Little Bear/Blanca Traverse

Page Type Page Type: Custom Object
Location Lat/Lon: 37.56670°N / 105.4967°W
Additional Information Object Type: Route


The traverse between Little Bear and Blanca is one of Colorado's four great fourteener traverses. Some say it is the most difficult of the four. The traverse can be completed from Blanca to Little Bear and visa versa. The traverse is best done from Little Bear to Blanca and will be described accordingly. The traverse is about 1 mile and takes between 2-8 hours to complete.

Route Description

From Little Bear's summit descend north along an exposed ridge for about 300 yards of Class 4. This initial stretch can be tricky and is one of the route's cruxes. Continue in a northeasterly direction along the top of ridge. There is alot of Class 3 and Class 4 climbing with some Class 5.0-5.2 moves required in places along this traverse. 1/4 of a mile along the ridge brings you to a square block about 30 ft high that blocks easy passage. This tower is affectionately called Captain Bivwacko Tower. Pass this tower on the left (west) side via a short, exposed Class 4 traverse. Scramble back to the ridge crest and continue on or near the ridge over several more, smaller summits.
Near the halfway point, the Blanca/Little Bear saddle (13,660 ft) is reached and the exposure eases a bit. Continue scrambling past the saddle until reaching a large gendarme (Point 13,860) about 2/3 of the way across the traverse. This gendarme blocks progress and is passed by scrambling across scree on the right (south) side. Continue climbing into a deep notch via a loose gully. The north side of this notch is the deep chimney seen from Crater Lake on the Blanca approach.
From the notch east of Point 13,860 climb along the more gentle ridge crest to another exposed knife-edge ridge. The rock is surprisingly solid on this ridge. Cross the ridge and cross another subsummit and notch. Blanca is close. Climb and easier, but steep, ridge to Blanca's summit.

Essential Gear

Some may choose to bring along a rope for protection on the exposed ridge. Ropes tend to cause a longer time committment to complete the traverse and may increase the risk of getting caught in a thunderstorm. The ridge is not the place to be during a storm and escape is nearly impossible. Thoroughly assess the weather, your energy level, and your comfort level with exposure before launching on this traverse.