Peak(s):  Ellingwood Point  -  14,042 feet
Date Posted:  08/19/2019
Date Climbed:   08/18/2019
Author:  KMoore32
 Ellingwood via South Zapata Lake   

Hiked into South Zapata Lake on Saturday. Left trailhead at 2:15 PM and arrived at the lake around 6 PM. In reality this hike in is somewhere around 5.3 miles and 3000 ft of gain.. and a bit of a grind. Found a great campsite a bit up and to the southeast of the lake, nearer to the base of the C2 Couloir. Saw one other tent set up close to the lake.

As we ate our dinner and examined the C2 Couloir, though it was snow-free, it looked very scary from the bottom. The last 100 or so feet near the top looked almost vertical to us. Because of this, we agreed we would begin our ascent via the slightly longer option of the C3 Couloir a bit higher up in the basin. We went to sleep and were excited about what was to come the next day.

Got a bit later of a start than we wanted (started walking just before sunrise around 6 AM) It was a little bit of work to navigate the talus fields to find the base of C3 but it didn’t take incredibly long. There is a smaller lake up the drainage there directly at the couloir’s base as a point of reference. From there, C3 is very obvious.

Be warned, the C3 adds a pretty substantial chunk of work to your day, as parts of that west ridge are pretty slow going as you bump up and down before finally arriving at the top of C2. Most of this is class 2 with maybe some easy class 3 with moderate exposure. C3 was totally snow free as well on the “route” proper, though there was some just to the left of its base as you can see in the photos. C3 really wasn’t bad at all besides being very loose. While ascending, poles didn’t help much so we just used our hands to scramble up. Staying left near the more solid rock on the ascent proved to make things go quicker.

When we finally got to the top of C2 from the top of C3 via the west ridge, we realized C2 wasn’t nearly as bad/steep as it looked from the bottom. We committed to descending it after summiting instead of traversing all the back across the west ridge and back down C3. Especially because our tent was right near the bottom of C2- it felt so close!

From the top of C2, it is a steep ascent up the final bit of the west ridge before attaining Ellingwood’s north ridge. When you get there, the route up the north ridge to the summit looks way scarier than it in fact is. It’s mostly easy class 3 and you can keep right of the ridge proper for most of the it as the talus fields give you a little buffer room on the right. For the final 100-150 feet however you do have to commit more to the ridge, and this is where some slightly harder class 3 moves are. There is a “knife edge” I guess near the end but you can keep your body to the right of it and then bellow out around the precipice just before Ellingwood’s summit.

We saw 3 other people at the summit, from where the views in all directions are mesmerizing. Ellingwood’s summit is quite small but has some nice places to rest for a few minutes before the descent.

We retraced our steps back over the north ridge, then west ridge, before descending C2 Couloir. It honestly wasn’t terrible on the descent. We had our poles out and took it slow and were deliberate with our moves. You just need to anticipate some of the slides on the looser sections so they don’t catch you by surprise. If you’re not paying careful attention you could easily take a fall/slide or roll an ankle. Me and my partner separated quite a bit and met up at the bottom to ensure we didn’t knock rocks onto one another.

Once down, we took a short break and packed up our tent and began the death march back down from South Zapata Lake to the Zapata Falls trailhead. Saw a few bighorns running around on the rocks around treeline and we were on our way back to the car. A gorgeous weekend in the mountains!

Stats: we clocked around 17 miles over the 2 days and somewhere around 6000 ft of elevation gain.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

Fun chatting with you guys
08/19/2019 17:24
We didn't make it all the way to Calif, but were able to descend down into Huerfano from above Lily Lake.

08/20/2019 12:28
We saw you guys popping up and down the ridge on our way back down. Challenging long day you guys had! Real nice meeting you guys at the summit.

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