Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Little Bear

Over the past month or so, my dad and I began talking about climbing Little Bear Peak and traversing the ridge to Blanca Peak . We thought ourselves up to the task as we started the short 7hr drive to the Lake Como road at the base of Blanca Peak

For those of you that don't know, Como Road is probably one of the hardest four weel drive test pieces in Colorado. We were able to batter our way up the road until we reached about 10,000ft, where the road steepens and anyone without a specialized vehicle or any bit of common since is forced to stop. We threw on our packs and started up the road at about 5:30. 

We started hiking up the harsh road until we were able to watch a rock crawler descend the worst part of the road (there is a plaque there where a guy flipped his rig and died). We also ran into a couple climbers planning oh climbing Little Bear, Blanca, Mt. Lindsey, and Ellingwood Point via Como Lake. Props to those guys for at-least attempting such a feet. We continued on until 9:20 when we reached the lake at 11,700ft. 

While unpacking, I realized that I had forgotten to pack dad's sleeping pad meaning that I was going to have to be the one to sleep without. I began cooking dinner to realize that I had also forgotten to pack any spoons. Oh well, A nut tool and a couple of tent stakes work just fine!

After our strangely utensiled dinner, we fell asleep quickly to wake at 4:30. 
The alarm sounded and we began going through then process of preparing for the day. We hit the trail at 5:20 and started heading up the scree gulley towards Little Bear. 
Difficult and strenuous, the climb to the ridge was filled with loose screen. We gained the notch and began traversing toward the hourglass gulley the entire time welcomed by tons and tons of talus and scree (scralus). 

After about an hour and a half or so, we reached the bottom of the hourglass and we began ascending among the fixed ropes. Once at the anchor, we saw that one rope was cut down to two core strands! I decided to chop the rope at the anchor and throw the rope down. We climbed through the steep gulley made jt to the summit of Little Bear at 9:20. We looked across the ridge toward Blanca and surveyed the route before us. Still confident that our goal was attainable we started down the 4th class ridge. 

We scrambled down the first 100ft each step more exposed then the last. I began traversing across a sharp ridge at which point there were almost no feet, but bomber hands along the crest of the ridge. The slope fell away sharply and one wouldn't look very pretty after fall off this ridge. I was almost past the difficulty, when all of a sudden the 200lb boulder supporting my left hand (and maybe my right too, I don't remember) fell beneath me. With only miliseconds to spare, I grabbed the ridge crest with my right and swung my body to avoid the massive rock falling toward my legs. The rock glanced my left leg, but I had reacted in time and remained relatively unharmed. 

Needless to say, my adrenaline rose to above normal levels, though I was supprisingly calm for such a close call. My fears where more for my fathers as he has less climbing experience than I. I looked back at him and we decided to save the ridge for another day. We reversed our route and climbed back to the summit of LB. 

Descending from the top turned out to be quite an ordeal. The abundance of the scree made it impossible to avoid knocking rocks down the hourglass where we hoped there wouldn't be any unfourtate climbers. We rested at the anchors of the fixed lines and decided to rappel the best rope we could find and use the others as a backup. My dad went first and I followed. We traversed across the scrolls(scree/tallus) ridge back to the gully. We descended down to the jeep road and began walking through the scattered camping around the lake. 

We met a guy who camped just above 10,000ft and was parked at the base. W offered to give him and his partner a ride and he readily took us up on our offer and told us they'd meet us at our Jeep. We continued to our camp and packed up for the long road ahead. Across the river and through the woods to our jeep we came where the guy and his partner were waiting. 

We waisted no time packing the car and soon we all piled into the car.
They were very happy to be able to avoid the long "death march" down the mountain and we were happy to share the Love of Jesus with them. That is until the car wouldn't start..
We tried several times, but the car was d e d -- dead. Dad used my phone (he decided to murder his poor 3GS on the hike up) to call AAA and the two guys jumped out and tried to see if there were jumper cables in either of the to cars parked next to us. 
After about 3min with no solutions in sight, the two climbers decided to take the "death march" back to their car and give us a call once they got there to check up on us. 

The AAA agent couldn't even find the state highway we were close two and claimed it didn't exist (it's CO 150 and the only way to get to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.?). Thus she couldn't dispatch a toe truck of any kind to come help us. I texted Ben and alerted him to our situation in case he could figure out of any jeep services that could come up and give us a jump. After several calls to the AAA agent we finally directed her to the website and the directions to CO-150 and Lake Como Road. She contacted all the tow truck companies in Alamosa and was able to find a guy who had hear of Lake Como and thought he might be able to get to us. 

His boss, however, was less gun-ho on giving us a hand and ended up dispatching the tow truck guy to a wreck (understandable, but way to leave us hanging). Fortunately, the tow truck guy was a good person and called his friend who knew the road well to come and get us for $400 (the tow truck company was going to charge $600 cash and of course ATM machines only give $400 so we would have had a problem). The friend gave us a call and informed us that  he'd be there within a couple hours. 
We waited for a while untill we spotted his yellow H2 coming up the road far below. 
Soon he arrived and hooked up the jumper cables and gave us some water (we were all out and the area we were in was pretty much a desert). 

The car started just fine and he agreed to follow us to an ATM. The guy, it turns out, was the fire rescue guy for that area and this was not is first time to drive up the road performing rescues this year. Side note, his last tip up the road was to pull the body of a young climber who had fallen on the Hourglass. For that retrieval, the military actually dispatched a Chinook helicopter full of SAR and military personel. While they were backing toward the base of the traverse to lower SAR an get the body, an air current suddenly blew up under the forward blades and caused the rear blades to collide into the mountain. The helicopter made an "unexpected landing" (apparently military helicopters never crash) above Lake Como. Fortunately, no one was hurt and our rescue friend was able to assist in shuttling people down the road. Interestingly, the chinook was disassembled and carried down the road in pieces. 

Anyway, we made it down the road and to the small city of blanca  10 mín away by about 10. I filled the car while dad got the $$$ and we tried to start the car. Again, nothing. He gave us a jump ad offered go follow us to the Wallmart in Alamosa and help us put in a new battery. We did, and he did, and we both thanked him soo much for going above and beyond the call of duty. Too tired to drive 7 hrs back to Amarillo that night, we searched for a hotel with vacancy until we found one with a couple rooms left. We went to sleep and drove back the next morning with another addition to the list of stories and adventures. 

1 comment:

  1. Great trip report! Would hate to have car trouble up there. God definitely guided you away from that boulder. Keep sharing His love. Godspeed!


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