Peak(s):  Blanca Peak  -  14,345 feet
Ellingwood Point  -  14,042 feet
Date Posted:  07/29/2019
Date Climbed:   07/26/2019
Author:  rideWP
 Solitude in the Sangres - Blanca and Ellingwood   

I've read multiple reports of this "Lake Como Road", but always thought it wouldn't be that bad, sure, it sucks to have to hike a road, but how bad could it really be? After a 4.5 hour drive, I finally neared the Great Sand Dunes National Park and looked at what had to be the section of the Sangre de Cristo mountains that I was about to climb. As I got closer, I noticed a white line heading up into the mountains, but thought surely that is not the road. It's straight up! Well, it was. I begin climbing the road in my stock F-150, thinking that every foot I make it up is one less I have to hike. My goal was the 3.25 mile mark, but after 2.5 miles I decided the truck had taken enough of a beating. There were plenty of spots to park along the road, and I chose one at random. Time to get going!

This was by far the hottest I've ever been hiking in Colorado. The temps were in the mid 80's, and I was immediately sweating hard. It didn't take long for me to realize, this was going to suck. Loose rocks, relentlessly steep, and hot! As I was going up, I passed multiple groups of teens that had camped up there the night before. Each time I passed one, they let me know just how far I had to go with a big smile. If you've ever been interested in seeing multiple mountain vegetation zones, this would be an interesting hike for you. I think you pass through at least 4.

3 hours later, I get to the lake. All I can say is mosquitoes. I've never quite seen as many, they were so thick you could swat and kill 20 at one time. Looking around, I realize there is no one else here. I'm at an area with 3 14ers, in July, and all alone. I don't mind the solitude, I have done almost every peak solo, but it was a bit un-settling to think I was alone in this whole basin, miles from my vehicle. After walking around the lake, I did find 2 other guys camping on the opposite side, so at least someone else was in the area. Trying to sleep was difficult, I heard many sounds, and opened the tent at one point to find 4 buck mule deer stamping around just outside my tent.

4:45, and time to climb. Strap on the headlamp and head out. I decided to go up Blanca first, which was good, because I never saw the Ellingwood split. Once I reached the saddle, Blanca was a straight shot up. I stayed to the right of the ridge, trying not to drop down to far. The trail was hit or miss, at times I'd see what I thought was the trail, then just as quick I'd lose it. 2.5 hours after leaving the lake, I summited Blanca.

Now down on the ridge, I decided to live a little and take the ridge line directly over to Ellingwood. It was somewhat easy to find, though hallway through I lost the path and again began to make my own way. Several class 3 moves and what I believe to be at least 1 4, and I was on the summit 1 hour later.

I expected to run across Ellingwood's main trail at some point, but never saw one. I begin working my way down, following cairns, but eventually ended up in loose rock. I tried multiple routes, even getting back on the ridge route over to Blanca, but decided I wanted to keep going down instead of back across. Rock hoping and looking for some solid footing got really old, and I found myself in sketchy territory. I eventually worked my way to a snow field and took the direct route down, making my way back to Blanca's main trail.

Back at the lake finally, and now facing the downward climb of Como. At the creek crossing, I missed a rock and stepped in up to my calf. Fun times. Once to the overlook, I can see exactly how far I still have to go. This is the time as 14er hikers we have to buckle down and just will our legs to get us there. 2.5 hours down, 9 hours total for the day. Worth every minute.

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