Several weekends in a row I'd tried to plan an Ellingwood ski trip in case spring doesn't pump out much more snow. I knew there was a line near the summit and it was time to suck it up and walk up that friggin' road. Since I didn't feel like camping, I was faced with grinding out 5,500' of elevation on a day hike with full ski gear. It turned out to be an excellent day with so-so ski conditions.
I'm not usually one to talk publically about personal things but wifeofbill was recently diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and we have been blasting through the process of diagnosis>surgeons>surgery>chemo>radiation plans. With her surgery out of the way last week, I was in need of some mountain therapy. I've always been tough-as-nails (DIN-14 tough, pack 130lbs of elk meat 3,000' off a mountain two days in a row tough!) but having my lovely wife and mother of two hit with such a horrible thing has made me look at things a lot differently and realize she has her own fight ahead and I can only assist. While climbing Columbia last week I couldn't think of anything other than Lisa during the ascent - it's crazy how things can change so quickly. Most of you don't know Lisa but she's pretty damn tough, too. Maybe not Chuck Zito tough, but another 20+ years with me might get her there. Grrrr. I love her so much.
Ok, those of you who know me know that I only open up once a decade or longer, so ON TO my THERAPY...
Routes: South Face (standard)
Climbers: Me, tmathews (hooked up with Terry at 13,000')
Trailhead: Lake Como
Elevation Gain: 5,400'
Time to reach summit: 8 hours!
Ski Vertical: 3,800'
RT Mileage: 13.5 miles
Topo of the route (red=climb, blue=ski):
From US 160 the prior evening I was able to see the snow coverage on Ellingwood and it looked good to go.
Ellingwood (left) and Blanca from US 160
I left the truck just before 4am and began the long slog up the road, carrying ski gear on my back and lots of water. Near 10,300' I made the welcome transition to skis/skins and continued up to Lake Como.
Approaching Lake Como and Little Bear Peak
Climbing the headwall above Blue Lakes
From 13,000' I noticed a solo snowshoer down by Blue Lakes and it turned out to be tmathews from the site! We continued on at my fairly slow pace.
Climbing the headwall above Crater Lake. (Photo by TMATHEWS)
Terry left his snowshoes near 13,300' and I put skis on my back for the remaining 700-foot climb to the summit. Crampons were necessary from here.
And time to turn left and climb Ellingwood
Looking down the drainage
Between 13,400' and the ridge, the snow was mostly unconsolidated with a thick crust and sugar below. The crappy snow made for a slow ascent.
Slow going. Tmathews on one of the few sections of "firm" snow.
Approaching the ridge
Tmathews on the ridge
When we reached the ridge, we encountered 10-15mph winds from the west and chilly temps.
The snow line off of the false summit. I'll take it!
The true summit, a stone's throw away.
Blanca Peak. Um, it could use some snow.
Little Bear Peak
What a beautiful day!
The true summit didn't have enough snow but a continous line started from the false summit, not far away. Not a big deal since they are so close and almost the same elevation. Since the area hasn't had a lot of snow this winter, I wasn't going to complain one bit.
Time to ski. (Photo by TMATHEWS)
Exciting drop-offs on skier left. (Photo by TMATHEWS)
Dropping into the gully below the false summit
After skiing much of the gully, I exited left.
Descending the gully. (Photo by TMATHEWS - thanks, Terry!)
A look back at the gully and traverse across the face
Descending to the upper basin
Surprisingly, I hit very few rocks
Time for the cruise
Near Crater Lake
Near Blue Lakes
At Lake Como
Near the mine buildings (10,500') during the ski of the road
TRASHED from a long day! Can't we just "improve" the road up to the lake? MN teleMARKer, I warned you!!
Now, back to reality.