Mountaineering – Ellingwood Point and Blanca Peak, Sangre De Cristo Wilderness, CO

Knife Edge of Ellingwood Point?
Doug Climbing the Southwest Ridge of Ellingwood Point

Doug and Clare Summit of Ellingwood Point
Summit of Ellingwood Point (14,042) after climbing the Southwest Ridge.

Blanca Peak Headstand (14,345 ft)
Summit of Blanca Peak (14,345 ft) after traversing the Northwest ridge from Ellingwood Point.

Lake Como Road - 3 hrs of Hiking - Lake Como!
Lake Como and the eponymously named “Road”, left of frame. If you’re having trouble seeing the road, because of the boulders, it’s because the road *is* the boulders!

For an excellent recap of the Lake Como Road, I entreat you to watch the following awesome video, by Rockfrogs 4WD Club. These guys demonstrate extreme skill maneuvering their tricked out trucks up that road! It is one of the most challenging roads in our country, and they manage to get their trucks past Lake Como, all the way up to Blue Lakes. Amazing!

On Friday, Doug and I drove from Denver to the Lake Como Trailhead, were delayed by a train for 20 minutes on the way there, hike up the arduous Lake Como Road, scope out the start of the climb, and then set up base camp at Blue Lakes.

Saturday we tackle the Southwest Ridge of Ellingwood Point, traverse to Blanca Peak along the Northwest Ridge of Blanca, climb Blanca Peak, descend to base camp, pack up, hike back to the truck, and drive back to Denver.

It takes us approximately 24 hours to complete our mission, from the time we leave the truck until the time we return. The trip was hectic and frustrating at times; but supremely rewarding and gratifying, as well. We travelled roughly 15 miles with 6,500 ft of gain.

If the Southwest Ridge of Ellingwood Point were more easily accessible, it would be completely plastered with scramblers every day! The rock on this ridge is of high quality and, for the most part, secure. The position of the route and the exposure produces an extremely enjoyable route! Do IT!

Thank you to skier25, who posted a fabulous trip report, with pictures, of the Ellingwood Point – Southwest Ridge on!

About 1 Mile Up Lake Como Road
One mile up Lake Como Road. We saw a 2012/3 Subi Outback parked about 0.5 miles further down the road than where we parked…

Lake Como Road at 20 min of Hiking
About 2 miles up the road, it has a steep dip full of sharp jagged boulders.

Lake Como Road - After 30 min of Hiking
About 2.5 miles up the road, we saw the first really bad part. A 2wd car would not be happy here!

Lake Como Road - View at 1 hr 15 min
After 1 hour 15 minutes of hiking, we were treated to this really pretty desert view. This is looking South towards New Mexico.

Lake Como Road - 1 hr 15 min of Hiking
From the same spot as the last picture, I took this one of Doug hiking on the road.

Desert Wind Funnels
Dirt Devils!

Lake Como Road - 1 hr 40 min of Hiking
After about 1 hour and 40 minutes, the road finally goes DOWNHILL! We noticed the flora changed from desert sage to pine forest. We really enjoyed the shade of the trees, after being exposed to the elements.

Lake Como Road - 2 hrs of Hiking - Jaws
The Famous Jaws Formation on Lake Como Road. There is a boulder in the road, which creates a 4 foot high obstacle. Tricked out 4wd trucks can make it over, but many of them end up turning around at this spot!

Lake Como Road - 2 hrs 10 min of Hiking
The Cabin on Lake Como Road. In the guidebook, it talks about the cabin, saying something about the road flattening out around them. It’s true, the “road” along this area is pretty flat, but it’s still strewn with ankle breakers. Pay Attention!

Lake Como Road - 2 hrs 20 minutes - A pretty stretch
A really pretty section of Lake Como Road. It still sucked in terms of being a strain on my ankles. It is so very easy to twist an ankle or trip and fall!

Lake Como Road - 2 hrs 45 min - Little Bear Sighting
2 hrs 45 minutes into our hike, we finally spot a 14’er! Little Bear is basking in the sun. I was excited because we were only a couple miles from camp, which means dinner and rest!

Lake Como Road - 3 hrs of Hiking - Lake Como!
Lake Como and Little Bear – It took us 3 hours to get here, from the parking spot.

Ellingwood Point and Little Bear PeakEllingwood Point and Little Bear, taken from above Lake Como. At this point, we start looking for a place to bivy. There were many options, but we headed all the way up to Blue Lakes for the best spot.

Camping Spot at Blue Lakes
Although this was taken on Saturday, you can see our awesome bivy spot! By the time we got here, the lighting was too low for the picture to come out.

Once we found camp, we left immediately to scope out the start of the scramble for the following morning. In quickly decreasing light, we hiked above both of the blue lakes and determined our route for the morning. Then, we went back to camp, ate dinner, and lights out around 10pm.

Wake up was 4:30am, and it was around 5:15am by the time we left camp. The first 10 minutes were easy, because we had it nailed from the night before. On the far side of the lake, we were a bit puzzled about the best way up. The following pictures were taken in daylight (on the way down), but I’m including them here for beta.

SW Ridge of Ellingwood - Pick the Right Gully
We walked around on the left side of the lake and we were in the back of the area where those clumps of willows reside. When you are standing there, looking up in an early dawn situation, it is difficult to tell which way to go. You can’t see the Y shaped couloir directly above you!

Close-up of Access Gully to Gain SW Ridge
The Y shaped Couloir, in broad daylight. Take a right at the first split and again at the second split, to reach the ridge.

Finding the SW Ridge of Ellingwood Point
This is looking up at the very bottom of the Y shaped Couloir from directly below it(but to the right of where those willow clumps were!). If going up from here, you would aim for the gravelly ramp directly below the nubbin on the horizon. (From the very right side of the photo, this dark nub of rock is at about 1/6 of the frame into the shot and on the horizon.)

So, in low light, Doug starts trouncing up the rock couloir. Finally, he spies the entrance to the Y and shouts down to me that we appear to be on route. Yay! I scramble up to him and we enter the Y. I let him get a bit ahead of me, and then we take turns zig-zagging our way up.

Upper Gully Leading to SW Ridge of Ellingwood Point Here’s Doug climbing the Y Couloir. He’s about to hit a small headwall, where we have a choice…we can go left or right. We take the right way, as it is suggested by other trip reports.

View From Start of SW Ridge of Ellingwood Point
The view when you take a right turn and exit the couloir. What a beautiful sunrise!

Doug Scrambling Up to SW Ridge of Ellingwood Point
Taken from the same spot as before. You can see, we’re not quite on the ridge, but it’s really nice 3rd class scrambling and not as loose as the couloir!

Little Bear to Blanca Ridge
Just before I gain the ridge, I get this shot of Crater Lake below Blanca Peak. Crater Lake looks like a jewel!

Twin Peaks Alpenglow
I also get this nice shot of Pioneer Lake below the Bicentennial Peak 13,680 and it’s lower twin 13,534.

Doug on SW Ridge of Ellingwood Point
At 6:50 am, we’re standing on the ridge! We have about 2/3 of a mile to reach the summit of Ellingwood Point.

We are concerned about the weather, so we move fast and efficiently. Using the beta from a 14’er post really helps with route finding at one crucial spot. However, most of the ridge is totally obvious and solid.

Nearing a Crux on SW Ridge of Ellingwood Point
To Doug’s immediate right, there are ramps of rock, leading the best way up. We continued forward a bit too much and missed the ramps. Then, we turned around to this spot, turned right, and headed straight up to the ridge. You know you are at this spot, when you see the shark fin of rock on the horizon. In this picture, you can see it on the top right of the frame!

Cruxy Ledges on SW Ridge of Ellingwood Point
Doug Climbing Up the cruxy ledges. We had been on the ridge for about 20 minutes when we came to this section (1 hr 50 min from camp at Blue Lakes).

Knife Edge of Ellingwood Point?

Doug and Ellingwood Point
Looking up at the summit after 45 minutes of pure bliss ridge scrambling.

Last Crux on SW Ridge of Ellingwood Point
The last crux of the ridge was dropping into a notch and then a very exposed 3rd class scramble to regain the ridge. There is a spot here where it could be 4th class, but we found ways around it.

The Last 50 Feet of SW Ridge of Ellingwood Point
Minutes away from the summit of Ellingwood Point! With weather holding out, we set our sights on Blanca Peak.

Lake Como and Pioneer Peak Basins
A final glimpse of the Southwest Ridge. I can’t believe it’s over…Now, I’m bummed!

Signing the Ellingwood Point Register
Doug doing the honors of signing the register. Blanca Peak is behind him. Looks like fun!

Traversing to Blanca Peak from Ellingwood Point
Traversing to Blanca Peak from Ellingwood Point. We didn’t stay on the ridge the whole way, but we took the highest line we could which made sense. The traverse goes quickly and there were folks heading both ways at this point. Either to or from Blanca!

Ellingwood Point
Looking back at Ellingwood Point from the same spot as the last picture. It took us about 30 minutes to get here from the summit of Ellingwood Point.

Ellingwood Point and Connecting Ridge to Blanca
Almost to the summit of Blanca Peak. It took me an hour to get here.

Doug and Clare on Blanca Peak (14,345 ft)
Victory is ours! Yay!

Foot Dangle from Blanca Peak Summit
Foot Dangle off the side of Blanca Peak. Looking down about 4,000 ft!

We got back to camp at 12:15pm and packed up to head back to the truck. It took me about 3.5 hours to make it back since the road was brutal on my knees. Even with the trekking poles! Doug and I were both happy when it was all over. I’m not going back there unless that road is covered with snow!

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