| Blanca/Ellingwood standard combo
Let me start off by saying that I did not enjoy this hike but the overall trip was very good.
My plan was to drop off some family at the Co Springs airport, then head over to Mt Yale to hike the next day, then head down to the Sangre de Cristos. The Waldo Canyon fire rerouted me straight to the Sangre's on Sunday night where I decided on Blanca-Ellingwood combo. I had no intentions of hiking the full 16.5 miles in a day, so on Monday I went over to the Great Sand Dunes to kill some time before the hike up to Lake Como. It's so close to the TH (around 15 miles) that you have to drive over and see them, they are incredible.
I also went over and did the very short hike up to Zapata Falls, over to lunch in Alamosa, and then on to the Lake Como TH. Believe the hype on the TH conditions, this road is a disaster. Be prepared for either a very rough drive or a long hike. The RAV4 I was driving made it 2.6 miles in and I probably should have stopped a half mile before that. Left car at 1:00 packed up for a night at the Lake and got to camp at 5:00 after 5 miles of misery. This hike is no joke by itself because the entire trail follows the rock filled road and there is very little shade. It was around 90 degrees on the hike up on Monday. Looking back down the road about 1.5 miles from the Lake.
Lake Como is a beautiful area and has plenty of great campsites, just prepared for the mosquitoes.
Didn't get much sleep because I left my thermarest in the car and my hammock tent gets very cold without some layer between the nylon and my light sleeping bag. Probably dropped down in the 40's and had some decent wind during the night. Left camp at 6:00am, following the path on the right side of the lake and then up to the left of the stream that flows in. You basically just follow the water the whole way up past many small lakes to the foot of the scree/talus field.
I decided on Blanca first and didn't have to worry about traffic as I was the only person out there. You can't really see a trail until you get all the way to the base and there's a bunch of different trails going in every direction. I can't imagine anyone being able to do the same route twice or even coming down the same one you went up. Basically you just try to gain the ridge anyway you can.
View back down from the ridge
Once on the ridge, it's pretty much straight up to the summit on top. There are a lot of side trails that look like you should stay below the ridge on the right but there's always a trail that stays directly on top of the ridge.
made Blanca summit at 9:00am
The hike over to Ellingwood is fairly short but difficult because of route finding and when you are on the climb, you can't really see the summit as you go up. This actually caused me to summit the 2 ridges before the summit and I had to down climb, cross over, and go back up. After about a 20 minute break on Blanca, I hit the Ellingwood summit just before 11:00. It shouldn't take that long but I really struggled with route finding the whole day going up to both summits.
You can just make out the Great Sand Dunes looking north from Ellingwood onto the Crestones.
Be careful on these scree/talus fields because you can very easily dislodge decent sized rocks. I personally would be very nervous climbing these peaks on busy days and having people above or below me. I made it back to Lake Como just before 1pm, ate a little and made it back to the car at 4pm.
After this hike, I'm happy not seeing any more rocks for years. 90% of the trail from the road to the summit is rock, small road rocks, scree/talus, and boulders. So for me, it wasn't fun, I was begging for some solid ground the whole way down. The morning was nice and cool, I didn't see the sun until I hit the ridge up to the summit but it was mid to upper 90's on the 5 mile hike down to the car from Lake Como. I don't know if I was just having a bad day but Tuesday was 10 hours of hell. I passed a few guys on Monday that were coming down doing the whole 16 plus miles in a day. To anyone who has every done this route in one day or will do it, I salute you and have no idea how it's possible. If these 2 summit climbs are class 2, then I'm probably not ready for class 3. IMO, there was a big difference between La Plata and these 2 peaks.
I drove down from Littleton via 25 south and over to Alamosa and back up 17/285. There's no reason to take 25 from Denver other than weather because the drive between Buena Vista and Alamosa is the best drive I've done in Colorado. You're in a flat plains area between two mountain ranges where you have clear site of many 14ers. It's a couple of beautiful hours driving and I really like the drive on 285 back to Denver too.
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