How to get there:
Go east from Alamosa or west from Fort Garland on US 160, to the
road US 150 that heads north to the Sand Dunes National Monument.
Go US 150 north exactly 5.1 km, then turn right onto a small
dirt road. This road heads straight towards the Blanca mountains.
Drive this road as far as your vehicle/driver finds reasonable, then
park somewhere off the road and start hiking. Route description:
The route is most easily divided into two parts, from
the trailhead to Como Lake and from Como Lake to the
Most climbers will camp in the vicinity of Como Lake due to
the long approach and, in particular, the large vertical gain from
the trailhead to the summit. Jeep road:
This road can be quite hot, carry enough water.
There is a jeep road from the trailhead and all the way to Como Lake,
this road has the reputation of being the worst in Colorado. However,
the first part of this road is not at all very unreasonable, with a
sturdy 4 wheel drive vehicle one can drive approximately 3 km without
trouble. The first spot indicating what will come is perhaps some rocks
in a left switchback part way up the hill. There are numerous places
along the road where one can pull off and park.
The road (from the trailhead) first climbs gently, later more
agressively with hairpin turns up the hill. Eventually it contours
into the valley formed by the creek from Como Lake. The jeep road
continues for a while on the right hand side of the creek, but
eventually crosses the creek and continues its seemingly
endless climb. Finally, one arrives at Como Lake, elevation about 3600 m.
It should be stressed that the final part of this road is extremely
rough and should not be driven, this applies in particular to the section
after crossing the creek. The rocky obstacles are called "jaws" and
a memorial plaque tells the sad story of a fatal accident in August 2002. Climb from Como Lake:
The jeep road continues well above Lake Como, climbing through the
last trees. Just as the trail/road emerges from the trees and the slope
eases, the route to Little Bear goes right, across the small creek
and up the large and very distinct couloir that tops out at the ridge
above. This climb is quite easy in late summer. Earlier in spring/summer,
the couloir is filled with snow and then an ice axe and crampons may be
needed. From the ridge there is a nice view into the next valley over.
The route continues left along a fairly distinct trail somewhat below the
ridge (on the right hand side of the ridge line).
However, one can also continue on the
very top of this ridge, this alternative is more fun and provides a very
good view also into the Como Lake valley as well as across to
Ellingwood Point. The ridge is wide and easy to follow until you
reach a distinct, small notch. This notch is the top of a much
steeper and more narrow gully that runs down to Blue Lakes area.
From this point on the ridge one should contour into the slope
below Little Bear Peak. There is a fairly distinct trail and it is
marked with cairns. First, there is a slight descent, once below
the gully the trail climbs upwards.
At this point one is in the lower part of the so-called Hourglass
a couloir of just that shape. There should be ABSOLUTELY NOBODY
above you at this point. This couloir is by far the most dangerous
place with respect to rocks on any fourteener. It is very difficult
to avoid releasing a rock if you are higher up, and any rock that
starts travelling down will almost certainly come straight through
the Hourglass. Even small rocks will have a velocity that can be
deadly. To make things worse, when climbing the narrow and most
difficult part of the Hourglass, there is virtually no escape to
get out of the way quickly. If in doubt, wait in safety.
The climb up the Hourglass is not very steep, but care is needed.
The best way is likely along the lowest (deepest) part of the
couloir or on the right hand side. The difficult section is about
40 meter of which about 5-10 meter is clearly class 4. There is a
rappel anchor at the top consisting of three pitons and slings.
Above this point, the terrain is still steep, but there are more
ledges, foot and handholds. It is perhaps easiest to continue upwards
bearing to the left, nearing the ridgeline. Higher up, one should then
do an ascending traverse to the right. This traverse will cross a
distinct rib that runs downward and partially defines some shallow,
parallel gullys. The rib requires a short, steeper climb (see
picture below). When the ascending traverse has brought you to a point
from which further progress directly up is easy, continue a short stretch
and find yourself near the summit of Little Bear Peak. Comments:
I did this climb with Dan Nielsen and Charlie Henderson from Vail.
small parties, the only sensible thing to do is to climb this
peak as a single party in order to minimize
the extreme danger of rock fall on this route.
Dan is an ultra marathoner and mountain race runner as well as having
across the US. Charlie is a competitive bicycle rider.
This climb marked Dan's last fourteener, achieving "ABC status"
(All But Culebra), the exception being Culebra which cannot be
legally climbed before the current owners of Taylor Ranch reaches
a minimal level of social awareness. (It is unclear when this might
On descent, Dan freeclimbed down while Charlie and I used the rope
(might as well, having carried it all the way up here) to rappel the
Hourglass. In order to be useful from the rappel anchor, the rappel
rope should really be about 50 meter (that is two times 50 meter of
rope). Once down, while pulling down the rope we released about three
rocks that came shooting down at lightning speed making giant
unpredictable hops. Charlie would seek shelter right, while I would
go left, however, the third rock made a clean and perfect hit at
my small pack that was left on a big flat area in the middle. The pack
shot out in the open air and then started down the slope below in big
jumps just like the rocks. It really looked bad and my thoughts went
to my digital camera and a GPS that was just below the top zipper without
any protection or case. The pack came to rest about 130 meter further
down and I could only sadly perceive the badly broken camera. When I
finally reached and recovered the pack; MIRACLE of the DAY: the camera
was unbroken and fully functional. I still cannot comprehend how that
was even remotely possible.
The climb took us 2 hours from the camp to the summit, we spent about
30 minutes on the summit and again about 2 hours on descent including
many stops for pictures and short rests to absorb the beautiful
landscape all around.
The ridge of Little Bear, the Hourglass
couloir is clearly visible in the middle of
the face to the right. The couloir comes directly
down from the distinct "v-shaped" horizon to the right
of the summit.