Peak(s):  Little Bear Peak  -  14,037 feet
Ellingwood Point  -  14,042 feet
Blanca Peak  -  14,345 feet
Post Date:  06/22/2008
Modified:  07/04/2011
Date Climbed:   06/21/2008
Posted By:  benners

 Another Quest for Punishment   

Peaks: Little Bear Peak, Blanca Peak, and Ellingwood Pt., Sangre de Cristo Range
Date Climbed: June 21, 2008
Group: Jon (ossie322) and Ben (benners)
Route: Little Bear's Hourglass Gully to an unnamed South facing couloir on Ellingwood, traverse to Blanca's standard route
RT Distance/Elevation Gain: 15.5 Miles, 7,300 Feet
Time: 12.5 Hours

Jon (ossie322) and I left South Denver at 11:30pm in his modified Jeep Rubicon and headed for Walsenburg. We made good time on I-25, stopped for gas and candy bars in Walsenburg, and continued on to the bottom of the Lake Como road, arriving at 3:30am. With his Rubicon we were able to make an elevation of 9,800 ft. on the road (still approx 3 miles from Lake Como). We geared up and started off at 4:00 with the intent of only hitting Blanca and Ellingwood. After a few conversations on the matter we decided we should go for Little Bear also, and if that were the case we should hit it first. We pushed on to the lake and slogged up the scree gulley from hell, topping out on the West Ridge at 6:00. From there we traversed underneath Little Bear's SW face (with the aid of crampons) and took a look at the Hourglass. There was snow in the first third of it, then wet, verglass covered rock the rest of the way up. Certainly not ideal conditions.

The Hourglass from the West Ridge:
We cramponed up the slopes directly underneath the Hourglass as well as up the snow filled section, then switched out of crampons and climbed the rest. Although there was a bit of verglass, we were able to avoid it by sticking to the left side of the gulley.

Jon climbing the snow section:
At some point later in the day we were talking about how Little Bear has this sort of dread feel to it that the other 14ers don't, particularly in the Hourglass. Maybe it's all the dark rock, menacing features, and the fact that a lot of people have been injured/died here. Here's Jon working the class 4 bit:

We continued on to the summit, arriving at 7:30am. I particularly like Little Bear's summit because of the enourmous relief to the surrounding plains, I think it's one of the most spectacular summits. We took a look at the traverse and I wasn't feeling the repeat, I think one time across that sucka may be enough for me (and Jon wasn't in any rush to hit it either), although I may give it another shot when I turn 90.

I love this pic of Blanca (the town, not the peak), the relief is awesome:
The traverse, the line up Ellingwood is our next goal for the day:
First thing's first though, we needed to collect on some free Which Wich:
Jon and I took the next 2 hours getting back down to Lake Como, this was the first time I had descended the Hourglass and I wasn't a huge fan, nor did I enjoy descendind the worst scree gulley on Earth. I made the case to Jon that the traverse may actually carry less objective danger than descending LB's s*@t gulleys. We refueled and headed for Ellingwood Point. Our idea was to climb one of the snow couloirs leading up to Ellingwood's Southwest Ridge route and then continue along the ridge to the summit. We ended up choosing the largest couloir (which was also the only continuous line to the summit). It was 10:30am and the snow had begun to soften but it was still good enough for our standards, so out came the crampons and axes.

Jon climbing near the bottom of the couloir:
This couloir is fairly long; 800 to 1,000 verticle feet. We tried our best to make quick work of it.

Jon in the middle of the couloir:
We headed up the rock, happy to be off of the quickly softening snow. To our suprise the summit was not 5 minutes away, we topped out on Ellingwood's summit at noon.

Once on the ridge, the summit is very close:
We stayed for a short while and chatted with coloradogirl from Some ominous clouds had formed across the valley over the Spanish Peaks, we knew if we were gonna get Blanca it would have to be quick.

The Spanish Peaks:
We high-tailed it over to Blanca only to find that the weather had subsided across the valley. Nevertheless we wanted off the peaks, it was 1:30pm and the wind was picking up. After snapping some more pics, we started our descent.

More Which Wich:
Looking back at Ellingwood Point, our couloir on the left:
. . . and Little Bear:
We descended Blanca quickly, taking advantage of the numerous snow fields. We soaked our feet in Lake Como and chatted with a few dudes who were about to try Little Bear the next day. We also met up with coloradogirl again before descending the Como Road back to the Jeep. We capped off the day at 4:30pm.

We stopped for some celebratory iced Corona in Pueblo:

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Nice work!     02/05/2011 00:22
I‘m looking at doing the same 3 peaks in a few weeks. How much time would you have saved if you hit the traverse and them Ellingwood? How difficult would it be to navigate the West Ridge route in the dark? Was the entire trail snowpacked from Lake Como to the Blanca/Ellingwood approaches? Thanks for the great pics!


Well . . .     11/30/2010 17:28
hitting all 3 peaks last summer with the traverse took ten hours, so roughly 2.5 hours shorter than doing them w/o the traverse. Here's the TR from last summer which includes the traverse:

If you have never done the West Ridge route before it may be difficult to navigate in the dark as there are a lot of random cairns and disappearing trails, and you may not be able to see Little Bear in the dark. And there were only a few patches of snow on the approaches which are not really an issue at all and will be gone very soon anyway.


You guys are amazing!     06/24/2008 06:00
It was so nice to meet you. It is fun to put a face with a name You two still didn‘t even look tired when we saw you back down at the lake. Congratulations on your incredible day!


Colo.girl     06/25/2008 00:58
It was really fun to meet you too. I love when we meet members.

Hope to see you out climbing again!

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