Team: nkan02 (Natalie), 2aron (Aaron), awilbur77 (Adam), sevenvii (Chris), Denali (Chris’ pup)
Distance: 14.2 miles RT
Duration: 14.5 hours
Elevation gain: ~5,000’ Blanca, +500’ Ellingwood
The Sangre Zenith stands proud.
An early-winter ascent of mighty Blanca was on my “wish list,” and we got a good group together. We decided to tackle these peaks as a daytrip. Blanca was the focus, and some of us might be interested in Ellingwood too. As a personal motivator, I couldn’t WAIT to get some winter pics of Little Bear from the summits!
I wasn’t looking to fart around with a “half-fast” attempt at these babies. So we agreed on a 2am meet-up time at the start of the Como Road. When I showed up, it was a cozy -15 degrees, according to the rest of the team, who car-camped. (I decided to be spoiled and stay the night at the Best Western in Alamosa. Hey, don’t give me that look!)
Man, we lucked out at this next part. Not only did Aaron have a sick Ford 150 Raptor and Adam an awesome Jeep Wrangler, but these guys took the group up to 9,500’!! Yes, there was a little nerve-wracking slippage en route, but every foot beyond the 8,800’ mark made me happy on the inside!
At 3:15am, we were off like a turd of hurdles. We were very thankful for the crew that had been up here the previous weekend, as the trail to Lake Como was well plowed! Adam hung back a little, and the rest of us cranked on and arrived at Lake Como at 5:45am. At this point, the snowshoes wanted to play. As we strapped ‘em on, we audibly noted how cold it was. I was also feeling the vibes from the group, like, “WHY did we need to start so dang early, again??”
But, an early start warrants rare, spectacular views!
Finally, some light!
Blanca lookin' bare (on the right)... sweetness!
A, B, C, and D climbing up. Photo: Natal-E
Chris and Denali making solid progress. Photo: Natalie
Natalie and Aaron did a spectacular job of breaking trail. I didn't even need to bust out the horse crops.
Natalie at first light. Photo: Natalie
Aaron at first light. Photo: Natalie
Later, I discovered that Adam had to return to his Jeep around 12,000’ because of a bad case of AMS. I’m glad he was able to get down safely. And then around 13,000’, Chris reported that his feet were suffering from the cold, and he needed to head back down with Denali (his dog). Bummer!
So that left Natalie, Aaron, and me.
We hung out in the shadows to truly savor the frigid winter Como air.
Looking back and wishing the sun were on us.
Ellingwood Point from the route up Blanca.
As Blanca got closer, we got excited! The three of us found the ridge fun and straightforward. Soon we were near the top!
Aaron and myself scrambling to the top. Photo: Natalie
Bring us that SUN!
A picture Aaron can show his grandchildren. Photo: Natalie
As we topped out on Blanca at 11:00am, two AMAZING things happened simultaneously: 1) the sun’s rays hit us for the first time that day, and 2) Little Bear’s wintery, sunny East face exposed itself! I’m sure it’s been seen plenty of times, but I personally haven’t come across this particular view of Little Bear yet (in winter with sun on it from Blanca... I usually see it in the shade 'cuz it must be later in the day. Early start = winning!).
Huerfano, Lindsey, and some nipples.
What a pleasant winter summit! Not much wind at all, and amazing views all around.
Our fearless leader Natalie conquers the Sangres' highest point. Photo: Natalie
After a few pics, I wanted to head over to Ellingwood. Natalie had already climbed Ellingwood in winter, and Aaron wasn’t feeling like it, so they were going to head back to Aaron’s Raptor.
I knew it was going to be harder with snow, but it wound up being harder than Blanca to climb up Ellingwood in the current conditions. I chose a line that helped keep me on the rocks as much as possible, dropping down enough to be on safer slopes, but there was still plenty of snow over loose rock to traverse and climb. At least on Blanca the route was mostly on rock!
My route, basically.
Traversing to Ellingwood. Photo: Natalie
Ellingwood hoarded more snow than its taller neighbor.
A look down from high on E-wood.
After crawling on all fours for stability up this peak, I summited at 1:30pm. Wahoo!!!
Little Bear lookin' a little shady...
Can’t forget the free sandwich opportunity (you can see it was a little windy on Ellingwood)
Which Wich - So far I have 44 unique Which Wich 14ers. Has anyone done all 58 yet?
Okay, now to get back down. Initially, I wanted to at least TRY and catch up to Natalie and Aaron, so I started descending a steeper gully off Ellingwood’s ridge. Not a great idea. I finally realized this, then decided to just traverse back East to the “standard route” area and descend on safer, less steep terrain. After a few sketchy moves, I was on easier angles and made it to the bottom of Ellingwood by 2:30pm. This peak was physically draining! Time for a snack and a quick rest.
Now, let’s haul balls back down to the truck at 9,500’!
Ellingwood on the way out
It was peaceful hiking out alone, the last of the Como group’s visitors for the day. At 4:15 I was at Lake Como, and got a parting shot of Little Bear:
Watching the sun set was simply beautiful!
Fresh Como trench, anyone?
I wanted to get back fast, so I didn’t even bother taking my snowshoes off. This resulted in more wear-and-tear on the metal as I walked on some unavoidable rocks poking through the snow, but I made good time back to my partners.
At 5:45pm, I was pleasantly greeted by a patient Natalie and Aaron! Ah, now I got to relax as Aaron drove us back down to the start of the Como road. This was definitely my idea of a successful day on Blanca & Ellingwood… and no camping was required!
Enveloped Ellingwood & Bare Blanca
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):