Ascent of Blanca Peak on 2017-06-04

Climber: Connor McEntee

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, June 4, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Blanca Peak
    Elevation:14345 ft / 4372 m

Ascent Trip Report

I wasn't able to find a single June trip report for Blanca, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The South Colony SNOTEL site had just registered 0” of snow at 10,800’ the day before. But, would the ridge at 13,000’ still be entombed in snow or would it have melted out some? Would the snow be consolidated or mushy? Anyway, I figured I would go for it and worst case scenario I would just have to turn around and settle for a beautiful day at Lake Como.

I was easily able to get my 2WD rental truck to 8,000’ on the Lake Como Road. This is right where the road turns completely into rocks for a stretch. Just after I got my gear together, someone pulled up with a Jeep and offered to give me a ride. Score! However, he only took me less than a mile further up the road, before he decided he would turn around. I thanked him and continued on.

The weather was beautiful, maybe in the low 70s that afternoon. So, hiking the road was not unpleasant. I ran into a climber coming down the road, who very emphatically told me about how crappy conditions were up there. He claimed that he was sinking into the snow up to his waist even with snowshoes on. The snow on the NW face was about an inch of styrofoam covering ice, which turned completely to slush by midday. He did successfully summit in one day from the TH, but was skeptical that I could make it without floatation.

I figured that I’d see for myself and continued on. It was a little interesting to see all of the trucks and SUVs pulled out on the side of the road. The road gets pretty terrible higher up to the point that it amazes me some vehicles can make it that far. Eventually, I made it to the lake where I encountered several other parties camped out and met some climbers just descending from Little Bear. Everyone else up there had or were planning on climbing Little Bear. They corroborated the story about the snow becoming soft, which made it difficult to descend the couloir back to Lake Como. However, the snow was freezing solid at night.

The road to Lake Como was snow free, but it starts just on the south side of the lake all the way up the valley. My plan was to leave at first light, which should give me enough time to make the summit even in strenuous conditions. When I woke up, I discovered the lake completely froze over, which was a great sign. The snow near my camp was quite solid and easy to walk across. However, when I got to the south side of the lake where the road continues, the snow was crusty and breakable. It appeared that the south side of the valley wasn’t melting enough during the day yet to consolidate it into a single mass. Rather than follow the snowshoe trail, I moved back toward the north side of the valley near a creek draining from one of the Blue Lakes. I found this snow to be solid and was able to take a path all the way up to Crater Lake without much post-holing. Once on solid snow, I was able to move quickly all the way to the upper basin and attain the summit from the northwest slopes only going along the ridge for a short section. Overall, conditions were almost perfect, and it took me just under 1h 40m to make it to the summit from my camp.

Beautiful views of the other nearby 14ers and the San Louis Valley were found. Ellingwood Point was impressive, but its snow covered south facing slope exhibited serious signs of instability and would not be safe to climb at this time of year unless done perhaps in the middle of the night. It was windy and cold, so I descended very quickly after attempting to dig out the summit register in vain. Since the sun had not yet reached the sheltered northwest slopes of the mountain, they were still quite firm. Crampons were helpful and I was able to sort of plunge step. I eventually took off my crampons to glissade. I was able to glissade large stretched, but the snow was still too solid for it really to be fun.

Upon returning to Lake Como, I napped for a short bit, packed up, and then headed out. I ran into a party of jeeps descending and got stuck behind them for a bit. It was impressive to see the rocks they could crawl over, but ironically I was significantly faster on foot and beat them them all the way down to where my car was parked.

TLDR: Excellent conditions for a climb of Blanca, but time of day factors significantly into this. With late spring conditions the approach is cool and there are no mosquitos. Ellingwood Point is not feasible without taking serious risks. It might be possible to safely climb it vey sticking to the ridge using a rope, pro, and a few pickets.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6755 ft / 2058 m
    Extra Gain:194 ft / 59 m
    Round-Trip Distance:16 mi / 25.8 km
    Route:NW Face
    Trailhead:Lake Como Road  7978 ft / 2431 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Weather:Cold, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 54 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 45 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Connor McEntee
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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.

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