Starting off the season right – Little Bear Peak Ski Descent – 2014-03-21

I’ve been itching for ski mountaineering season to roll back around, and we’re finally getting there. Much of the state isn’t ready yet, but with its thinner snowpack and warm, sunny weather, the Sangres are rapidly coming in to condition. The timing on this climb was a bit unusual, with Eric and I heading straight down for the climb after a full day of work on Thursday and skipping the couple hours of poor sleep that these days typically start with.

We made it up to 9,800′ on the Lake Como road before being stopped by snow, and were moving at 1am. Despite a relaxed-feeling pace, we made quick work of the road and hit the base of a north-facing couloir at 2:30am. This was our one point of concern in regards to snowpack stability, and we spent a full 90 minutes digging pits, poking around, discussing, and slowly working our way in to the line before making the call to continue upwards.

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By 4:30am we were on top of the ridge at 12,600′. For a while we made decent time, but the long, flattish sidehilling traverse took its toll.

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Conditions in the Hourglass were almost perfect for climbing, the vast majority being perfectly cramponable snow with only occasional bouts of wallowing. We were pretty worn out by this point though, and took about an hour to finish the top 500′.

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We topped out shortly after 8am, happy to be there and thrilled with the consistent snow coverage for the descent.

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The weather was as calm and comfortable as it gets, with no need for extra layers for lounging on the summit.

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Ready to descend, we took in the beauty of this mountain range one more time before pushing off.

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Conditions were quite hard and icy but exceedingly smooth and consistent which made for a fun, safe, enjoyable descent. We didn’t take any photos during the descent, but Eric had his POV cam running so here’s his video:

We were dreading the ski on the way up, but it turned out to just be fun and fast. Once out of the hourglass we zipped as far as we could along the ridge, then it was back to crampons.

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After what felt like an eternity, we were back to the notch in the ridge that drops to Lake Como. Greeting us was a fun, soft ski down that was pretty tough on our tired bodies.

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The road was miserable as expected, with the exception of sighting several bighorn sheep. At noon – eleven hours after starting out, and 31 hours after I woke up for work on Thursday – we were back to the car. The drive down the road was anything but trivial, but we made it, grabbed lunch in Blanca, and both made it home safely. I consider myself quite lucky in that I’ve skied all three of the Lake Como 14ers in only two trips up that miserable road. I couldn’t imagine a better way to kick off the spring peak season.

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