| Blanca, Ellingwood and Little Bear on Father Day Weekend
With the family out of town for another Father’s Day weekend, the plan was to hike in on the infamous Lake Como “road” Friday afternoon, camp Friday night, on Saturday attempt Blanca and Ellingwood, camp again, on Sunday attempt Little Bear and then hike out and head home exhausted. Whew… a big weekend was planned now could I come through on it?
The hike in with my roughly 35 lb pack was long and hot at just over five miles one-way gaining roughly 3,700 feet in elevation. The flies buzzing around as I hiked in distracted me from how hot and tired I was getting as the road wore on and on and on... Finally, after 3 and one half hours I made it to Lake Como and was finally able to shed my backpack.
It was certainly worth the hike though as this is one of the most beautiful spots I’ve come across in Colorado!
After meeting and making plans with a new hiking partner for Saturday and a simple (i.e. cold) meal I snapped the below photo of Little Bear at sunset and then headed off for an early night to bed.
Though somewhat dark, the below is a photo looking back towards the lake and campsites.
Up and on the trail to Blanca at 5 am, we were certainly benefiting from already having hiked in to 11,700 feet the day before.
The moon setting over the ridge to Little Bear as the day was just beginning.
It was a cool morning but the below photo gives a much colder feel.
Having gained some elevation on Blanca the following is a look back at the shadow of Ellingwood on the approach.
The route up Blanca looked very steep as we approached and maybe we kept moving as fast as we did to stay warm, but we gained the summit relatively quickly. We were on the summit at 7:30 am.
Heading up the final ridge and getting close to the summit.
Made It! Tommorow's challenge Little Bear in the background – yipes...
We stayed on the summit of Blanca for an hour – which is longer than I typically stay. Still, it was hard to head down from such a beautiful spot. Ah well, on to Ellingwood.
We debated about taking the ridge to Ellingwood (which looked spiky and with some difficult sections) or dropping into the basin, giving up precious elevation and then heading back up to Ellingwood. Ultimately, we decided to avoid the ridge, which everyone later agreed was the right decision. It was a quick trip to get on the summit of Ellingwood.
Though it was admittedly a day early we were inspired to make an impromptu sign to wish our Father’s well from the summit!
On the way down from Ellingwood and back to camp at mid-day we were graced with a big horn sheep sighting!
We arrived back at camp at roughly 2 pm and more than a little worn out from hiking in the day prior and from making it to the top of two summits on Saturday. Luckily I didn’t have to hike out that day and soon found myself in the tent getting some much needed rest.
I awoke to a very different but not unpleasant setting. Friday night the lake was filled with campers and much activity. Stepping out of my tent Saturday afternoon, I was surprised to see almost everyone had packed up and left! I suppose with Father’s Day the following day everyone had to get home to celebrate with their families. It seemed like some kind of a guilty pleasure to have Lake Como practically to myself!
Being alone at the lake left me to contemplate my solo attempt on Little Bear the following day. I can honestly say I vacillated between thinking I could make the summit safely and thinking I was foolish to even attempt such a thing.
Sunday’s nemesis (below).
Sadly, my camera battery died sometime Saturday afternoon / evening so I wasn’t able to get any photos of my run on Little Bear but it was wonderful.
I didn’t see a soul all day. No surprise but by far the highlight of the day was the Hourglass. By mid-June the snow had all but completely melted out of the Hourglass. Though it was strange to be all alone it was a relief to know no one would be above me and potentially knocking rocks down on me from above.
There was a small snow field to get to the Hourglass, so I was glad to have my crampons and ice ax – even if it was only for a roughly 40 foot stretch. At the bottom of the Hourglass there was a climber’s rope fixed directly in the middle of the route. I may not be the best at estimating distances but the rope appeared to be about 100 feet long or so (multiple ropes tied together). After testing the rope and feeling it was secure, I headed up. This was a new level of climbing for me which was very exciting. Without the rope this part of the route would have been very difficult if not past my ability so I was thankful it was there.
Getting to the top of the climber’s rope was difficult, but the difficulty wasn’t over yet! I found myself having to negotiate class 3+ moves to make it to the summit. It was great getting to the top of Little Bear and the second I reached the summit a feeling of elation washed over me – I made it! This wonderful feeling was short-lived however as it was followed right away by the feeling I had the previous night – fear… I still had to get down.
Luckily getting down proved to be difficult but not as bad as I had expected. Once out of the Hourglass I began to relax and knew that the rest of the route would be easy compared to what I had just gone through.
Back at the lake it was time to break-down camp and start the long hike out and back to the car.
All in all, it was a great weekend. There was beautiful scenery, I met some new friends, found the peace I always do from being in the mountains and the satisfaction from coming through on some bar-raising goals!
And having made it to the top of Little Bear and back safely, I made sure I called my family as soon as I was within cell range!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):