Tuesday, June 1, 2010

TR: Little bears on Little Bear

Oh yeah ... first 14er of 2010! Little Bear Peak ... arguably one of the toughest 14ers in Colorado (in fact, I'd say it ties with Capitol Peak for the title of "Most Difficult Colorado 14er").

Peak: Little Bear Peak
Location: Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Colorado, USA
Elevation: 14,037'
Route: Hourglass Gully
Distance/Elevation Gain: 13 miles RT/6200'

I wrote a trip report and posted it here.

One question that came up among the group was whether Little Bear was harder than Capitol, which most regard as the most difficult 14er in Colorado because of the extremely exposed knife-edge ridge that must be crossed on the standard route. After a bit of thought, I concluded that they are really about equal -- Capitol is more mentally challenging due to the exposure on the knife-edge (and most of the rest of the route to the summit after crossing that), but Little Bear was more physically challenging.

Though the actual mileage for each peak is pretty similar, the Capitol Creek Trail is a pleasant, scenic hike, and the grade is not too strenuous. The approach up the Lake Como road is nothing short of someone's version of hell. It's extremely hot, there isn't much vegetation (for shade), the road is really rocky, and the grade is pretty steep. Hiking up the first part of that road, I was almost worried that I wouldn't have enough energy for the summit attempt the following day.

On the other hand, the climb up the hourglass (keep in mind, it was full of snow so rockfall was not a very significant danger) was extremely fun. I'd say it probably averages around 40 degrees, and it doesn't get any steeper than 45, which is, for me, steep enough to keep things exciting but not so steep that I get nervous. Capitol was a fun climb, but the exposure on the ridge did scare me a bit.

I will say this though: I would definitely be willing to climb Capitol again, and if there's one 14er that I really would not want to climb again, it would be Little Bear. Don't get me wrong, it was a fun climb, and the views from the summit were spectacular, but I'm relieved to be able to check that one off the list.

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