Peak(s):  Blanca Peak  -  14,345 feet
Ellingwood Point  -  14,042 feet
Date Posted:  08/05/2009
Date Climbed:   08/01/2009
Author:  DrewR
 Blanca Peak & Ellingwood Point  

The goal of this trip was to summit Blanca Peak and Ellingwood Point. It was also to serve as a scouting trip for the mighty Little Bear. We left Denver at 2:00 PM on Friday (7/31) afternoon. We battled consistent rain and heavy traffic all the way to Pueblo. By the time we reached Fort Garland the skies had cleared providing an awesome view of the Blanca massif from Highway 160. We reached the trailhead at 6:00 PM and were hiking by 6:30 PM.

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Although we could have driven further up Lake Como road we decided to park just above the point where vegetation began. The hike back down this road is every bit the 'death march' that people describe. Unless you are glutton for pain it pays to drive as far up as possible, and then some. We were blessed with dry conditions, which made hiking on rocks most of the way up doable. I'd hate to think what this hike would be like when wet.

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The hike up to Lake Como took us ~4 hours. The first hour and a half was during daylight hours followed by 2.5 in the dark with headlamps. Honestly, this is probably the best way to go this time of year. It was cool and the limited visibility kept us focused. There weren't very many switchbacks. We were at Lake Como before we knew it.

The road passes Lake Como on the north (left) side. Good camping sites exist on both sides of the lake. We camped in a great spot on the east end of the lake in the trees (see below). This provided convenient access to the inlet stream for filtered water.

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We arrived at Lake Como at midnight, got up at 5-5:30 and were on the trail before 6. The 4x4 road continues up for another mile or so. Little Bear looms large on your right. The Blue Lakes and Crater Lake are absolutely beautiful. Our first glimpse of sun wasn't until we reached the saddle between Blanca and Ellingwood Point (some pictures below are from the descent)

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Between the Blue Lakes and Crater Lake the road turns into a typical trail. At this point it skirts a waterfall to the left and takes you up and around to Crater Lake. This is where it gets steeper. The trail switchbacks up the valley's east face until you reach the Blanca-Ellingwood saddle. The trail becomes a little difficult to find but it is marked by Cairns and orange stakes.

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View to southeast from Blanca-Ellingwood saddle

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Ellingwood Point from Blanca Summit

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Ellingwood from the saddle. The trail to Ellingwood's summit stays left of the ridgeline and is well marked by Cairns. From Blanca's summit the route looks difficult and possibly dangerous. It's not. Rather, it's a great route and pretty easy with no exposure.

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Looking back at the saddle.

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Blanca Peak looks huge from Ellingwood Point. It's easy to see the height difference between the two peaks.

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Mt. Lindsey to the east.

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Little Bear across the valley to the south

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To descend Ellingwood Point the guidebooks advise taking the trail back towards the saddle before descending into the valley floor. As you come off of Ellingwood's summit you will see a Cairn marked trail that descends along a more direct route just below an old mine. This is the path we took although it was occasionally difficult locate the Cairns.

Beware...the hike back down to the trailhead is brutal; especially is done in the afternoon on a hot day. On the way down we were treated to an exciting display of rock crawling. Just as we reached one of the Jaws sections a convoy of four 4x4s arrived. It was amazing to watch them navigate through.

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This was an awesome climb. The only down side is knowing that I will have to endure the hike up to road again to tackle Little Bear.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
sunny1

Great beta!
08/06/2009 03:25
Excellent pics & useful beta.
Thanks for the detail and congrats!


James Scott

Great pics
08/08/2009 03:15
This was one of my favorite climbs, and I remember looking back at Little Bear on the way past, promising to return soon. Hard to pass it up and continue on to Blanca, isn‘t it?


DeTour

Nice!
08/09/2009 00:10
Congrats on a great trip and a great report. Your input on the traverse to Ellingwood is interesting. I had been under the impression from the 14ers.com route description that there was some exposure on that route.
As far as enduring the hike up that road to tackle Little Bear, maybe you can get lucky and that group of 4x4s will come along and pick you up! Those are great shots of some impressive trucks!



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