Climb of South Face
Ski Decent of South Face
5242', 16 miles
Trying to figure out what I wanted to do this weekend, I saw a post by Jeff for a Blanca and Ellingwood trip. The group included BenfromtheEast, SurfNTurf, EmmaM, RJansen77, TheOtherIndian, dillonsarnelli, Derek, Aknox, and Claybird. This is the trip from more of a skiers perspective. I'm sure Jeff or someone else in the group will make a TR. This picture by Zambo was more than enough to make me want to give Ellingwood an attempt for a ski, taken two weeks earlier.
Looks like we just robbed an REI.
(Photo by Clay)
Of course no trip to Lake Como is complete without bare dry road.
There was enough snow to start skinning at 10,300ft, but unfortunately wouldn't be enough for skiing on the way down. The snow is very shallow and is made mostly of facets along the road.
We met Jim, Mike, and one of their buddies who had just done Ellingwood Point, on the way up. Getting Ellingwood, Jim (Dancesatmoonrise) now stands at 31 Calender winter 14er summits.
It was nearly Tebow Time when we got to the lake.
We all setup camp by Lake Como watching Little Bears impressive NW face get darker, and darker.
Derek and I took advantage of the cabin up there. No need to bring a tent if its available. Its pretty cool that people left a bunch of fuel and food in there. There was an ax in there that read "Donated to the Blanca shelter cabin by the US Army. Place back in the cabin after use."
Andrew managed to get a decent fire going.
Not being able to break the ice into Lake Como, or the creek, we were forced to melt snow for water. Time for bed now, the alarm is set for 530am.
Early morning light on Ellingwood point.
Alpenglow over the San Luis Valley.
Most of our group wanted to do the SW ridge of Ellingwood. I wanted to climb the route I planned to ski to check for conditions.
Gaining the bench.
Ellingwood Point's face.
Clay is a fast hiker. He disappeared beyond the bench and made good progress up Ellingwood Point. He got some cool pictures of us from far away.
Coverage is pretty thin. The snow pack was mostly bullet proof windpack with pockets of unsupportable facet and a breakable crust. Pick your poison. You can stay near the rocks and break through, or stay in the gully proper which is an icy no fall zone. I dug around a few times on the ascent and the hard windpack goes down to the rocks with depth hoar underneath. I got no ECT propagation, CT 19, a Q3 shear, and 2 lemons. Combined with the fact that it is a favorable Southern aspect, has lots of anchors, the bridging effect of the super hard slab, no recent signs of loading, and its had lots of time to adjust to the load of the last storm, I was confident in the stability of it.
The summit ski is in. Well, sort of.
Clay got a pic of us from Blanca.
Little Bear Peak is no little bear.
I Waited on the summit to fuel up for the decent. I knew it was going to be tough because of the conditions. Here comes Andrew, Dillon, and Rob up the final part of the SW ridge.
After chatting with the rest of our group about the SW ridge, I clicked in and made two jump turns, then a little ski traversing. I took the skis off and walked over to the highest "Skiable" snow on the false summit. No elevation lost on this traverse. The upper part of this ski route is steep and exposed. My edges held well in the bulletproof hard pack. Jump turns and side slipping were the preferred means of descending.
The jump turns went smoothly as I slowly picked my way through. Decision time, descend the entire gully into questionable, unknown conditions in a shady couloir. Or ski traverse and descend the route I had climbed and had inspected conditions. Plan B was the choice.
Don't forget to enjoy the view.
Almost home free
Stopped for a lunch break at the bottom, and made a phone call to my mom.
I met up with Clay and we chatted for a while. The ski out went pretty smoothly back to camp.
Back at camp we waited for everyone else. No one was looking forward to the Slog down the road. The skiing down the road did not last long. I switched to trail runners and walked dwon most of it.
Thanks for a great day everyone! Looking forward to climbing with you guys or crossing paths again!
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