Our party (Matt, Leah, and I) hiked the Holbrook Creek 4WD road (tough jeep trail) on Independence Day. We left at about 9:00 a.m. and arrived at Como Lake at about 1:30 p.m. We stopped one time for lunch just slightly before the jeep trail crosses Holbrook Creek.
We scouted out the NW face route of Little Bear after establishing camp and developed a plan of attack for the next day. Our intent was to ascend Little Bear by 9:00 a.m., and then after a brief rest, traverse the connecting ridge to Blanca Peak. The next day we began our climb from the high camp at Como Lake at 5:30 a.m. We reached the Black Hand at about 6:30 a.m. and prepared to climb. Matt led and I followed.
We negotiated 4 pitches that seemed to be 20 to 25 feet in height. The climbing was Class 4. Good holds were present throughout and no difficulties presented themselves to us. We then traversed to the east (left) to enter the gully above the Black Hand, and subsequently encountered a less severe slope that we characterized as Class 3 scrambling. This then gave way to renewed Class 4 pitches that provided sustained exposure for at least 400 feet. We aimed for a black spot in the center of the gully and then from there angled initially east, and then west to gain the ridge. We topped out on the ridge at the base of the Knife Edge on Little Bear's east ridge connecting to Blanca Peak. We then climbed this ridge to Little Bear's summit. We gained the summit at 9:30 a.m. and then rested briefly. Regrettably, weather was rolling in from the north and west, and we decided to about our planned traverse to Blanca Peak.
It started to actively rain as we put our rain gear on and began the down climb on Little Bear's SW face, which empties into the hourglass. The hourglass and down climb demanded our attention with the rain-slicked rock, but we negotiated this section without incident. Once out of the hourglass proper, the weather passed and sunny skies returned. We were disappointed that we had decided against the traverse to Blanca Peak; one never knows though. Better safe than sorry.
In any case, we returned to Como Lake via the long traverse along the west ridge of Little Bear, and then dropped into the notch after Point 12,980. The scree slide down the notch was uneventful. Similarly, our hike from Como Lake to the 2WD trailhead the next day did not offer surprises. I was very satisfied with this outing in general, in terms of what we were able to accomplish; yet I was quite disappointed that we could not do the traverse, which is what our major objective had been to do. The mountains will still be there next time. The connecting ridge is quite impressive. Both Matt and I wished we had tackled it.
Conditions Weather Sunny; no wind; Temperature: 75 Degrees @ trailhead; 50 degrees at summit; great weather bright and sunny throughout trip
Climbing Companions: Matt Jerousak from Colorado Springs