Northwest Face

Page Type
Colorado, United States, North America
Route Type:
Time Required:
Most of a day
class 4

Route Quality: 4 Votes

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71.06% Score
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Page By:
Northwest Face
Created On: Feb 23, 2004
Last Edited On: Apr 6, 2006

Fair Warning

Little Bear Peak is a dangerous mountain and this is a particularly difficult route. Over the years, a number of climbers have ended their careers on this peak. You should have considerable climbing experience before attempting it, or at least climb with someone who is experienced. When you are on the mountain, test every toe-hold. Not every knob of rock is secure. If the weather threatens early, get down and live to climb it another day. Do not use this route in foul weather.


Follow the so-called road to Como Lake, same as other routes on Little Bear or Blanca. The first photo below shows the beautiful view from the west end of Como Lake.

Although this route can be done in a single day from a parking spot part way up the road, I recommend setting up a camp at or above Como Lake. The lake is at 11,740 ft. There are heavily-used camp sites among the rotting cabins west of Como Lake and more exposed sites just beyond Como Lake, or above timberline near the Blue Lakes. I suggest a lower camp, in the trees for your protection from the elements, and for the benefit of the fragile tundra up above. Take an evening hike up the trail to get a good look at tomorrow's challenge.

Route Description

Little Bear - Northwest FaceLittle Bear

This is the *Classic* route that Gerry Roach describes in his book on the Colorado Fourteeners. It offers much excitement but requires constant attention. The route variations are infinite, but none will avoid the obvious difficulties. There is a great deal of exposed, class 4 climbing on the face of Little Bear. If you are looking for the easiest way to bag Little Bear Peak, consider the West Ridge route. I've climbed Little Bear both ways, and the west ridge feels safer, notwithstanding the increased risk of rockfall.

As you hike east from your camp toward the imposing northwest face, generally plan your route. Choosing the left half of the face should limit the difficulty to class 4. Ready or not, you will soon meet your challenge. Pick your route carefully among the cliffs and crags. As you ascend, aim generally to join Little Bear's northeast ridge, to the left of the summit. This avoids the steepest cliffs directly below the summit. Once on the ridge, you are even more exposed but the difficulty eases slightly, more so as you near the summit.

Essential Gear

Hiking boots, helmet.