Peak(s):  Ellingwood Point  -  14,042 feet
Date Posted:  07/08/2015
Modified:  07/09/2015
Date Climbed:   07/05/2015
Author:  Dan_Suitor
 Ellingwood via Zapata Falls and the Use-less trail   

We started at 4:30am, and began by making great progress. The trail is very well defined all the way to S. Zapata Lake.
Ellingwood way in the distance after the sun came up

Ellingwood at its base

The marshes around the lake were full, and we got our feet soaked while trying to navigate them. Due to reports of the conditions in the C2 couloir, we decided to take C3 gully. We got a little confused as to how to get there from the lake, but after looking at the topo map, made the right choice and went straight up the grassy area by the lake. It takes a bit before you reach C3, and you have to ascend a smaller gully along the way before you can even see it.
Up the Useless trail

This is where our pace slowed considerably. The route description says there is a "use" trail up the gully, it was more of a "useless" trail. It was not a contiguous trail and was made up of steep slippery dirt. Trying to climb the rock instead of the trail was a challenge as well since it was large, loose rocks. After achieving the gully, we started up the ridge line.
Ridgeline after C3

There is no trail, and the rock sucked. It was comprised of large loose rocks, none of which you could trust. You gain and lose elevation several times.
More Ridgeline

Another ascent along to stay on the ridgeline

The view of Ellingwood Pt. is always there and a little discouraging since the pace was so slow and the summit did not appear to be getting any closer. This was definitely the worst part of the climb. After you dip down in elevation for the final time you end up at just under 13,000 ft. Our legs were pretty exhausted as we had already traveled 4,600 vertical over 7 miles. The next 700 feet of vertical was straight up a talus field. The rock here was much smaller and more stable, but was killer on the fatigued quads.
Higher up the ridgeline

Higher up the ridgeline before the Class 3 section

After this, the steepness relented and our pace picked back up. The final pitch was class 3. The rock was relatively solid and we picked our lines over several pitches as we made our way to the summit. It was a fun scramble with some exposure that made it a good challenge. We summited around 12:30, later than we expected.
Dan on the top with Little Bear in the background

Michael on the top with Little Bear in the background

Per the GPS, we had traveled 7.8 miles and had an elevation gain of 5,837 ft. This was close to the elevation gain listed on the route description, but over 1 miles longer than what it says.
GPS Stats


GPS Elevation Plot

On the summit we were seeing a change in the weather and made a drastic decision. If we were to return the way we came, we would be exposed on the ridge for a long time. If the rain came in, the loose rock and C3 gully could get ugly. So we opted to go down the standard route and hike down the Lake Como road hoping that at the bottom we could hitch a ride back to the Zapata Falls TH. The hike down was long and uneventful. There were only three vehicles left at the lower trailhead, but we got lucky and a guy by the name of Jason gave us a ride back to Zapata Falls. Thanks again Jason if you are reading this.
Down toward the bottom of Lake Como Rd

Socked in mountains on the drive out

In summary, this is a long, challenging hike/climb. If I had to do it over again, I would have either left the TH earlier, or hiked up to tree line, camped, then summited. If it was a different time of year I would have entertained the idea of going up the C2 gully. This would have shaved off a lot of distance, a lot of elevation gain/loss, and most importantly, avoided the crap rock along the ridgeline.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

07/08/2015 14:33
I recall doing the C2 route a couple times a few years back. It WAS a grind, that’s for sure. Kudos to you for making C3 work for you.


C2 option
07/08/2015 16:03
Thanks for the trip report! You mentioned that if conditions were different you would have done the C2 coulier instead of C3, is that due to the lack of snow coverage in C2? Thanks, –Hart


C2 option
07/08/2015 16:34
Hart: We decided against it due to the soft snow on a previous Condition Update of a failed attempt. It was warm the day we went and there was still plenty of snow in C2. Our assumption was that we would encounter the same conditions from the previous attempt. It would be difficult to have tried C2 then reverted to C3 if not successful. If you are going to camp at the lake or tree line, you could probably scout C2 the afternoon prior. This would tell you which option is best. Good luck and let me know how your trip goes.


Thanks for info.
07/08/2015 18:59
Thanks again, I’ll let you know how everything goes when we get back home Monday.


nice job
07/09/2015 13:57
yeah that was me who failed because of dangerous snow conditions in the C2. I entertained the idea of trying to pick my way up to the C3 but didn’t actually know what it looked like and from the C2 it would have been a long freaking time until summit and back.
Does anyone know exactly how awful the C2 is without snow? Doable?


C2 vs C3
07/10/2015 08:37
We climbed Ellingwood late last summer from Zapata Creek trail. We went up C2 and part of our group split came back down C2 and three of us including myself went down C3. My conclusion is – the only reason to go via C3 is if there’s ice/snow that can’t be climbed in C2 and C3 is dry. C3 is a LOT longer. We didn’t follow the recommendation to stay on those three ridges to get back from the top of C2 to C3. Indeed, the talus was VERY loose and VERY steep.

Climbing and descending C2 which was dry was difficult but better than the C3 alternative.


C2 in summer
07/10/2015 11:14
The two times I did C2 was in summer and it was bone dry. Yeah, it’s loose and yeah, it’s a pain in the a@@, but it is definitely doable. Going up, I found staying on the left side against the rocks worked best for me and coming down, I was able to do a little scree–surfing. Don’t know that I’d want to do it a 3rd time – maybe in snow it would be fun, tho.

C2 this year
07/13/2015 09:25
I snow climbed C2 on June 26th this was just still in snow wise and made a fine snow climb and fun way to tag ellingwood pt. I descended/glissaded down it as well. Glad there was still continuous snow(barely tho) as it would not have been fun dry. Screw that Ran into two guys a few hundred feet before the trailhead heading up with packs as an overnighter trying to attempt it the next day. Never heard if they made it or not.


07/13/2015 15:09
My wife and I hiked up and down C2 yesterday (Sunday July 12th) there is a small strip of snow near center of C2, however it is completely avoidable. The hike up was easier than the hike back down (in our opinion ) after summiting both Ellingwood and Blanca, our legs were tired and it seemed like a lot of work to control ourselves on all of the loose rock as we came down. I think it may have actually taken as long or slightly longer coming down C2 as it did going up it. We really liked the Zappata Lake area/basin (only saw a few other people all weekend and no bear activity)however we personally would not hike C2 again.

07/22/2015 21:48
everybody is talking about C2 and C3 routes, what about C1?
Never mind (slams palm into forehead )

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