Photo
Little Bear Peak
standard West Ridge and Southwest Face
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Difficulty:
 Class 4 
Ski/Board: Extreme, D13 / R4 / IV  
Risk Factors:Exposure: High
Rockfall Potential: Extreme!  
Route-Finding: High  
Commitment: High  
 
Trailhead:Lake Como (Blanca Pk)
Start:8,000 feet
Summit:14,037 feet
Total Gain:6,200 feet
2,300 feet (starting at Lake Como)
RT Length:14 miles if you start at the bottom (8,000)
3.50 miles if you start near Lake Como
Duration:User Climb Times
Author:BillMiddlebrook
Updated:7/2019
Weather:NOAA Forecast
Conditions:257 reports
Cell Signal:7 reports
Sheriff:Alamosa: 719-589-6608
Forest:Rio Grande
Quad. Maps:Log In to View
Camping:On Google Maps
Eats:On Google Maps
Downloads:Log In to Download
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Trailhead

From Colorado 160, east of Alamosa, turn north onto Colorado 150 toward Great Sand Dunes National Park. Drive over 3 miles and turn right onto Lake Como road (aka Blanca Peak road). The type of vehicle you are driving will determine how high you can park on Lake Como road. Most cars can drive about 1.5 miles up before it gets rough. 4WD SUVs and trucks can slowly make it 3.25 miles to several pull-offs at 8,800', before the road turns nasty. This is a popular parking spot and gets you within 4 miles of Lake Como. If you have a high-clearance, small, 4WD vehicle you might be able to drive to approximately 10,000'. An ATV or modified jeep/crawler can get to Lake Como but it depends on the driver.

Route

First, hike up the nasty Lake Como/Blanca Peak road to reach Lake Como at 11,750'. From the lake, Little Bear dominates the view to the east. Viewing Little Bear's west ridge, locate a gully which leads to a notch in the ridge - 1 and 2. The route uses this gully to reach the ridge. Staying on the road, continue around the lake and back into the forest. After leaving the forest, the road drops a bit to reach 11,900' - 3. This is where the route to Little Bear splits away from the road. Look for a cairn on the right , just above a small stream. Cross the stream, turn left, and follow cairns leading onto the talus, below the gully. Continue up through talus to 12,000' where the gully comes into view - 4. From the bottom of the gully, it's about 600 feet of elevation gain to reach the notch. Continue over talus and begin the ascent toward the ridge. The gully is steep enough for rocks to roll. Follow a faint trail in some areas and pick your own line in others - 5. Reach the top of the gully near 12,600' at a notch in the west ridge.

Turn left (east), climb out of the notch and begin climbing along the ridge on good rock - 7. As you continue on or along the right side of the ridge crest, look for trail segments and cairns. 1/4 mile after leaving the notch, bypass the top of a 12,960-foot ridge point by traversing below the ridge crest - 8. Descend to a large notch in the ridge where the remaining traverse to the southwest face is fairly obvious - 9. Continue to the southwest face and the base of a gully called the "Hourglass ." 10 looks back at the traverse along the ridge.

To this point, the route has barely exceeded Difficult Class 2, but that's about to change. The remaining route consists of dangerous climbing on Class 3 and Class 4 rock. This is a good place to take a careful look at the weather. If bad weather is moving on, turn back. The upper southwest face is no place to be in a thunderstorm. Above 13,300', locate the "Hourglass" gully ( 11) and you may see a fixed rope (or two) in the narrow section. An existing rope may be helpful for support, but it's not a great idea to rely on it without having inspected the condition of the entire rope and it's anchor. Be very alert for rockfall from this point forward. Scramble into the base of the gully and start climbing - 12 and 13. When you reach the narrow section, you may encounter water or ice which would force you to climb along the side of the couloir. Continue up solid, Class 4 rock to reach the top of the fixed rope (if one is present) and anchor area used by some who rappel the gully - 14 and 15. The remaining route to the summit is loose and dangerous and there's no obvious line. Taken from below, 16 is a review of the upper route. From the anchor area, pick your line slightly left or right and climb 100 feet of steep rock to reach easier terrain. Angle toward the center of the face to find trail segments or cairns ( 17 and 18) and work your way up through more loose rock to reach the summit - 19 and 20.

Skiing?

Skiing Little Bear requires proper planning and solid, extreme skiing skills. You also should be comfortable climbing steep snow plus Class 3/4 rock while wearing crampons and skis on your back. While it's not as steep or exposed as Crestone Needle, Pyramid or Capitol, Little Bear joins those peaks as one of the hardest 14er ski descents, so please don't take it lightly.

Notes

This loose, dangerous route is one of the most difficult standard 14er routes and climbing it on a busy weekend is not recommended.
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13 #14 #15 #16 #17 #18 #19 #20
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