17 miles if you start at the bottom (8,000') 6 miles if you start near Lake Como
Lake Como (Blanca Peak)
Rio Grande, San Isabel
Sangre De Cristo
From Colorado 160, east of Alamosa, turn north onto Colorado 150 toward Great Sand Dunes National Park. Drive over 3 miles and turn right onto Lake Como road (aka Blanca Peak road). The type of vehicle you are driving will determine how high you can park on Lake Como road. Most cars can drive about 1.5 miles up before it gets rough. 4WD SUVs and trucks can slowly make it 3.25 miles to several pull-offs at 8,800’, before the road turns nasty. This is a popular parking spot and gets you within 4 miles of Lake Como. If you have a very high-clearance, small, 4WD vehicle, you can drive higher. An ATV or heavily-modified jeep/crawler can go to Lake Como.
Photo #1 is a distant view of the route. Hike up the nasty Lake Como/Blanca Peak road to reach Lake Como at 11,750‘. Continue around the lake and up through the trees - Photo #2. The road soon leaves the trees again at 12,000‘ where you enter a large open area. Little Bear Peak is above you to the right, Ellingwood Point is ahead, and Blanca is hidden ahead - Photo #3. Photo #4 is another look at the remaining route. Near the Blue lakes at 12,200‘, the road ends and a trail begins. Follow the trail through the grassy area until you are below a waterfall - Photo #5.
Left of the waterfall, climb 250‘ up talus, small ledges, and grass. At 12,500‘, the terrain flattens out near a small lake and the trail stays near the base of steep talus to your left (north). Climb up a small section of rocks, pass another small lake (Photo #6), and continue up to Crater Lake at 12,700‘ - Photo #7. Above the lake, continue on the left side of the basin to reach some ledges near 13,000‘ (Photo #8 and Photo #9) and follow the trail as it climbs the right side to reach easier ground, near 13,300‘ - Photo #10.
Continue to 13,400‘ and locate a trail junction where the Ellingwood trail branches off to the left. If you‘re having trouble finding the trail, here is a good landmark: In Photo #11 locate a mining hole in the rocks below the saddle. It‘s the one with white-colored rock piled below the entrance. Don‘t confuse it with a lower mining hole (down to the left) that has red rock piled below the entrance. Find the trail that crosses the center of the basin and turns left below the mine hole. Follow the trail as it turns left onto Ellingwood‘s south face - Photo #12.
Continue northwest up toward the center of the south face where the lame trail eventually breaks down. Taken from Blanca, Photo #13 and Photo #14 show the entire face. It‘s not necessary to ascend terrain more difficult than "Difficult Class 2". If you find yourself on Class 3 rock, you may have climbed too high below the saddle - Photo #15. Near 13,450‘, you should have passed under the steep rock near the saddle. Turn right and climb dirt and loose rock toward the ridge - Photo #16. Once you reach the ridge, turn left and follow it to a false summit at 14,000‘. Photo #17 looks back down on the route. From the false summit, the final summit pitch is fairly obvious - Photo #18. Drop 20 feet and hike up to the summit - Photo #19 and Photo #20.
Once you leave the Blanca trail below the saddle, this route becomes steep and loose. Take your time so you don't send rocks down the slope. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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