OverviewThe ridge between Little Bear and Blanca peak is definitely a classic. At a mile and a half as the crow flies, it feels at least that much on foot due to the elevation losses and gains.
The climbing is not technical nor is it difficult. That being said, the ridge is intimidating because it undulates back and forth, up and down and there is loose rock waiting to be stepped on, broken off and set airborne with very little encouragement.
Plan on between 2 to 5 hours making the traverse. If you travel sans rope and are comfortable making exposed moves with good hand and footholds 2 hours should get you through. If you travel roped with no protection and no belays (simul climbing) plan on 3 to 4 hours. If you plan on traveling roped with pro and belays plan on a whole day.
Most of the ridge is standard ridge stuff with large blocky rocks to navigate, flattened foot path sections atop the ridge proper, short detours off the ridge to avoid steep vertical sections of poor quality rock, and the unavoidable knife edge sections that require the stand-up, one foot in front of the other, hands out for balance technique or the 'butt scoot'.
Generally speaking the rock and climbing are better on the Little Bear side of the ridge. After the Dinosaur ridge section, heading towards Blanca, the exposure eases and the rock becomes more rotten, but for a couple of knife edge sections.
Route DescriptionThe route is best done from Little Bear to Blanca
Walk off LB's summit to the NE about 150ft. Traverse back towards the ridge to gain a large flat slab. Down climb this another 150ft. That is the crux. The rock is good and there are holds but it is steep and falls away sharply.
Continue along the ridge through blocky sections, knife edge sections and ridge top sections until you reach Captain Bivouaco Tower. Climb this direct, a couple of 5.5 moves, or move around it on its' North side. This move requires you to step around a bulge and down onto suspect rock, but with good hand holds and a long step down it is easy to move around the bulge to solid ground.
Moving beyond the tower you begin gaining elevation to a long isolated section of ridge with multiple high points. It looks like the ridge on the back of a Stegosaurus. Good rock, some scrambling, lots of exposure, great views, a good place to grab a snack, some water and take photos.
Beyond the dinosaur ridge is the Gendarme. This is what I refer to as tower 1 because from Little Bear the last three obstacles to Blanca's summit appear distinctly as Tower 1, 2 & 3. I think officially Tower 1 is called the Gendarme and Tower 2 is called point 13,900'. As you confront the Gendarme you quickly realize that it is tall, steep, and consists of very poor rock. However there is a crack system up it and possible lines of ascent using trad gear in one pitch. Without gear it is best to scramble around it to the South through the scree. This scramble forces an elevation loss of about 200' or more.
Beyond the Gendarme you enter the saddle between Blanca and Little Bear. This is where you could easily escape to the South down scree slopes.
With the Gendarme behind you gain the ridge again and follow it up and over T2 where there is a long section of undulating knife edge ridge consisting of good rock. This again drops you into a saddle at the base of T3.
Ascend T3's broad slope up slabs to blocky rock and beyond it's summit after one more 20 meter section of knife edge you are deposited onto Blanca's upper summit slope.
Scramble to the top of Blanca!
Essential GearWater, Food, Suncreen, Rain Gear, Camera.
It can be very hot along the ridge if the sky is clear and no wind is present.
If you choose to rope up, go with a shorter length of rope between climbers otherwise the rope will snag often and likely dislodge loose rocks.
There are cracks and horns for gear if so desired. Long runners would be best.
Good boots that grip granite well would be fine. Rock shoes are great, but be sure they're comfy because it is a long walk - think blisters!