Peak(s):  Ellingwood Point  -  14,042 feet
Date Posted:  08/03/2015
Date Climbed:   07/31/2015
Author:  glett74
 C2 Coulier on Ellingwood's North Ridge  

We had a group of 15 men make this attempt at Ellingwood Point from the South Zapata Creek Trail. Several of the group members and I had been reading trip reports for this trail to make sure we knew what we were getting into. None of the reports accurately describe the C2 Coulier, which is the recommended coulier for traversing to the North Ridge of Ellingwood.

This report is particularly for non-Colorado 14er enthusiasts who depend on this site and trip reports to plan their trip.
Overview of C2

The C2 Coulier, had too much loose rock and scree to be safe without additional climbing gear such as helmets and rope. We had neither and managed to get 13 of our 15 men to the ridge, but not without injury and significant stress. If the coulier had consistent solid rock on which to climb, this would live up to the Class 3 designation. However, with the unstable rock and scree on a steep 60 degree slope, this coulier should be ranked at a difficult class 3 or easy class 4 route. (
About 1/3 of the way up looking down on valley
Half way up, rock is still good
Left side traverse up C2, last 75 feet of scramble, loose rock
Right side of C2 traverse looking down from ridge

Additionally, there are no well-cairned routes along the north ridge for Ellingwood. Five of our men managed their way to just below summit, but had to turn back due to weather developing in the east. Three of us, including myself, made it to the north ridge where we could see the storm clouds developing to the east and also turned back. Our primary concern was being stuck on C2 Coulier in rain. That would have made descent nearly impossible and left us exposed well above treeline. Fortunately, the weather held and we all made it down to safety before the storm finally developed mid-afternoon.

I would not recommend this route to moderate or even experienced climbers without gear and preparation for Difficult Class 3 climbing up C2.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5

 Comments or Questions
Somewhat of a Prick

I had you covered
08/03/2015 14:05


08/04/2015 11:59
*Couloir* Really, I think this isn’t like a beginning route. This is probably more suitable to folks with good route finding skills and comfort with complex terrain.


08/03/2015 14:52
Woops–a–daisy on the spelling of "couloir" I must of had it in my head wrong
Thanks jmanner for the catch. Folks who grew up around the mountains and go up somewhat regularly would find my cautions over–reactive. However, there are many 14er enthusiasts in the lowlands who need to realize the difficulty of the C2. Unless someone has been on several Class 3 sections or trails before and have confidence in their mountaineering skills to tackle Class 3, I would not recommend this route. About half our group were confident and capable of getting up, but other "first–timers" were not.


Helmet yes – absolutely.
08/03/2015 15:58
But rope? maybe not as I don’t recall there being many places to set any sort of pro. And while I’m not a beginner, I’m not at jmanner’s level either. Even so, I did do the C2 twice (first time solo, second time with a partner) and I cussed a lot and was glad nobody was above, but I honestly didn’t think it was all that horrible.

But – to each their own and you need to do only what you are comfortable with. Good call on the weather issues. To quote a line from an old margarine commercial "It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature."

Tim A

with snow
08/03/2015 17:14
Planning this route next spring when all the loose choss is safely buried under a stable spring snowpack. Snow turns many loose routes like this (Bross S gully, Sneffeles Lav, etc) into quick enjoyable ascents with fast glissades down. Thanks for the beta in dry conditions; reinforces my position in avoiding this route until then.

Feel your pain
08/03/2015 18:08
I summitted Ellingwood via this route as my 7th 14er on my first trip to Colorado. Having hit the Wetterhorn and Sneffels in the previous two days, I still found this gully to be a bitch and a half, particularly on the way down. Still one of my favorite 14s from my 3 week trip, due to the secluded loveliness of the Zapata creek trail. Highly recommended, but I agree that this gully is much more intense than most C2 in Colorado.

Steve Climber

08/04/2015 08:41

slope angle
08/04/2015 08:54
I was just up c2 and ellingwood the end of june this year. I didnt measure it but it was no where even close or near to being a 60° slope as you stated. I dont even think it was over 40°(and i feel very confident in saying this). And i also didnt think it was even close to being a class 4 climb...i thought it was super easy class 3 at its hardest if even that.

BTW...thats a gorgeous lonely upper basin.


Isn’t it the worst?
08/04/2015 10:52
I appreciate you trying to reinforce with others how freaking awful this gully is. I feel words just can’t describe it, and it is way worse than any standard route on any 14er in my opinion (Columbia, Challenger, etc.). This cannot be overemphasized, and I think your report does a great job of explaining that.

I disagree with you on the 3rd/4th class rating, however. This is just loose, loose class 2 and class 2+. I desperately wish it actually were class 3 or 4, even if it were crumbly terrible rock, because it would have still been better than suffering down that crap. Class 3 is defined as needing to use both your hands and feet to pull yourself up/down on rock. The only time on my descent that I used my hands on rock was to catch myself on the scree/talus as I was falling to the ground. There were zero "holds" anywhere. I also agree with Jay that there is nowhere you’d be able to protect this climb if you brought a rope.

08/04/2015 13:25
I climbed this a few years back. Not class 3/4. LOOSE class 2+. My partner hated it and turned around just when we got to the ridge. I made it to the top. There is some route finding and it would be dangerous with 15! on it at once. Helmets are a good idea for this one, and it isn’t a beginner route like Longs where its clean and easy to figure out where to go.


Slope & Class 3 Justification
08/05/2015 10:38
@blakhawk According to Google Earth’s elevation profile, the C2 Couloir has an average 50 degree slope from the toe to the ridge. About the last 1/4 section is a 60 degree slope. This is where I got my information regarding the slope.
This site defines a Class 3 as "Scrambling or un–roped climbing. You must use your hands most of the time to hold the terrain or find your route. This may be caused by a combination of steepness and extreme terrain (large rocks or steep snow). Some Class 3 routes are better done with rope." According to this website’s definition, at least the top 1/3 of this C2 Couloir can be identified as Class 3. I and all the climbers with me used both hands while scrambling over loose rock on 50–60 degree slope.

Can confirm, this sucked.
08/05/2015 12:18
Thanks for the good report. I was one of the guys that bailed on this before I got to the summit of the slope. Myself, and others all felt misled by the description and rating of this route. Zapata Lake and trail was beautiful, but no way that climb was a class 2 by the definition listed. Hopefully this report will help other flatlanders and inexperienced climbers pick another route. Props to guys who enjoy this stuff, but let’s be honest and accurate with our reports and classifications.

Somewhat of a Prick

15 guys in a couloir in summer
08/05/2015 12:28
is never a good idea. Why would you think that would be a pleasant experience?

judgement call on Dave Coulier, uh I mean Couloir
08/09/2015 11:56
The best thing you guys did was turn around due to a possible storm. I always say the ultimate goal is to get home, not just summit. Bummer having to turn around right at the end. I had to do the same thing 2 years ago just past crossfire. C2 is no class 4, just a pain in the ass with the scree. Go try the hourglass on Little Bear and you’ll see what a class 4 is and when a rope may be helpful. I wouldn’t rely solely on Google earth. 60 degrees might be at the final 10 foot crux to get on the ridge, but this trail is not as steep as you claim it is. C2 is at best in the mid to upper 40s. Why on earth were you with 15 people. If you had read previous trip reports you would have seen the C2 and C3 options and lots of talk about the loose rock. With a group that size you would have been better off eating the additional mile and gone to C3 instead. Harder to see from the lake but it’s not as steep or as intimidating as c2 and crossfire. MTB check this out I’d say the route summary classification is spot on target after spending time on a lot of class 4s. Cheers for the attempt and maybe you guys can summit again via C3 or go to a 14er that is class 2 or less. The south Zapata trail is so much better than Lake Como approach and certainly not as crowded, well unless there’s a group of 15.

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