Little Bear – Just Another Peak?

L-Bear-over-SL-valley

Little Bear Peak (14,047′) From Blanca Peak Summit (14,345′), Sangre De Cristo Wilderness, Colorado

Depending on how you count them, Colorado has between 54 and 58 peaks over 14,000 feet and it’s a big thing for adventurers to climb them all. There are main peaks and sub-peaks, and there has to be a 300 foot drop between the main and sub-peak for the smaller mountain to count as a fourteener. Mountain geek stuff. Marla and I have been plugging away on the list for over 20 years and have summitted 45 fourteeners now, some more than once, so we have nine or ten left. Each peak has its own special challenges – distance, remoteness, weather on a given day, route-finding, altitude fickleness, fatigue, etc. It’s inevitable to climb the easiest and close to home peaks first, then gradually spread your wings until you’re left with ten technically challenging peaks, the ante upped, with enough risk to question commitment. That’s where we’re at. On our recent climb of Blanca Peak, Colorado’s 4th highest at 14,345′, and one of the four sacred peaks to the Navajo, we studied Little Bear Peak. Despite it’s gentle name, Little Bear has a bad reputation, randomly taking a life with rockfall or some other twist of fate. The only good route passes through the hourglass, a narrow class 4 bowling alley of loose rock. Guidebooks suggest avoiding weekends and climbing early, so no one is above you in the hourglass. Rockfall is never good, especially when there’s no escape. As we studied Little Bear from Blanca’s glorious summit, we asked ourselves why? Do we need to climb that mountain and take on unnecessary risk? What’s this quest about, destination or the journey?

2 thoughts on “Little Bear – Just Another Peak?

  1. I understand the appeal of climbing Colorado’s highest peaks, as well as having a defined goal of the top 54; but in the end, all it is is a LIST. And a somewhat arbitrary one at that. What about all the 13,900+ ft peaks, many of which are more impressive than most of the 14ers? Are those peaks meaningless just because they’re several feet lower? There’s so much more to a backcountry experience than just the elevation number of the summit. So I would say forget it. Why endanger yourself? Just for bragging rights of completing the LIST? Then again I’ve never been much of a peakbagger so I just can’t relate much to that perspective. If you really want to finish them all, perhaps you could hire a guide to lead up you up a more challenging but perhaps safer ridge route? (If that exists…)

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