| Ellingwood Point (Southwest Ridge)- Lake Como TH
Date: July 23, 2007
Route: Tour de Ellingwood - Southwest Ridge ascent, South Face (standard) descent
Total mileage: 3.4 miles from Lake Como
Total elevation gain: ~2,200ft. from Lake Como
After a fun "Tour de Little Bear" the previous day, Triple M (Alyson), comin2getcha (Lance), and I stayed at Lake Como another night with intentions of me climbing Ellingwood, Alyson and Lance climbing both Blanca and Ellingwood on Monday. As it turns out, we were caught in a huge hail/rain/thunder storm right after dinner on Sunday afternoon and never got out of the tent until the next morning. Alyson and I ate dinner at 4:00pm and wanted to get some sleep, so we passed out at 6:00pm!
The alarm went off at 3:45am and we were on trail by 4:30am. We reached a tiny unnamed lake just west of and below Crater Lake (12,530ft.)- I've had a big interest in climbing the Southwest Ridge on Ellingwood so we decided to split up. This climb would be my first solo climb of a Fourteener. I also had radio contact with Lance in case anything might happen. At 5:30am, I headed north up to a ledge system that then lead me a few hundred vertical feet diagonally northeast up to the ridge crest at 12,950ft. The photo below shows the initial gain up to the ridge.
Taken from a small unnamed lake, this photo shows the climb up to the ridge crest to 12,950ft.
There are cairns here, but they are minimal:
From here, the cairns become sparser to almost non-existent, and the climbing is a solid class 3 scramble. I found that I stayed mostly on the ridge itself, but weaved back and forth along the north and south sides periodically throughout the climb- to me, it was obvious when to drop below the ridge crest despite not seeing any cairns. The north side of the ridge wasn't receiving any sunlight yet to dry the rock from the storm the previous night, so I slowed down on this side whenever I was on it to avoid slipping on wet rock and moss. The first half of this ridge tends to be more class 2/2+, while the last half steepens to a class 3 with more exposure. The ridge is approximately 0.8 miles.
Looking back at the first half of the Southwest Ridge- there was one main section I
dropped along the north side before regaining the ridge (taken from 13,500ft.):
From here on to the summit, I never found another cairn. The exposure along the ridge isn't anything major, but there are some spots that it's definitely there. In general, I ran into a few spots where the climbing appeared to be tricky, but there always seemed to be a reasonable way around it. For me, the crux of the route was a super mini knife-edge section, shown in the photo below. When I climbed across it, I found it wasn't bad at all.
A mini knife-edge section that does have some exposure (this may be the crux):
The final pitch to the summit is where is steepens the most and you can take either class 4 lines or keep it at class 3 climbing- again, it was obvious to me which the class 3 route was up (towards the south side). From the arrow in the photo below, the climb up to the summit involves going over a small false summit, and then heading east to the actual summit.
The final scramble to the summit (taken from about 13,800ft.)- the summit is hidden:
From just below the summit (on the false summit), this picture shows a rough drawing of my route up the Southwest Ridge. The blue arrow
indicates where I took the other photo looking back at the ridge in three photos above:
I summited in 3hrs. 20min. (at 7:50am) from Lake Como to the summit of Ellingwood. I could see Alyson and Lance on Blanca getting ready to traverse over to me. Low clouds rolled in, hiding Mt. Lindsey, Blanca Peak, and Little Bear ever so often, but nothing was building up. This was the first time I've ever had the summit all to myself- it was great (and rare) solitude for me. And, honestly, a solo climb is something David wanted me to do at some point in my climbing career. I spent a solid hour up there!
As both Roach and Dawson describe, the Southwest Ridge is a clean ridge run with no surprises or very difficult spots. I'd highly recommend this route as a great alternative to the standard route.
On the summit of Ellingwood Point with Little Bear Peak behind to the left in the distance:
The clouds opened up for a great shot of Little Bear Peak from Ellingwood Point:
Lance and Alyson started over to Ellingwood, but after they reached the low-point of the saddle, Alyson (who only needed Blanca) headed back to start breaking down camp, and Lance hauled up to meet me on Ellingwood. After more photos and a short summit break for Lance, we headed back down more-or-less the standard South Face trail back to camp, where we arrived 2hrs. 15min. later only to find Alyson napping in her sleeping bag with camp broken down for us (making up for not helping us set it up!).
Triple M napping near Lake Como:
Lance and I quickly packed up and we all began back down the 2.2 miles to Lance's truck in 1hr. 30min. We all felt great (especially Alyson and I after 10 hours of sleep!) and got the peaks we needed this weekend. And I was particularly excited with a solid class 3 solo scramble up the Southwest Ridge as my 50th Fourteener!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):