|Page Type:||Trip Report|
|Lat/Lon:||78.91616°N / 11.31003°W|
|Date Climbed/Hiked:||Sep 4, 2015|
Traverse of Little Bear to Blanca Peak- September 6, 2015
I had been trying for two years to get my prior 14eener traverse partners to regroup to do this traverse, but to no avail. So this time I asked some rock climbing partners to come along and once they saw the trip reports and the amount of rock to climb/traverse, they were in.
I had been put off by the tails from other experienced climbers that they had partners who did not enjoy this and would not finish the traverse OR that weather came in and shut them out. So I knew having some dependable and adventurous friends would be important (as well as someone who had a bad ass 4x4 to get us up the road). Mission accomplished with Eve and Nestor.
We arrived at the base of the road at about 9am (after driving up to Alamosa from Phoenix Arizona the day before). The road was truly as bad as everyone says and we already saw about 30 cars parked at the 8000 to 8700 ft mark on the road. No fear, we rocked on and made it all the way to 9500 (could have gone to creek if we'd tried) and headed up for the 2.5 mile hike in.
We got to camp and were surprised how many people were up there. ATVers and rockcrawlers were up there too (fishing/hunting). We set up camp, left Eve to make fire and Nestor and I scouted out the start of the climb, as we were leaving early in the dark. The entrance to the gully is well marked as is the "route/trail " up the initial scree field to the first bench. Cairns are on the bench up to the gully, but the gully is obvious.
We go back to camp and finally get dry wood and get a fire going and settle in and organize for the am.
The next morning the approach to the gully start goes fast, but we are so anxious we zip by the start and have to backtrack to find the cairns that were so obvious in the light of day.
The cairns are useless in the dark, so just look up to the skyline and look for the notch in the gully and head up staying to the left once you get into the gully. As most posts say, stay on the left with one foot and hand on the hard rock wall as much as possible to minimize being in the scree/dirt. Once you hit the saddle, the trail to the climbers left is clear and marked with cairns. You are now in for an easy 30-45 minute hike to the bottom of the Hourglass. We are all so happy to get off the hiking and get to more vertical terrain. I don't know how non-climbers make it through here with out feeling a little nervous. The possibility of falling/slipping is always present with a 2000ft butt slide! The hand and foot holds are all there but it is definitely slick and slippery when wet (as it was). You can use the ropes, but you will spend a lot of energy pulling yourself up, better to just climb upward as there are lots of options up the gully. There were three guys pushing up behind us, obviously hoping that we would not knock rocks down (we didn't), but glad we were first up the gully. We get to the top and begin the moves to the summit and hit it at 10am. Great weather and stellar view of the traverse!! Five other guys show up and after a 15 min break we all begin the downclimb. This is the BIZ. Again it is all therr and as climbers we were pretty comfortable, but as non-climbers, the guys behind us were watching us. The exposure is the crux, the moves not so much. Look carefully at all sides and you can find a hand and foot hold.
After the downclimb, it is all pretty evident, with a slight worn trail as many people have been making their way (no cairns through this point). I am not sure when we really hit the Bivouac Tower, because the descent to the left ridge did not seem very hard to find. When in doubt, do as the other trip reports say and descend to the climbers left. Head straight up and over the towers on the ridgeline for the full effect and after the towers, descend down on the climbers right to a scree field with a trail which will get you to the saddle before the climb up to Blanca. Going back up on the rock after the traverse is another area that has a big exposure component, but big hands and foot holds will be there for you. After that, it is a straight forward climb up the face of the ridge to the Blanca summit. This section was a blast, low 4th class scrambling at 14,000 ft woot woot!!!! This part gave me grins although my Diva was showing. It disappeared when the snickers bar from Eve came out at the summit (Thx Eve)!!
We got to the summit at 12:30 and decided that going onto Ellingwood was not going to happen, as this would cause us to likely have to exit that gnarly road in the dark. No bueno, instead we descended the trail down (it was long and beat me up) and got to camp, broke it down and were in Alamosa for pizza by 7ish.
Unfortunately, now I have to go back and get that 14eener. No backpacking and camping for me, I will just try it in a one day light is right day...whose in?