Ascent of Blanca Peak on 2012-07-23

Climber: Rob Woodall

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Monday, July 23, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Blanca Peak
    Elevation:14345 ft / 4372 m

Ascent Trip Report

Note: stats include Ellingwood Point which was summitted after Blanca

I decided to do Blanca as a day hike, enabling me to travel light and, with a pre dawn start, do the whole ascent in the cool of the morning. As a bonus, I found I had time to include the impressive Ellingwood Point and its very entertaining north ridge in descent.

Following yesterday's Elbert and Pikes Peak ascents I arrived at the trailhead after dark. I found the turnoff (xxx) and could easily drive my little rental car the first 1.5 miles. At this point is a levelled parking area. Beyond, the jeep road is high-clearance territory; indeed a sturdy 4x4 and good offroading skills are needed to get anywhere near Como Lake: I saw just one vehicle (a Jeep Wrangler) at the Lake and a few other 4x4s parked at various points en route.

I started hiking at 4.27 am by head torch. Note that there is a L turn at a hairpin bend at N37.55699 W105.55776. In the dark I managed to go straight on here, and had to backtrack a couple of minutes when I realised my mistake. It would be impossible to make this mistake in daylight!

I reached Como Lake in 2.5 hours and in a further 30 mins I was overlooking the end of the jeep road. I reviewed Petter Bjorstad's notes and also had Greg Slayden's gpx track on my Garmin (Greg also day hiked Blanca) and found the way without difficulty. The initial steep climb and the attractive section past the small upper lakes is well defined. The final ascent to the saddle is less clear but it is a nice stable boulderfield hence the exact route isn't that important.

A group reached the saddle before me and headed R up the Blanca ridge. Following, I soon came across the lady of the party. She'd been up before so sent her husband up with her camera! The point of interest for me was that she is from southern England, although has lived in CO for the last 23 years. I scrambled up, mostly keeping to the excellent rock of the ridge itself, with an impressive drop to the L. The rest of the party were at the summit of Blanca Peak when I arrived. It's a fine view, especially of nearby 14ers Little Bear and Ellingwood Point. One of the party explained the route to Ellingwood and there was (vague) talk of a Class 2 route down its N ridge. This fine looking peak seemed to be elbowing its way into my itinerary- it was only 10 am after all.

To my surprise, a young lad suddenly arrived from the "wrong" direction- it transpired he'd soloed the ridge from Little Bear: an impressive feat as it is a long notchy arete extremely exposed on both sides - and the rock is apparently of poor quality. He too fancied Ellingwood, to complete what must be a truly classic traverse.

I retraced my steps to the Ellingwood saddle, followed the ridge a short way to find an obvious cairned line descending L below the pinnacled ridge. It descends a fair distance to cross a stony gully. The descent line is very well cairned - if you can't see one you're off route (I got too high at one point). Once across the gully the upward route is less critical - and less well cairned. A bouldery ascent leads onto the ridge above the difficulties. A false summit is reached (the view is real enough!); a slightly scrambly descent then Ellingwood's summit is soon reached, defined as a rock outcrop directly above a low shelter cairn with a summit register tube.

I waited a few minutes for my new companion (David) to arrive. Our north ridge descent route was pretty airy - narrow arete usually very exposed on one or both sides. I reckoned Class 3; he reckoned 4; certainly there are a fair few exposed balancy moves if you keep to the crest, although there's usually an alternative albeit on looser rock - on the crest the rock is excellent. After maybe 30 minutes of total absorption ... we had to find a way down! Of course we'd studied it from the other side, and at the lowest point (N37.57733 W105.49998) is a feasible bouldery gully - except that we kept to its L edge where there's more scrambling to be had, then a final easy boulderfield dropped us back on the main path.

It was now after midday so I headed straight down. My 2 litres of water are about finished so I treated a litre of stream water. I was feeling a bit groggy - mild altitude symptoms - but they soon wore off as I descended. The first hour was quite pleasant thanks to cloud cover, but further down it was very warm. At 3 pm right on cue there was a rumble of thunder; looking back I saw the mountain covered in black cloud.

Back at the car I relaxed and fed, soon discovering that my 3 litres of water was about right, thanks no doubt to that nice cool early morning ascent. I was really pleased with the way my 2-day 3-Ultras plan worked out.

I headed back towards Denver as I'd arranged to climb Grays Peak
with Melanie and Eirik the next day - then Petter was due to arrive and we'd head north for Gannett, Grand Teton et al.

Blanca Peak photo album
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:7137 ft / 2174 m
    Total Elevation Loss:7137 ft / 2174 m
    Round-Trip Distance:16 mi / 25.7 km
    Grade/Class:YDS 2+
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:6645 ft / 2025 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 6481 ft / 1976 m; Extra: 164 ft / 49m
    Loss on way in:164 ft / 49 m
    Distance:7.5 mi / 12 km
    Route:Como Lake
    Start Trailhead:1.5mi along jeep road  7864 ft / 2396 m
    Time:5 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:6973 ft / 2125 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 6481 ft / 1976 m; Extra: 492 ft / 149m
    Gain on way out:492 ft / 149 m
    Distance:8.5 mi / 13.7 km
    Route:Como Lake
    End Trailhead:1.5mi along jeep road  7864 ft / 2396 m
    Time:5 Hours 32 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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