I scheduled a trip to Sneffels and Wetterhorn earlier in the season, and planned it for Mother's Day. Unfortunately Mother Nature decided to mess with our plans a bit. No worries, alternate plans eventually arose, and we decided to go down to attempt Blanca and Ellingwood.
Al, Sarah and Jason met Kol, Lonnie (my 14er by age - yeah he has done about 32 14ers by now) and me at the REI at Park Meadows at 4:00 a.m. so that we could get an early start for a hike up Como Road. Jason had finals on Monday, so he couldn't attend, so Al and Sarah followed us in Al's Toyota FJ.
The drive down was fast, but we had a small issue finding the Lake Como Road (the sign isn't on Highway 150, it is about 100 feet up Como Road), and the 14ers description says "drive over 3 miles" - well, uhhhh, how much over 3 miles?? Eventually we found the road and headed up it.
I decided to park lower on the road since I have a stock Jeep Grand Cherokee.
We loaded our gear into Al's FJ and he got us 2 miles further up the road (I think to the 4 wheel drive trailhead). We began our hike from there.
Pictures are of Al, Sarah, and Lonnie ready to go.
I was thinking the 5.25 miles one way stats started at the paved road - not sure anymore since I know for certain we hiked at least 4 miles to get to Lake Como. Long hike up, but it wasn't terrible. The road was pretty cool, but it was very long to get to the lake.
Just when we thought we were there, we would come around a bend and see more road - uggghhhh.
Al taking a break.
Finally, we arrived at the lake. This was pretty much the first deep snow that we encountered, postholing at times to our thighs, other times, snow was very shallow. We passed the cabin, and Lonnie looked in and relayed that it was occupied. We continued around the lake and encountered two guys who told us they just came back from an attempt on Little Bear, but turned back because of rotten snow conditions in the couloir. They offered the cabin, but we decided upon a tenting spot that was near a second broken down cabin structure.
Looking out our tent at the broken down cabin.
Al and Sarah pitched a tent identical to the tent shared by Kol, Lonnie and me.
Once tents were up, we had the afternoon to enjoy. We had a quick lunch, and several of the boys slept while Sarah and I enjoyed the beautiful afternoon.
Sarah hydrating for tomorrow's climb.
This is a close up of our destination with my 20x zoom lens.
Kol on a snowshoe exploration around the lake in the afternoon.
About 6 pm, we had dinner (the Mountain House Chili Mac is great with Sriracha in it!), after which all made haste to get to bed. The tents were still too hot for sleeping so we just hung out looking at the cool scenery.
Lon just waiting to get cool and sleepy.
Once the sun went down it got cold fast.
Overnight, the temps were forecasted to be about 30 degrees. Don't think that was accurate as I have a zero degree bag, and was super cold. Sarah, also with a zero degree bag, was cold too. I think the guys slept just fine. 4:00 a.m. began with a cello solo from my cell phone. We got up and got moving right away and were heading up toward the mountain, snowshoes on by about 5:15 a.m.
The route wasn't particularly difficult to begin with, and was just a "snowshoe hike" for a while.
Kol heading up.
Lon with the crampons on and axe in hand.
Looking up at the saddle between Blanca and Ellingwood.
Then, snow and rock - Sarah and I stayed on the rock more, where Kol and Lon stayed more on the snow.
We finally got to the saddle, and the wind started howling. Kol was on his way up ahead, and kept going - and Al got his second wind and followed. As usual Kol provided us with an alternate "more interesting" route to the summit. Al went second, and from my vantage point, could tell he was struggling because of a slippery slab with snow on it. He finally made it past the slab. Sarah took a slightly different route. Lon started up the route that Kol and Al took, and started having the same difficulties with slipping on the slab. I suggested a 5th class rock climb to the left, and Lon changed his strategy and started up the rock. Seconds later he was on the ridge. I followed, but Lon was already on the summit. I was the last to summit that day, but wow, what an amazing summit!!
Kol and Lon on the summit of Blanca.
Al on the summit.
Sarah with the bear behind her.
Needless to say, the views from there are incredible. Because the valley floor is so low, and these few peaks arise out of that floor, it was completely spectacular. We were able to see for miles. Nonetheless, the winds were blowing and we didn't stay on the summit for a long time. Lon's feet were freezing (yeah - so were mine - don't buy Kayland M11 boots, they are horrible for keeping your feet warm) so we headed down (the standard route).
We decided that Ellingwood would have to wait for another day.
Had a great trip down to camp - Lon and Kol had a blast glissading but unfortunately the snow was so soft that they couldn't go very fast.
At camp we all packed up to head down the mountain. Misery. Plain and simple. The Como road is the worst going down, for certain. We arrived back at Al's car changed shoes, and drove down to my car, where I had the beers in a cooler.
A few toasts, and it was time to look for food.
Anyone know of a good restaurant around there? The one we chose was not so great and expensive (in Walsenberg). Ugggh, but it refueled us, and we were on the road to home.
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