Little Bear to Blanca Peak Traverse

One of the most technical and challenging mountaineering challenges found on Colorado's 14ers!

Alpine Climbing Difficult

Distance
8 km
Ascent
951 m
Descent
951 m
Low Point
3.6 km
High Point
4.4 km
Gradient
29˚
Little Bear to Blanca Peak Traverse Map

The Little Bear to Blanca Peak linkup is one of the most technical and challenging mountaineering challenges found on Colorado's 14ers. The traverse is rated Class 4, but features several 5.5 moves, blurring the line on the difficulty rating. But this only makes the iconic, rocky ridge traverse that much more attractive to Colorado's diehard mountaineers.

Description

The linkup begins by ascending Little Bear Peak. Thanks to a demanding Class 4 climb with extreme rockfall danger, Little Bear Peak is renowned as one of the most technical 14er summits in Colorado. In addition to the technicality, it's an objectively beautiful summit that provides a satisfying objective for climbers.

The hike begins by following the rough Lake Como/Blanca Peak 4x4 road, until eventually splitting off onto a singletrack trail. After climbing through some talus and good rock, you'll approach the southwest face, where the climbing gets dramatically more difficult. Once you pass 13,300 feet, 14ers.com directs you to "locate the 'Hourglass' gully." You'll then climb this technical gully, following a fixed rope or two to reach the upper anchors.

The rest of the route to the summit "is loose and dangerous, and there's no obvious line," according to 14ers.com. Proceed with caution and carefully pick your line to the summit. Due to the dramatic amount of loose rock on this climb, helmets are highly recommended.

Once on top of Little Bear Peak, you'll turn to the north to begin the traverse to Blanca Peak. Before you begin, be sure to check the weather. If you have any doubt about the weather holding, you should return the way you came. This exposed, rocky ridgeline requires at least 2 hours of class 4 climbing and traversing, if you forgo ropes and protection. "If you travel roped with no protection and no belays (simul climbing) plan on 3 to 4 hours," according to Sunnysummit on SummitPost.org. "If you plan on traveling roped with pro and belays plan on a whole day," he cautions.

The traverse requires a slew of technical climbs, traverses, and descents. Some of the rock moves required to negotiate the rock towers are even rated as 5.5, leading some climbers to protect with trad gear and ropes. Remember, if you plan to utilize climbing gear for safety, you'll need to plan plenty of time to complete your route and get back below treeline before noon.

Once on top of Blanca Peak, you'll descend via the standard northwest ridge route. Descend the ridge, and then drop down the steep slope from the low point of the saddle.

Sources: https://www.summitpost.org/little-bear-peak/150456 https://www.14ers.com/route.php?route=litt6&peak=Blanca%2C+Ellingwood+and+Little+Bear https://www.summitpost.org/little-bear-to-blanca-traverse/157610

Difficulty

Difficult

The beginning of truly technical terrain which might involve pitched climbing on rock and/or ice, exposed terrain and complex route finding in ascent and descent. Equivalent to AD, AD+

Extreme Exposure

4 out of 4

The majority of the route is "no fall" terrain.

Remoteness

4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

July, August, September

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area