Head wounds bleed like a stuck pig.
Lake Como Road is known for it’s difficult 4WDing, but hiking up it is just awful. It is a steep, loose, rocky- road.
Starting up Lake Como Road as far as Bertha would make it. 8,300.
It was quite warm, with very little shade- but I made it up to Lake Como early enough to set up camp, and relax with my climbing partners, Beth and Will.
There was an amazing sunset, foreshadowing the next days climb, There will be blood.
There Will be Blood. (Little Bear) Courtesy of Beth Biersdorf.
Lake Como. Courtesy of Beth Biersdorf.
We began hiking around 6:45-7AM, rising through the valley towards Little Bear, Blanca, and Ellingwood Pt. Our goal for the day was to climb the Northwest Face route of Little Bear rather than the standard route with the hourglass gully- it was after all Memorial day weekend, generally a bunch of inexperienced climbers would be kicking rocks down on us, and wouldn’t be wearing helmets.
After completing the Northwest face, we would continue across the Little Bear/ Blanca traverse, and continue to Blanca/ Ellingwood traverse. A long, difficult, but fun day!
We arrived at the base of Little Bear’s Northwest face, and sized up the climb….and even better- we were the first ones on that route!
Looking up the wall of the Northwest face.
After discussing our route, we began scrambling up the loose, chossy, but sometimes solid-face. We realized soon after starting that it could potentially be dangerous, so we decided to work at angles, as not to kick rocks down on each other, and this was working swimmingly!
Will looking down on us.
About 400′ vertical from the traverse ridge, two fellows came blazing past us, straight up the face.
Normally this wouldn’t be too much of an issue, however 200′ vertical from the ridge we hear, “ROCK! ROCK! ROCK!”- I pinned myself to the right as a spray of rocks came sailing 20′ over my head. I lift my head, and watch as a softball sized rock- SLAMS off of the back right side of Beth’s helmet. Everyone froze.
She sat there stunned for a moment then says, “I’ve been hit! There is so much blood!” and similar things. I sprang into action, and began to ask the normal questions- Are you okay? What’s in your first aid kit? Etc.
I scrambled up to where she was crouching, she keep saying “There’ s so much blood.”– I didn’t see any– and asked her to stand up and look at me. The blood was dripping down the side of her face, and had soaked the straps of her helmet, her shirt.
We had all packed rather light for this traverse, and I happened to have a Quikclot in my pack, and Will had a clean bandanna.
In order to figure out exactly where the bleeding was coming from, I had to remove her helmet. It had hit right in the back of her head, but luckily looked like a flesh wound– so after it bled through the gauze, I took the Buff off of my neck to stem the bleeding while I pulled out the Quikclot.
By this time, Will had descended with the bandanna, and was helping me put tie the bandanna around the Quikclot on the back of her head. Everything was covered in blood.
No sooner did we get the bandanna situated, then the echoing of “ROCK! ROCK! ROCK!” resounded from the traverse. I looked up to see the trajectory of these rocks, hoping it wasn’t heading towards us, however one spray went to the far right of us, but a big cantaloupe sized rock was heading directly for Beth and myself. I watched the rock for a moment, to determine if it would bounce high above us, or the unpleasant alternative.
It was heading directly towards Beth’s un-helmeted head, I shoved her against the wall and ducked- it landed right where we had just been crouched, and sailed over my shoulder. I didn’t have time to react to the fear, I just yelled up to stop moving. I handed Beth her helmet, and told her to put it on. She doesn’t remember that happening.
I asked if she wanted to head back, after checking her for signs of a concussion, or any other head trauma, we made the decision to finish Little Bear, and scrap the traverse.
We continued slowly up to the traverse, and once on the ridge line, it was a cakewalk, though we did rope up for one section due to nerves, and hyper-cautious safety. I usually would not have used a harness/ or gear- but we already had a rough morning, and It’s better to be safe.
The ridge to the summit.
And it’s always a good day when everyone has summited, and lived to tell the story.
We all made it, a bit shaken.
We decided to descend by the Standard Route, and used prussik’s on the fixed line. It was covered in water, and very slick.
Descent using prussik’s.
Once down this section, the rest of the route was rudimentary- and we made it back to camp in one piece. It was determined that we would all walk out, I really wanted to get out of there, it was a frightening ordeal.
Little Bear 14, 037 #18 on the #30by30.
Thankfully it was only a superficial headwound, and Beth was fine.
I had not had something like this happen on any of my other trips, but I was proud that I was able to stay calm, and use the first aid that the Colorado Mountain Club taught. Now, I’ve been inspired to get my certification as a Wilderness First Responder, all in due time!