Peak(s):  Ellingwood Point  -  14,042 feet
Blanca Peak  -  14,345 feet
Little Bear Peak  -  14,037 feet
Date Posted:  08/15/2007
Date Climbed:   08/15/2007
Author:  jamienellis
 Ellingwood SW Rigde to Blanca / Little Bear NW Face   

Ellingwood Point (14,042), Blanca Peak (14,345), Little Bear Peak (14,037)
Routes: Ellingwood Point SW ridge w/ traverse to Blanca.
Little Bear NW Face
Mileage / Elev: 11mi, 6,750'
Team: Chicago Transplant (Mike Rodenak); jamienellis (Jamie Nellis)

Friday, Aug 10, 2007:
With Mike and I both needing to check this group off and Jamie wanting a rest after his week of climbing in the San Juans this seemed like the perfect weekend to head South. Mike had been itching to put his 4 wheeling skills and the Xterra's skills to the test on the infamous Lake Como Road, so I graciously agreed to let him drive up the road.

After meeting up at the bottom of the road at 9:45pm Friday night, I threw my pack in his car and we were off. Mike and the Xterra passed the test with flying colors (minus a step-rail on the way down ) getting us all the way to ~10,500' (just before 'Jaws 1'.) We found a good pull-off on the left side of the road and started our hike up the road at 11pm. We set up camp above the lake at the camp spots to the left of the road near 11,900.'

Our camp site @ ~11,900'

Saturday, Aug 11, 2007:
Ellingwood Point/ Blanca Peak
After a few hours sleep we set off for Ellingwood Point's SW Ridge at 6am. The route follows the standard route up past the end of the road to some small lakes and a waterfall. We left the trail at a small lake just above the waterfall and began heading up to the ridge on a prominent diagonal ledge.

The ledge that we used to gain access to the ridge:

The route is obvious. From here we scrambled along the ridge to the summit.

Mike on the ridge:

Me on the ridge (photo by Mike Rodenak):

The ridge offers fun, straight forward, airy class 2 & 3 scrambling on solid rock. We were the first ones on top of Ellingwood Point that morning, reaching the summit at 8:30.

View of the Crestones & KC Massif from Ellingwood's summit:

After snapping some summit photos and having a snack, we headed over for our next objective"Blanca Peak at 9am. For the traverse, we dropped down from the ridge to ~13,500', and stayed below the ridge crest for the majority of the traverse. The route that we took is class 2 talus for the majority and is marked with a few cairns along the way. The trip over was uneventful.

Blanca Peak from Ellingwood:

We were on the summit of Blanca at 10am. We spent another 30 minutes on top talking with other parties who were headed over to Ellingwood Point before heading down.

We arrived back at camp around 12:30. After filtering more water and having some lunch, we realized that the mosquitoes at camp were relentless and very annoying. Not wanting to sit around camp swatting bugs all afternoon, we figured what better way to kill time than to climb Little Bear. The clouds that were present had been disorganized all day and didn't seem to be getting their act together any time soon, so we decided to head on up. By doing this we would accomplish a few goals - first and foremost- we'd have 'the Hourglass' descent to ourselves. And we'd be able to sleep-in in the morning.

Little Bear:

A personal side-note: This peak had been weighing heavily on my mind for the past several months. Jamie and I climbed the Hourglass route as a snow climb in early May of this year. On that climb, I turned around ~40 vertical feet from the summit because I was very uncomfortable trying to negotiate the ice, snow, verglass covered loose rock above 'the Hourglass.' On our descent a late-Spring snow-storm moved in. Unbeknownst to us at the time our good friend, David Worthington, was injured and stranded above 12,000' on the slopes of Humboldt just a little bit South of where we were. It was that snow storm that prevented SAR from reaching him that night; and well, we all know the rest of the story.

I really hadn't planned on going back for this summit so soon. Primarily because I had always said that I would not be in 'the Hourglass' while other climbers were present. Due to the fact that I can only climb on the weekends, I pretty much figured that I would not be climbing this peak in the summer. Over the past couple of weeks Mike and I had been throwing around possibilities of attempting the NW face route; but we would have to work out the timing of our descent of 'the Hourglass.'

There are very few people that I would have considered attempting this peak with; therefore, I am very grateful that Mike was willing to climb this route with me. I have the utmost trust in him as a climbing partner and in his abilities. While I really wanted Jamie to be there with me when I got this one; I knew deep down that it was a personal matter, and ultimately something that I needed to do myself.

OK, back to the regularly scheduled programming...

We had previously decided on the 'Tour de Little Bear' with an ascent of the NW face & descent of the W Ridge (Hourglass route). We left camp at 1:30pm heading for the 'Back Hand watermark' that is hard to miss.

Mike just beneath the 'Black Hand':

This route is also straightforward"basically aim for the hand and up. We left the road before Blue Lakes and 'picked our line up.' Jamie had given us some beta on this route from his climb last summer. He said to climb right of the hand, then left and up heading for the rounded notch left of the summit.

The portion of the route up to the hand is steep, loose scree and talus. No difficult climbing here; but not much fun and plenty of loose rock! I would not have wanted to be on this route with any more than just the 2 of us. We made good time up the face since there aren't really any good places to stop for snacks or photos. The line that we took was a mix of Class 3, 4, and low 5 up to the ridge. It's hard to be very descriptive of the route because you basically just find the path of least resistance and head up.

Little Bear's summit from just beneath the ridge:

Once we gained the ridge, the climbing was exposed Class 4 all the way to the summit. The rock here is solid; but you can definitely feel the air around you. Of course it was here that the clouds decided to get organized and produce some rain for us. Great! While, the rain cloud wasn't producing anything more was creating exactly what we didn't want - a wet descent of the Hourglass! We both tagged the summit and kept on going (Now we have to come back for summit photos some day!) From camp to the summit it took us 2 hours.

Luckily the rain stopped after about 20 minutes; but the hourglass had a nice little stream running down it.
Mike descending 'the Hourglass':

We made every move of the descent slowly and deliberately (this was not a place to make a mistake!) trying to pick a line that contained the most dry rocks. We both breathed a big sigh of relief when we exited 'the Hourglass.'

Looking back up the Hourglass:

The remainder of the West Ridge route is well marked with cairns. This cirque looks quite a bit different than it did when I was there in May; and descending the exit gully wasn't going to be nearly as fun without the glissade. I think we both relaxed quite a bit at this point (I know I did!) and chatted away realizing that we neither of us had really said much since leaving camp a few hours earlier. Mike even sang some of his Karaoke favorites for me in a British accent.

The rain held off for the remainder of our descent; but started back up again just after we reached camp. And it kept up until past mid-night.

When we woke up the next morning to overcast skies, we were quite pleased with our decision to climb Little Bear the previous afternoon. Between the amount of rain that we got Saturday night, and the fact that this valley doesn't get sun until late in the day, the route would have been much wetter early Sunday morning than what we dealt with Sat afternoon.

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

08/16/2007 03:36
on getting those 3! That was perhaps my most feared group also, excellent job conquering those fears and also putting in one heck of a tough days work!

08/16/2007 15:54
for the comments everyone!
maverick_manley, I agree with chicago transplant. We both enjoyed ascending the NW face; but heartily agreed that we would not want to descend it. I was thinking of you when we were going up, wondering how in the world you guys got down!


Nice trip...
11/30/2010 17:28
I love those mountains when the weather's good. Looks like y'all had a sweet time . How did you guys like the NW Face? We went up the Hourglass and descended the NW Face... It was not the most fun I've had on a descent.

Chicago Transplant

Nice job, partner!
11/30/2010 17:28
Glad we were able to climb all three! It was a great day to be up in that basin. I agree, Sunday morning in the hourglass would have not been fun! The NW face would have been wet too!

I'm glad you were able to overcome the fear of LB! Ditto the kind words, it was great climbing with you again, I always know with you and Jamie and I am in good hands!

maverick_manley - I actually liked ascending the NW Face, despite thinking it was harder. There was definitely more 4th glass and more exposure than the hourglass, and its just as loose, but for some reason I liked it anyway I wouldn't want to descend it though... you guys are nuts just kidding


11/30/2010 17:28
Great job Jamie! I'm sure it felt great to return to that peak for the summit! Nice way to get all 3! You guys rock!


Nice job...
11/30/2010 17:28
conquering your Little Bear fears Jamie! Not too many more to go now, huh? Good luck finishing 'em off.

hey there baby
11/30/2010 17:28
great job! i'm glad you had the opportunity to safely climb these peaks last weekend. you did awesome(like normal ).

sarah- if things go to plan, she'll have four 14ers left as for october 1st. we're looking to climb one of them this winter and complete the other three next spring. then she starts the thirteener list 8).



11/30/2010 17:28
we descended the Tubbs' ledge of course didn't you see it?? Seriously though great report and climb. Looked like you guys had a great outing.



Looking good, Jaime!!!
01/19/2011 03:38
Congrats on getting LB. We both know it's a daunting peak for most mortals. Thanks for a long-overdue pic TR of the NW face route, too. I think I'd do that one if I ever repeat LB (not likely).
That's a pretty darn respectable day, getting all three.
See you at Kilpacker, I hope.


Nice Job!
02/05/2011 00:22
Way to get Little Bear done. I think I will be just as apprehensive. Glad the weather held out, it has been a funky week weather wise!

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