14ers is a spiritual experience where they commune with nature. I think that's great but that's not my experience. I enjoyed climbing the 14ers because I am a very goal oriented person. To do the 14ers I had to learn a new set of skills and stay in good shape. I enjoyed all the different challenges involved with completing the 14ers and I'm thankful for all the friends I met while climbing.

Here's some random things I learned that may help out people just starting.

1. Don't believe the class 4 hype. I remember seeing pictures of people climbing class 4 and thinking there's no way I would do that without rope. But when you get there and do it you realize that it's just an optical illusion. I honestly prefer class 4 over loose class 2. For me, class 4 is much faster and safer.

2. Take the time to read trip reports. A lot of them are a waste of time but some are very valuable with the most up to date info. It's definitely worth taking an extra 20 minutes at home the day before to be aware of something that could save you an hour on the mountain.

3. Don't bring too much water. The ideal hydration strategy involves you arriving back down at your car slightly dehydrated with no water left. If you get back down to your car fully hydrated with extra water then you carried around too much water. That's just extra weight that made every step you took harder.

4. write trip reports/trailhead reports that are relevant. I have read a lot of reports that go into detail about insignificant things and then they just gloss over significant things like trail condition. Also, this is a huge pet peeve of mine: If you are doing a trailhead report it is completely worthless to just put "I got all the way up to the crossing at 9,500 feet" because I don't know if you got there in a modified Jeep or a Prius. You have to say what kind of car you got up there in.

5. Garry Roach is not infallible.

6. If you think there is a chance you might want to go for the centennial 13ers after you finish the 14ers then you should hit the ones that are near the 14ers you are doing. It's not a lot of fun to spend a whole day going back and hiking the exact same trail you have already done just to go an extra half a mile to pick up a centennial that you could have just spent an extra hour and a half doing previously.

7. Not sure how much this will help people but I found it interesting that when you look like this everyone will stop you and ask for climbing advice:

But not when you look like this:

So, onto the little bear report:

I found out two days prior that I would be moving to Montana for work so I knew I had to get my last 14er done before I left Colorado as I couldn't be sure I would make it back to CO.

I made it up to the 8,800 foot parking in my '12 outback. I definitely couldn't have made it much further.

I made camp about 1/8 mile before I got to the lake because it was threatening rain and I found a decent spot. The forecast wasn't calling for rain until afternoon (on the day of the climb) so I felt fine sleeping in until 5. This way I wouldn't have to bring a headlamp or extra clothes.

The climb from the lake up to the 12,580 ft notch is the hardest part of the whole thing. I'd say it's a very loose class 2+. From there it's almost a straight shot to the bottom of the hourglass. I waited here with two other guys for our turn up. I found the hourglass to be a big disappointment. Capitol was harder and even Pyramid had a couple of moves that were harder than anything on little bear. I'm a pretty conservative climber but felt very confident shooting up the hourglass on all fours. I never felt in danger at all. Once you get half way up or maybe 2/3 up you can kind of see an option to stay straight or go to the left. Take the left. It's a little easier and plus if someone starts to come down the center they won't send any rocks down on you.

I hit the summit 4 hours after leaving the West side of Lake Como. If I didn't have to wait at the bottom of the hourglass and wait for the other guys in my party on the way up the hourglass I could have done it in 3.

There was a new rope that I used to hand over hand rappel down the last part. Make your own judgment when you see the rope. There would be no need to bring your own rope though. It's not really that steep.

On the way back down I tried a little bit of a shortcut and this happened while downclimbing class 5:


Going back down from the 12,580 notch to the lake was probably the most dangerous in my opinion. It's so loose and just steep enough to cause problems.

Well, I hope to be back in CO next summer to get back to work on the centennials. I have done 26/47 so far. I have promised myself I wouldn't do the bicentennials. --Mike C

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

08/08/2012 05:32
and thanks for your insights. Best of luck on the remaining Centennials. Hope you didn't have to pay another $150 to top out on Red Mtn.


Big Grats!
08/08/2012 07:16
Congratulations on finishing and excellent pointers!!

About point #6 though, why not relish the opportunity to get back into the mountains, rather than begrudge climbing a 13er? You make it sound like you take more satisfaction in crossing a name off a list rather than standing and breathing amongst the staggering beauty of the mountains. I don't know, I'm not convinced. With a beard as majestic and manly as that one, I know you savor every breath of alpine air!

And promising yourself to not do the bicentennials? yeesh, brother! Surely you jest!


08/08/2012 14:10
And props for finishing on LB! I like your pointers at the beginning. They're all true and so many people just don't realize it. Have fun in MT and I hope you get back to do the Centennials!


holy crap...
08/08/2012 16:02
....i need to change my panties after watching that video. i'll send you my dry cleaner bill


Good Job / questionable advice
08/09/2012 15:26

Sounds like you had some great experiences and that you know yourself and how you approach climbing. I would however like to challenge a couple of your points that I think will mislead people.
#1 While you (and I may) prefer solid class four vs loose class 2 it is important for people to understand the importance of class four climbing to be able to assess their readiness to tackle certain routes. In my opinion too many people already ignore the ”class four hype” and get into places they maybe shouldn't be and that puts us all at risk.
#3 I cannot support not having enough water. I know in this era of fast and light everyone is concerned about weight. But there once was a philosophy about being prepared to spend an extra night out if something goes wrong, this would include extra food and water. At 2 pounds per quart I am willing to have an extra quart of water available to make sure my hydration is up to par and that I am thinking straight. The last thing I would like to see is people high in the mountains dehydrated and making bad decisions, all for a couple of pounds. The reality is, most people, even me could spare a couple of pounds off my midsection and replace them with water weight on my back and it would be a net zero effect.

Mostly, I am coming from perspective of be more prepared than less prepared and just because things work out doesn't mean a person made good decisions.

Good luck on your next adventures and keep chasing the finish.


further explanation
08/09/2012 16:06
#1, You are right that finding yourself off trail on class 4 can get serious VERY fast. I'm just talking about the actual class 4 climbing.
#3, I also don't support ”not having enough water.” What most people don't understand, however, is how much is enough. You see this in foot races all the time. Elite level runners know they want to be dehydrated as they are crossing the finish line. It's the people back in the pack who finish completely hydrated. As for having to spend the night, humans can live 4-5 days without water so I don't see how one night without water is going to kill you. Furthermore, I always bring a tiny one ounce bottle of water purification pills so if that were to happen I could simply refill my empty water bottle.

There is always a trade-off between preparedness and light-weight efficiency. I'm sure there are things that would make you more prepared that you don't bring as well. snake bite kit? signaling mirror? first aid kit? extra shoelaces? gun? etc. Another thing to consider is that all that extra preparedness weight makes you slightly more likely to have an accident as an extra 5 pounds can throw your ballance off and cause you to become more fatigued.


08/09/2012 17:04
While I think you and I differ somewhat on a number of points of climbing philosophy, finishing is always a great accomplishment. You did it, and no one can take that away.


Well put.
08/30/2012 22:20
Although the Sangres are next year for me, I'll be re-reading this and some other TR's before going up. Used the same water plan on Longs last week with four liters of water, moved fast, and finished just a bit thirsty. Seemed ideal. I can understand the arguments for carrying more, but I drank a lot early while pushing it and had just over 1 liter left on the summit.

Interesting info on the Class 4. I'll use the ropes if they're there, but it's good to know that, under most normal conditions, a careful climber CAN get down without unreasonable danger.


guilty as charged!
04/10/2013 22:23
Jerousek, I hear what you are saying and of course I do appreciate being out in nature but to be completely honest I do look at it more like crossing a finish line. That's just my personality. When I go after a goal I'm extremely driven.

This may be blasphemy on here but yeah, I did promise myself not to do the bicentennials. I know me and if I do 20 of them then it would seem like a waste if I didn't just finish them all.

It's not like after doing the centennials I'm just going to sit on a couch. I might section hike the CO trail, train for open water swims, bicycle centuries, pikes peak marathon, or some other kind of endurance event.

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