Little Bear Peak Route Guide | The Deadly Hourglass Gully
With a name like Little Bear Peak, you’d think it was a tame 14er to summit. In reality,this mountain is notorious, one of the most difficult and deadly 14ers in the state. Take the time to review my Little Peak Route Guide (but check other sources too!)
The Hourglass Gully that leads to the summit has taken multiple lives due to the loose, rotten rock that lines its sides. It’s a long climb with a long approach best done over multiple days. Wait to tackle this peak until you’re an experienced peak bagger. Start planning with my Little Bear Peak Route Guide.
Little Bear Peak Fast Facts
Little Bear Peak Route Guide - West Ridge
I start my Little Bear Peak Route Guide from the approach. You’ll start your trip at Lake Como Road. There’s no real trailhead, instead just drive up the road until you no longer feel comfortable with the terrain. Follow the road as you switchback your way into the right gulch and continue until you reach Lake Como where the road ends around 11,750 feet. There are good camping spots around the lake, and this is a good place to spend the night if doing an overnight ascent.
Little Bear rises to the east above you. After hiking around to the far side of the lake and just through the woods, watch for a small cairn marking your spot to leave the trail up to Blanca Peak. Look for a gully up the West Ridge ahead of you that ends in a v-shaped notch at the top. This is your next main objective.
Continue through talus, following cairns, until you reach the bottom of the gully around 12,000 feet. The gully is steep, watch for falling and rolling rocks and leave ahead of you. Follow the trail segments you come across 600 feet up to reach the notch along the ridge.
Turn left (east) at the top of the notch and start climbing the ridge. The rock here is still stable. A short distance into this section, bypass the top of a 12,960-foot ridge point by traversing below it. Descend to a notch in the ridge. From here, the remaining route to the southwest face is clearly visible. Continue to the southwest face. Here you’ll find the base of a gully called the “Hourglass.”
The route gets a lot more difficult from this point onward. Be prepared for dangerous climbing on Class 3 and Class 4 terrain. Many people have died climbing the hourglass. Take time here to check the weather before moving on.
Just avove 13,300′, locate the “Hourglass” gully. It’s common to see a fixed rope left by unknown parties hanging down the middle. Significant debate exists about whether it’s safe to use the rope, so don’t plan on it unless you can clearly inspect it. The rock here is notoriously loose. Watch out for rockfall from this point forward at all times. Scramble into the base of the gully and start climbing.
When you reach the narrowest crux, there may be water or ice running down the center. Climb along the side of the couloir if needed to avoid it. Continue up solid, Class 4 rock to reach the top of the fixed rope (if there is one). The rest of the route to the top is loose and dangerous and with no clear line or trail.
From the top of the gully, continue slightly left or right and climb a final 100 feet of steep rock. Then you’ll find easier, more solid terrain. Towards the center of the slope you may find bits of trail to take to the top. Take your time through this final section to reach the summit.
At the top, enjoy your accomplishment! Leave plenty of time for your descent down the Hourglass which takes time to stay safe. I hope you enjoyed my Little Bear Peak Route Guide.
Hiking & climbing 14ers is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
Hiking, scrambling and climbing up Colorado’s high peaks are inherently high-risk, dangerous activities. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my Little Bear Peak route guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own risk.
About the Author: Alex Derr
Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.