| Unlikely, perhaps...
Solo climb and ski of Blanca Peak and Ellingwood Point, 5/6/2013
About 14 miles RT, 5500' vertical
Gerlinde (telerina13) and I took on the Como road and managed to drive to about 9500' elevation. I was hoping to scratch out a ski descent of both Ellingwood and Blanca, and her original plan was to join me for Ellingwood. We spent a comfy if comical night trying not to slide off our sleeping pads, as our tent spot was nowhere near level, and took off up the road in sneakers. However, when we finally encountered continuous snow at Lake Como, the accumulated fatigue of several days of climbing and mountain biking got the better of Gerlinde, and she decided to turn back.
Gerlinde's local friends had expressed, shall we say, skepticism about the skiing conditions on these peaks. Ellingwood maybe, they said, but Blanca no. I would usually have agreed, but this is a very strange spring we're having - in fact I was in a blinding snowstorm for much if the day - and as it turned out Blanca was in better skiing shape.
So, in solitude, I began skinning into the woods above the lake, past a remarkable ice formation...
... and the west face of Little Bear...
... and looked up the Baby Thunder Couloir, of which I have fond memories.
We had had a little snow during the night, and as I looked up the valley, the oncoming storm started to gather...
I did get a clear enough view to pick this shallow couloir for an ascent route. One of the great advantages of climbing the 14ers on snow is that the miserable scree and talus fields, that summer hikers either suffer or avoid, become quite passable.
Looking over my shoulder...
... and across the valley at Blanca. Yes, it looks dry. Fortunately it doesn't take much snow as long as it's in the right places.
Here's the last I saw of Little Bear for the day:
From the top of my chosen slot, I climbed fairly directly up Ellingwood's face until I gained a view to the north:
I'm glad I took the previous picture - because, perhaps 5 minutes later, this was all the view from the summit:
So I clicked into my skis. Although there was snow at the summit, some of the talus below had melted out. I began my descent to the southwest, then traversed across the face to the more open snowfield.
I felt my way down in a near-whiteout, then began booting up the face of Blanca. I did get a brief look at my descent route from Ellingwood:
I chose the middle of the face, rather than the ridge, as I was trying to scout for continuous snow. By this time, the falling snow and the wind combined to leave about 5" of new snow under my boots. This was great, except for the places where it concealed, rather than covering, the rocks. Eventually I approached the summit...
... which was pretty well caked.
The first few turns were pretty decent (this picture is looking straight back up from about 50' below the summit).
The thinly concealed rocks did demand a sacrifice in the form of a few strands of P-tex...
... but the skiing was really nice in areas that had some kind of a base underneath.
I was able to ski all the way from the summit to Lake Como. Upon returning to my truck I was treated to the sight of a magnificent golden eagle wheeling directly overhead. Unfortunately I was not quick enough to get a photo, so I will sign off with an image of the now-clearing storm from the east:
Thanks for reading!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):