Over weekend I hit Sangre de Cristo mountains to climb Little Bear Peak. Normally, this time of year, there can still be a fair amount of snow in high country, especially in shaded couloirs like ones that lead up to summit of Little Bear. But this is not a normal year. Sangres had almost no snow this winter, and a warm spring has dried it all up.
When we headed up Little Bear Saturday, we only saw one patch of snow, about size of a city bus, near top. Not that it was smooth sailing. In crux couloir near top of mountain, which many climbers call " bowling alley" because its shape tends to funnel rock fall down into a narrow corridor where it has K.O.'d more than one climber, we found ice instead of snow.
Little trickles running down rocks had frozen during night and made bowling alley as slick as a skating rink. My partner and I had to swing out onto some exposed V Class rock to avoid it. It was one of those climbs where at some point, just for a moment, you realize you could really hurt yourself, so you better not screw up. I was particularly thinking this because my buddy is about to get married and if I brought him back mangled, or worse, I'd probably get in trouble.
But of course everything was fine. We reached top and had it all to ourselves. view was sublime. On way down, we scrambled down ice using an old rope left in couloir, which was a little scary, but better than any alternative we could think of.
All Sangres are now snow-free. We drove past Collegiate Peaks on our way back, and they still have quite a bit of snow. season is in full swing. Climb away. Bring your gaiters and watch for lightning.
I have five more fourteeners to climb and I hope to finish them all this summer.