| Brotherly Fun At Lake Como
Our climbing party consisted of Robert from St Louis, John, Len, and Mark from Michigan (MIF) and Chris from Colorado Springs. The Robert and the MIF had just summited Culebra on Sunday after arriving in Colorado the day before. We met at Ft Garland Sunday afternoon and spent the night there rather than camp at the Lake Como TH. That was a great decision as the TH was hot, rocky, and waterless. We got up the next morning and finally found a place to have breakfast around 7:30am and then headed for the TH which was a short distance away.
Just finished breakfast at Lu’s: Robert, John, Chris, Len and Mark.
Chris was able to get his Honda Pilot up to 8000’ before he gave up. He had been following the Michigan Flatlanders (MIF) who were going up in a Ford 150 with lots of power and 4x4 drive so when Chris parked the Pilot, they picked him up. We were able to drive to 9800 feet before the road outmatched our vehicle and driver. That left us with 1900 feet to hike up to the lake.
Found a place for the truck and getting ready to sojourn up to the lake. Photo by Len.
The hike into Lake Como was quite entertaining with the 4x4 vehicles going over each jaws section. It looked like wrestling matches, ground versus driver, tackling each challenge with spectators watching and coaches with hand signals.
These guys carried an extra drive train for their highly modified jeeps. We believe this is jaws 1. Photo by Len.
We arrived at the lake and there was an immediate, but quick thunderstorm. We found the shelter and hung out there while scoping for a campsite. With the storm over we located what appeared to be a suitable site and began setting up tents. Then, the hordes of mosquitoes swarmed us and began their relentless 4 day attack. There was no escape. Only three places that provided relief, a huge talus area out in the open, in a tent or in the lake. That afternoon, Mark was able to contact Britt, who was coming up in the next day or two, via texting and let him know to bring more bug repellant!
The shelter had a tarp/tent inside and needed some little repairs. Photo by Chris.
The original plan called for us to hike into Lake Como and then rest the next day, but that would have meant climbing Ellingwood and Blanca on one day and Little Bear the following day. Needless to say, after thinking about it and checking our physical conditions after the hike to Lake Como, we decided to try and climb Ellingwood and Blanca the next day. In the morning, we quickly confirmed our revised plan and set out at 6:06am.
Early on, we shed our outer layers. We were probably over dressed for the temperature, but too chilly to not at least start comfortable. After 30 min or so, Chris’ boot laces needed adjusting, so he stopped and retie them. As he was tightening the right boot, the lace casing broke! He tried stuffing the lace through the grommet and tie the ends, but to no avail. Much to our amazement, Robert carried a spare pair and Chris was able to get his boots in working order. Note: carry spare laces! They don’t weigh that much.
There were numerous picturesque lakes on the way up to the basin. Photo by Len.
On approach to the Ellingwood trail we found a beautiful waterfall we all took turns getting our mountaineer pose photographed. Photo by Chris.
Len in his mountaineering pose.
Len climbing up a chute next to that great looking waterfall. Photo by Mark.
It was a good trail going by all the lakes, but when were facing the ridge between our two objectives, it became hard to find. The route description mentioned the mine entrance which we found, but we were unable to find the actual point where the trails to both peaks intersected.
There’s no gold in this mine, says John! It wasn’t very deep and ice covered the floor. Photo by Len.
We later learned that it is located above the wide “waterfall.” Most of us walked by it twice and failed to recognize this very important land mark. It looked more like dripping water rather than falling water.
Mark is standing on the trail instersection on our way down, behind the wide waterfall. Photo by Robert.
If you are going to climb both mountains on one trip, which one do you climb first? We had this discussion the day before and after our arrival at Lake Como. If you decide to climb the traverse, there are two options: climb really close to the ridge or climb near the ridge and try to save as much elevation as possible. We chose the latter option and were able to traverse this section without going below 100’. We decided that if we were going to climb class 3 talus, it would be easier to go up rather than down the saddle. We headed for Ellingwood first.
We made it to the saddle between Ellingwood and Blanca by least
The way to summit Ellingwood. It looked better than the traverse or ridge ascent of Blanca! Photo by Chris
Climbing to the ridge was difficult talus and boulder hopping. We actually did not make the waypoint on the ridge and ended up several feet far left of the ridge route. Once on the ridge, the summit was begging us to sit for a spell. We summited at 9:57am and 3 miles from the lake where we started.
The Ellingwood Band of Brothers. Photo by Robert’s camera.
Robert out front doing the “trail” finding on the traverse or at least best route with Robert providing helpful directions. Photo by Len.
Looking for the traverse between the two mountains was like looking for a needle in a haystack. We decided to do Bill’s easier option of plan B. We headed for Blanca after a 35 min rest leaving Ellingwood summit at 10:34am. Broken segmented trails were found and not well marked. We thought we were losing too much elevation, but as it turned out, we were acceptably below the ridge on our way over to Blanca.
At the beginning of the Blanca ascent. From this angle, it looked impossible, but the sketchy trail revealed itself. Photo by Robert.
The route up Blanca was well camouflaged, but the weather was good and we pressed on. We were ready for some really tough climbing as it looked very steep from our Ellingwood summit view. As it turned out, the second summit went well and it wasn’t as steep looking when we were on it as when we saw it from the distance.
A good view of our route up Blanca to this point and just how impossible Ellingwood looked. Mark, Chris and Len talus hopping up. Photo by Robert
“It’s just a little bit further,” someone shouts out. Photo by Robert.
Mark is saying, “beam me up!,” while Len brings up the end and Chris tries to smile. Photo by Robert.
We summited Blanca at 12:38pm after about 2:04 hours and traversing .66 miles and stayed there 10 min to grab a snack, and rest a little. The summit was infested with hundreds of pesky, biting, flying insects. All we know is that they weren’t mosquitoes.
John and Robert’s celebratory summit pose—woohoo! Photo by Chris
Len, Chris and Mark’s summit record. Photo by John
At 12:45pm, we headed back to camp as directionally accurate as possible making a 2.8 mile trek and taking about 3 hours, returning to our beloved mosquito haven around 4pm. It was an 11 hour up and down day for two challenging peaks.
It was climber’s choice on the way down. Photo by Len.
Looking back at Ellingwood, we were shocked that the route appeared more difficult than Blanca’s, but now having done both, I would have to say they are the same in difficulty only Blanca’s route is longer. There is less scrambling on Blanca and the trail is well marked most of the time, while Ellingwood’s route was much harder to follow.
Once back to camp, we discussed the plans for the 4th of July which now was a rest day, and decided that we would be in better shape to climb on Thursday as Little Bear would probably suck out all our reserve energy.
A great climb with great friends. Britt arrived shortly after we got back to camp from our double 14er and we spent the evening banding as brothers, talking about today, the 4th and the next day: the Little Bear climb.
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