I love drawing lines on maps and dreaming of sufferfests to do. I seem to squeeze out the most enjoyment from long ridge runs. I love being up high, teetering on top of a knife edge between two drainages, without the need of a trail to follow, yet having an obvious route in front of me. I revel in the exposure the position gives me to wind, weather, and of course: gravity.
The Continental Divide makes an obvious target for my doodles, and many of my past fastpacks have used segments of it already – either in whole or in part. Last year, I traversed the CD between Milner Pass and Berthoud Pass – located just outside my back door and earlier in that same year I traveled from Loveland Pass to Guanella Pass with a bike lashed to my back. Previously, I took on the Mosquito/Tenmile Range in total, where the CD makes an appearance for a few peaks (McNamee, Clinton, Wheeler), before bowing out. And of course, I’ve even ridden the Tour Divide Race on a mountain bike, which crosses the Continental Divide some three dozen times or so. All these trips had their unique aspects, and each one I believe is an ultra classic. What to do, next?
Segment #4 takes from around Georgetown to the base of Longs Peak! The MTB narrative rushes you down Argentine Pass to a resupply in Idaho Springs, then up Oh My God Road, to a mixed surface route to the trailhead.
Switchbacks with steep dropoffs! Ghost towns! 4WD mania! Alpine singletrack!
The Road narrative takes the same dizzying switchbacks of Oh My God Road to Richmond Street in Black Hawk, where you’ll wander up a steep, rough road up to the Peak to Peak highway. Peak to Peak is a ultra-classic road route in of itself, featuring wide-shouldered riding, perfect for all the rubber necking you’ll be doing because of the mountain views.
I’ve taken a ton of time to scout out free, dispersed, legal campsites near the East Longs Peak Trailhead – such opportunities get tight, as private property encroaches close to the route. But I think we’ve got some good ones.
Finish the Segment off with a summit of Longs Peak! The absolute Monarch of the Front Range and of Rocky Mountain National Park! All that’s left down is rocket you back to Golden – and that’ll be Segment #5.
Segment #3 takes you from Guanella Pass, up and over Argentine Pass, and deposits you in Horseshoe Basin, to tackle Grays and Torreys from Grays’ South Ridge Route. Georgetown is used as a resupply point. Enjoy!
I’m proud to be an ambassador for Ultimate Direction, especially since my outdoor adventures tend to defy easy categorization. I initially met Buzz Burrell, then Brand Manager of UD in 2014 on Longs Peak while completing the Longs Peak Radical Slam (which I’ve now done a few more times). Turned out, he was doing the same thing! Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t keep up with his pace on that day.
Luckily, Buzz found my Tour 14er trip I completed a few months later inspiring enough to invite me to become an ambassador for UD. Ultimate Direction is a local company to me, based only a few miles from my house – close enough that I’m always happy to stop by, say hello, give my feedback on products, and pet all the office dogs. Here’s a list of the UD gear that I love the most:
I’m currently writing some notes about my 2017 Tour of the Highest Hundred, where I bikepacked to the trailheads of all 105 Colorado Centennials, and then summited them by foot. This is a work in progress and the notes are currently spread in the post archives of this site:
(This article is updated periodically, and updates are listed on the bottom)
To not bury the lede and to respect the intelligence of my readers, here are the take home points:
If you decide to climb Little Bear via the West Ridge and Southwest Face route (aka The Standard Route), you’ll encounter the Hourglass Couloir. There are a lot of objective hazards not found on most other 14er routes, including plenty of rockfall and wet/icy conditions (even in summer).
Rockfall, particularly coming from those above you that are inadvertently kicking projectiles down may very well be your main objective danger.
There are often times fixed ropes on the route, put there anonymously. The ropes are utilized sometimes by people to ascend and descend the route.
The ropes may not be safe to use. They could be damaged from rockfall and general exposure to the elements, UV damage, and damage from animals gnawing on the rope.
It’s questionable if one can assess the health of the rope/anchor for use to aid ascending, no matter how well experienced a climber is, since the anchor in the system cannot be easily seen from the bottom of the route. Sometimes, it’s hard enough to see the ropes themselves, due to atmospheric conditions (fog).
The route can be done without these fixed ropes.
Damaged ropes – even a very damaged rope with the sheath completely cut away and only a few strands still held together, may be able hold enough weight to support a climber. There is no way to calculate how much weight can be supported.
It’s much easier for a skilled mountaineer to assess the quality and condition of the fixed gear (rope + anchor) from the top anchor when wanting to use the ropes to descend and make a judgement of their safety and utility – far more than assessing it from below for utilizing the rope for ascending.
If you do decide to do this route, realize the objective dangers, as well as the questionable conditions of these fixed ropes. Big takeaway: the ropes may not be in a condition to safely use. It will be up to you to decide if they are safe enough for you.