Little Bear-Blanca Traverse
Avg: 3.8 from 71 votes
|FA:||Joe Merhar and Dale Norton, 1931, FWA: Charley Mace, solo, 1981|
|Page Views:||20,475 total, 118/month|
|Shared By:||Josh Janes on Aug 31, 2003|
|Admins:||Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac|
DescriptionAs Gerry Roach writes in "Colorado's Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs," "Simply put, this is Colorado's most astonishing connecting ridge."
The mile-long ridge between Little Bear Peak and Blanca Peak is beautiful and awe inspiring. Anyone attempting it should probably consult a real guidebook for details. My purpose in listing it here is to make a few notes (rather than provide a detailed route description) and to open this up for comments.
Both Gerry Roach and Louis Dawson's guides provide excellent, thorough route descriptions. However, route finding on this ridge is very easy: simply put, you just don't have that many options. For 95 percent of the climb you stay on the very apex of the ridge. Exceptions being skirting the "Captain Bivwacko Tower" to the left (looks hard but only requires one highly exposed move) and then later skirting Point 13,860 to the right (this obvious roadblock comes shortly after the Little Bear/Blanca saddle and is a vertical wall that blocks the way) by descending slightly, cutting across some talus, and then immediately heading back up to the ridge crest again. The climbing is very exposed almost the entire way and there is almost no relief from this so be prepared. Generally the whole ridge is 3rd-4th class with a few sections of harder 4th class bordering on easy 5th class (approach shoes should be sufficient). There are no sustained sections on the climb and you can rest wherever you want. However, the true crux may be in maintaining a high level of concentration for a mile of dangerous climbing. Rock quality is usually very good but test your holds. The ridge can be windy.
Guidebooks suggest doing the traverse from Little Bear to Blanca. I believe the traverse could be done in the other direction without adding difficulty, however the traverse would be significantly more tedious in this direction. Also, apparently typical times range from 2-8 hours for the traverse. We moved at a very casual pace and took frequent breaks and still finished in 2 1/2 hours. I can't imagine a time of more than 4 hours to be "typical."
Good luck if you decide to tackle this! The route is truly awesome and a whole lot of fun!