Peak(s):  Blanca Peak  -  14,350 feet
Ellingwood Point  -  14,057 feet
Date Posted:  09/17/2021
Date Climbed:   09/14/2021
Author:  Bccrhp
 Long day on Blanca-Ellingwood Point almost turns electric   

Our day started a little later than usual due to the remarkably bad Lake Como road, but we were walking up the road from ~9000’ around 7:15. We found the route to Lake Como to be a rather unpleasant slog with not a lot of attractive scenery. Past the lake, though, the trail to Blanca is well marked with very little routefinding needed until you’re on the final ridge around 13,750’. On the final ridge, we found the rocks to be large and relatively stable, with not much risk of rockfall. It’s not pleasant but not overly difficult.

Clouds rolled in as we were ascending Blanca, but they didn’t look too threatening, so we decided to add the combo to Ellingwood Point. We tried to stay close to the ridgeline to avoid losing too much elevation. The traverse, if you can call it that, could easily be kept at Class 2 if you were so inclined. Otherwise there’s some easy Class 3. As we ascended Ellingwood, the weather got steadily worse—clouds darkened and snow started falling. Nevertheless, we pushed on to the summit. A few minutes later, while sitting on the summit, we started hearing staticky buzzing noises, and our hair started standing on end. We immediately bailed down a Class 3 slope as fast as we could, fortunately escaping being crisped by a lightning bolt. (We had not seen any lightning or heard thunder previously.)

We didn’t want to risk regaining the proper route off Ellingwood, which hugs the ridge for a while, so we continued essentially straight down the south face. It was mostly Class 2 on some loose rock—very doable but not to be recommended.

Once off Ellingwood Point, the hike back down took far longer than we remembered coming up, and it was fully dark by the time we were driving back down the last few miles of the Lake Como road.

Overall, neither Blanca nor Ellingwood was particularly fun to summit—neither offers much by way of excitement or scenery, and the ~6800’ elevation gain makes for a very long day. Having to walk/drive up and back down the Lake Como road adds to the unpleasantness.

And as we almost learned the hard way, don’t mess with dark clouds!

Comments or Questions
09/18/2021 07:28
I, and probably many will agree that the Lake Como road is not fun, and that this is a long hike. But the statement "neither offers much by way of excitement or scenery" is just not accurate. While "excitement" is more subjective and reference point-dependent, we can objectively look at the scenery.
On the way to the summit you pass by five alpine lakes (Lake Como, the two Blue Lakes, Crater Lake, and a smaller lake between Crater lake and upper Blue Lake), and a waterfall at the upper Blue Lake. You have the Little Bear-Blanca ridge to your right, and Elingwood southwest ridge to your left, which provide a distinct scenery compared to other hikes. The summit view offers a spectacular panorama with several 14ers (Little Bear, Ellingwood Pt, Mt Lindsey, and if conditions are right the Crestones and Kit Carson), Great Sand Dunes, many 13ers, many other alpine lakes, San Luis valley, and the very famous Little Bear - Blanca traverse.
The effort can take a toll, and weather may leave less room to enjoy the mountain, but the scenery is really there.

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