Jeff and I parked along the Lake Como road and woke up at 4 am when John arrived with the Wrangler (33"s, lift, front/rear air lockers). We piled in with our gear and the roller-coaster began. We skirted around "Jaws 1" and cleared "Jaws 2" without a problem. We arrived at "Jaws 2.5" and after giving it a solid test run we decided we could spend a lot of time here or just park and start hiking. So we started on foot around 5:30 am.
We arrived at Lake Como with excellent views of Little Bear. Ellingwood and Blanca were for the most part obscured by soupy clouds. We climbed up the gully to 12600' and traversed below the ridge crest to the base of the Hourglass. Two climbers on the way down from the summit said they'd left in a hurry after feeling static buildup. But now the summit was swimming in sunshine, so we continued up the Hourglass. Albeit brief, this was a great snow climb. At the narrowest point of the Hourglass, the snow became hollow (there was water running under it), turned to ice, and then vanished. Fixed ropes led up from there. I tried to climb around the ropes but struggled when I lost three holds simultaneously and was left balancing on two crampon points. With considerable effort I moved over to the ropes and let my legs shake for awhile. We climbed to the summit and enjoyed nice views of the surrounding peaks and ridges, lakes, and valleys. Blanca and Ellingwood were holding back the clouds, leaving us in the warm sunshine.
On the descent we all used the ropes. I was first down and contemplated a glissade, but the snow had turned to slush. I climbed in reverse for 100' or so and attempted a short glissade, confirming my suspicions about the ability to self-arrest in such conditions. I finished downclimbing the aggravating slope. It took over an hour for our group to descend a few hundred feet. We traversed back over some fun ledges to the gully and spent another hour getting down it.
After a short hike (< 1 mi) we reached the jeep round 6:30 pm to close out our 13-hour hike. We rode the roller-coaster back down to "Jaws 1", which gave us a bit of trouble this time. The jeep got tippy and we had to do some landscaping and winching to complete the obstacle. On reaching our vehicles, we packed up and headed to Fort Garland in search of food. All-Gon Pizza had just closed but they made us a deluxe "to go," which we scarfed down on the tailgate of my truck in the rain. I think it was good pizza, but consider the circumstances..
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