Little Bear Peak 14,037'
12 July 2016
I arrived last night to find a half dozen cars and an RV at the lower 2wd trailhead. I crashed for about three hours and was hiking by 4a. Another short night followed by an early morning. I passed a half dozen more rigs on the road walk, then a tent city at Lake Como. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I didn’t see another soul on Little Bear the whole day. Guess all those folks were there to climb Ellingwood-Blanca. It’s surreal to think that I was the only person to stand atop Little Bear today. On any given day, it seems like there are loads of people on the high peaks. Guess that mid-week climb paid off.
While I was mostly grateful to be alone up there, I was overcome with anxiety and a strong desire to have a climbing partner as soon as the Hourglass came into view. Still, I figured I’d at least go up and have a look before I tucked tail and ran away. Once I got to the bottom, I figured I may as well climb a little, then a little more, then a little more. It wasn’t too bad until I got above the Hourglass. That’s when it got steeper and looser. I didn’t know I was up there alone, so I was careful and meticulous to avoid kicking any rocks down into the Hourglass. Route finding was difficult too, which meant that I ended up on a couple short, easy Class V pitches. Nothing too sketchy. Just scary enough to keep me honest.
It was hard to enjoy the summit knowing that I had to downclimb a thousand feet of steep, loose terrain and Class III/IV rock. My heart was filled with anxiety, again questioning my judgment to summit alone. I just wanted to be done. This climb really pushed me. It was awesome, and terrifying. I forced myself to capture a few photos, knowing I’ll never be back. I don’t even know how to describe the steep descent. Looking over the edge from the summit was like looking over a cliff. Couldn’t stay up there scared forever, so I started down. “One step at a time, just slow it down,” I kept reminding myself during the descent.
I’d hit the summit by 10a, a six-hour trek. Managed to clear the Hourglass by noon and the lower gully by 130p. The descent was far easier than I’d expected; much easier to see the route on the way down. No style points, though. Just the good ol’ butt scoot. Finally made it back to the car at 4p. That’s a 12 hour venture to cover just 14 miles, a far cry from my usual pace. Don’t underestimate this one, folks.