Peak(s):  Blanca Peak  -  14,345 feet
Ellingwood Point  -  14,042 feet
Date Posted:  09/19/2019
Modified:  10/17/2019
Date Climbed:   08/18/2019
Author:  OldTrad
Additional Members:   handonbroward
 Gash Ridge: Senior Ridge Curriculum 404  

Gash Ridge - Blanca: Senior Ridge Curriculum 404

Links:


INTRODUCTION

In this report, I’m taking a slightly different tack from my previous two Senior Ridge Curriculum descriptions. As usual I’ll try to give my “geezer’s perspective”, and I’m still going to let HB to provide the bulk of the route details regarding our adventure since he has such an incredible head for that. However, because there isn’t a great deal of information available about Gash Ridge, and because some of the information that is available is ambiguous, I’m including additional information based on my own research for those who are interested. Of course, anybody who wants to do his or her own research can skip this TR. Finally, I think there’s little danger that this will result in increased traffic into Blanca’s NE Cirque and on Gash, due to the remote location, the significant challenges involved in returning to the Huerfano Valley, and the technical and committing nature of the route, regardless of any new data I may provide here.

INSPIRATION

With HB and I having completed Blitzen and then the 2-way Bells traverse, my Senior Ridge Curriculum was in full swing. Gash Ridge on Blanca Peak became our front-burner objective and the relative ease at which we had accomplished those previous routes put our confidence at an all-time high. At this point, all we needed was a decent weather window and we could head for the Sangres, but before I get to that, I want to describe the evolution of my thinking regarding the route, since that was at the core of my inevitable journey back to fifth class alpine climbing in the first place.

Soon after my trip up Lindsey back in the fall of 2018, after I had first seen Blanca’s NE Face and the Gash Ridge, I began to study the route. Roach’s description included a couple of memorable quotes that etched themselves in my mind:

“Retreat and escape are both difficult from this committing climb, and this is a route on which to exercise your craft as a mountaineer, not learn it.”

…and regarding the cirque below Blanca’s NE face

“this is one of Colorado’s finest places.”


19853_38
Gash Ridge and the Beautiful Blanca NE Cirque. The namesake gash is on the skyline just right of center

The views and photos I had gotten of Blanca’s East Ridge certainly reflected Roach’s statements - Gash Ridge was utterly spectacular. The ridge itself runs from the saddle between Lindsey and the Iron Nipple, all the way west over to Blanca, finally narrowing to near-knife edge width as it sweeps upward, ever steepening as it nears Blanca’s summit. Even from my vantage point on Lindsey over two miles away, the upper ridge was clearly the crux of the route.

Then there was the cirque below Blanca’s NE Face – the Huerfano River headwaters. The cirque itself is especially remote and is surrounded by an enormous curving wall that starts as the north side of Gash Ridge, continues to the summit of Blanca, then curves north toward Ellingwood and beyond, winding around Lily lake, and then heading north again to California Peak. IMHO, the cirque is as impressive as Chasm Lake, though without the throngs of people that Longs attracts. Most hikers who make the long trip to the Lily Lake TH exit the Huerfano Valley on their way south, well before reaching the cirque, heading either for Lily Lake or for Mount Lindsey.

Committing, dramatic, remote, beautiful, technical – there seemed to be no end to the superlatives that one could pick for this route and the more I looked at it and thought about it, the more it actually began to feel possible, although I had a long way to go before I’d be ready to try.

RESEARCH

In November of 2018 I began to research Gash in earnest, scouring the internet for every bit of information I could find. There were four trip reports on 14ers.com – these provided a great start and were written by Augustallen, Marmot72, Eskermo, and Brad Snider. There was also some less detailed info on Summit Post and on Mountain Project, but I’ll come back to those other sources later.

DESCENT CHALLENGES

From the 14ers reports what immediately jumped out was that in every case the climbers had started in the Huerfano Valley but wound up descending/exiting to the west; either via the Zapata Basin or Como Road.

Augustallen had hoped to down climb Ellingwood’s N. Ridge (5th) back into Huerfano, but could not locate the descent and ended up descending into Zapata.

Marmot72 had originally planned to return to the Huerfano drainage via the fourth class Roach variation 20R2, the Winchell Lakes descent, but changed their plan upon basic reconnaissance early on, electing instead to descend to Lake Como via Ellingwood’s SW Ridge.

Brad Snider had intended to follow Ellingwood’s N Ridge all the way to California Peak and descend back to the Lily Lake TH from there, but could not figure out how to safely reach the ridge between Ellingwood and point 13,618, eventually descending via Como instead.

Eskermo simply staged a car at the Zapata TH beforehand and descended that way – his team’s plan from the start.

Clearly, getting from the top of Blanca back into the Huerfano Valley could be problematic. I found at least 5 options for getting off after climbing Gash.

POTENTIAL HUERFANO VALLEY DESCENTS

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Potential Huerfano Valley Descents
  1. The Roach 20R2 Winchell Lakes Descent – difficult to locate from Blanca’s South Ridge, though purportedly not bad if starting from the bottom (fourth class - *if* you can find it from the S. Ridge)
  2. Down climbing Gash (was not my preference)
  3. Down climbing the Blanca NE Face “mountaineer’s descent”, the curving gully north of Ormes Buttress that meets Ormes right at Blanca’s NE ridge (rappels + mixed, potentially loose conditions)
  4. Descending Ellingwood’s N. Ridge route from the saddle and via lower face between Ellingwood and Pt 13,618 (fifth class *if* you can find the route, or via rappel)
  5. Descend the ridge from above Lily Lake or points further north (e.g., California Peak)


My first thought was to stick with Roach’s 20R2 route off the South Ridge and I discussed the possibility of doing a reconnaissance hike with 14ers member Hellmanm to locate the route from the bottom, starting at Winchell Lakes. However, as I continued to look at descent options I began to become more interested in Ellingwood’s North Ridge. After all, I’d not climbed Ellingwood yet, and thought that combining it with Blanca would avoid the need for an additional trip up Como Road.

I was also intrigued by the fact that several folks had reported being unable to navigate Ellingwood’s North Ridge back to Huerfano without having to rappel, combined with the fact that only the sketchiest information was available regarding the route. In fact, all the challenges presented by descending that way made me want to try it even more. I’ve often been attracted by routes that I know others shy away from – it’s part of my rebellious, irreverent wiring – the same kind of thinking that lead me into pursuing offwidth crack climbing for so many years, as well as deciding to do the round trip traverse on the Bells. If the common thinking is not to do something, my general reaction has often been “when do we start?”

Additional study of the North Ridge descent lead me to believe that there’s a tendency to start down the face toward Huerfano too soon, and I suspected this was due to Roach’s description indicating to aim for the 13,220 ft “saddle”, which, from what I could tell, was closer to Ellingwood than to point 13,618. A 14ers TR by doumall on his ascent of the Ormes Buttress appeared to exemplify this confusion. Additionally, comments at the end of that report indicated that it was possible to descend further north along the face below the ridge. As I studied every photo that I could find of the face, there appeared to be an exit point east off the ridge closer to point 13,618 as well, and I believed that starting there instead, and immediately heading down and then north along the wall, would put one on lower angled, safer, but still fifth class terrain.

Of course, there was also the option of carrying a rope for Gash and a rappel descent, but I was most interested in the possibility of a fifth class down climb and therefore assumed that would be via the Ellingwood N. Ridge. I was able to find one vague report on Summit Post (by Brian Kalet), where the author described a solo ascent of Gash and unroped descent via Ellingwood’s North Ridge, so obviously it was possible.

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Detail #1 of the Ellingwood N. Ridge Descent Wall from the Blanca-Ellingwood Ridge. The route stays right of the scooped out area at the center of the photo
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Detail #2 of the Ellingwood N. Ridge Descent Wall from near Ellingwood's summit

AMBIGUITIES REGARDING GASH RIDGE ITSELF

Roach described Gash Ridge as 5.3 – 5.4, while most of the TRs I read called it fourth to 5.0/5.easy. I also discovered that there were varying descriptions of the down climb into the Gash itself. Roach said the descent into the Gash was best managed via a rappel, while Marmot72 and Brad Snider found it to be an uneventful down climb, perhaps even third class. Eskermo and his partner described a hairy and exposed fourth class down climb down some ramps on the south side of the ridge and then back into the Gash proper, and felt it was the crux of the entire route.

Mountain Project’s description was troubling as well, especially given my hope for a ropeless ascent. The MP author made an odd statement - “Reversing the gash goes at a short (20 to 30 feet of 5.6 to 5.7 climbing).” Did that mean when reversing the entire route and climbing east out of the gash? I wasn’t sure. MP also suggested that most climbers solo the route, but carry a short rope to rappel into the gash, thus giving additional credence to some sort of 5.6/5.7 difficulty. In any case, the information on MP was partly inconsistent with the other reports I had read, so I felt it was likely an error, or that perhaps the author had not found the simplest route. Of course, I hoped that when the time came I could locate an easy down climb into the gash and aside from that discrepancy; it appeared the consensus was that the difficulty was 5.0.

HANGING VALLEY AND PT. 13,380

In Roach’s route description, he describes climbing up and into a “hanging valley” starting near the south-eastern corner of the cirque, and then continuing up loose terrain to the saddle above on Gash Ridge proper. Some additional information I found on Summit Post suggested an appealing alternative. Instead of climbing all the way to the hanging valley, it was possible to exit west after climbing about 800 ft (?), and then scrambling onto the North Ridge of Point 13,380. From this point, it was a direct shot up the north ridge on solid, make-your-own adventure terrain, and roughly third or fourth class. It looked like this alternative would cut about ¼ mile from the overall distance and would reduce the amount loose rock, all while increasing the amount of fun scrambling.

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Google Earth Snap with the Huerfano exit gully shown in red, and Point 13,380's North Ridge shown in blue

The remaining question I had was then how best to navigate the difficulties down Ellingwood’s North Ridge in order to reach the saddle/ridge between Ellingwood and Point 13,618. To descend back into the Huerfano Valley this way, this section was crucial, especially given the confusion that Brad Snider described in his report. Fortunately, there was another terrific report online, also written by Marmot72, where he described a trip with Monster5. They started with Little Bear’s NW Face, traversed to Blanca, and then continued north over Ellingwood all the way to California Peak. In his report, he provided details on the confusing down climb to the Ellingwood – Point 13,618 saddle, so I felt I understood what would be required to navigate that section.

CLIMBING GASH RIDGE

Armed with thorough route information and fresh off our success on the 2-Way Bells Traverse, HB and I were ready to go. The weather seemed to have taken a turn for the better, and we didn’t hesitate to jump on a promising forecast for Sunday, August 18th, just six days after our climb on the Bells.

As I described already, I really wanted to descend via Ellingwood’s North Ridge. On the other hand, HB was more interested in staying on the ridge all the way to California Peak (same as described by Marmot72), finally descending to the Lily Lake TH from there as in Bill Middlebrook’s description of California Peak’s South Ridge. Although continuing north would mean I would miss out on the fifth class down climb challenge I had planned on and looked forward to, continuing north would add 3 additional ranked 13ers and would ensure that we would both be physically hammered by the end of the journey. Hence, I deferred to HB and our route was set.

As always, we would travel light and without technical gear. Then, as if our plans weren’t insane enough already, we would do this as another “day hike”, leaving Denver around midnight and doing it all in a single push so that we could be home by dinnertime. The only thing that could possibly have made this any more ridiculous would be to start by climbing Lindsey, and continuing directly across to Gash from the Lindsey – Iron Nipple saddle. Incredibly, we actually discussed this option, but in a moment of rare clarity for us both, we dismissed it as “unrealistic”.

I managed to catch a few hours of sleep on Saturday night and HB picked me up around midnight. We were headed to the Sangres to climb Gash Ridge at last (!!!) – a dream that had existed separately for us both for close to a year (even longer for HB), then becoming a mutual goal when we finally teamed up in early 2019.

The drive to the Lily Lake TH took a bit longer than expected, but we arrived there around 4:30 or so and were hiking soon after that. We followed the Huerfano River along it’s west bank for the most part, eventually reaching the interior of Blanca’s incredible NE cirque around dawn.

In order to minimize potential confusion in the early hours, I had marked a waypoint indicating the exit location from within the cirque: 37.59060, -105.47770, although that location seemed obvious given how the walls cliffed out at the cirque’s base everywhere else to the south. It was getting light and we started climbing, sticking to the right side of the gully until we saw that it was possible to traverse right and gain the North Ridge of Point 13,380. From there we enjoyed over 1,500 ft of fun scrambling on mostly solid rock, and HB trended toward more difficult terrain because he wanted to get warmed up for the crux sections we knew were in store for us higher up.

From here and for about the next 10 hours we remained in no-fall territory. In fact, except for the high, third class traverse from Blanca over to Ellingwood (by far the easiest part of the entire day), everything was continuously difficult and extremely exposed, consisting mostly of fourth class climbing with occasional bits of third and fifth mixed in. I was especially excited given that we were FINALLY CLIMBING GASH RIDGE – Woo Hoo!!! Based on our previous experiences on Blitzen and the Bells, this wasn’t any more exposed or dangerous than anything else we had been doing, though this promised to be a longer, more grueling effort.

19853_04
HB at sunrise with Blanca, the moon, and Ellingwood behind
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Fantastic rock on Point 13,380's North Ridge
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HB enjoying himself on Point 13,380's North Ridge
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...and OldTrad doing the same
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Taking a breather up high on Pt 13,380's North Ridge
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Looking down the ridge into the Huerfano River Valley
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Unsurprisingly, HB reached the top of Pt. 13,380 before I did
19853_11
Almost caught up to HB
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Looking across at Gash Ridge from Pt. 13,380. The best part is the steep edge close to the top, where its right margin hangs out over the void
19853_12
Looking southwest toward Winchell Lakes and Roach's 20R2 variation/descent, the triangular buttress down and left from the bump on the ridge at the far right

We reached the top of Point 13,380 around 8:00 AM, and were now on the ridge. The views of Gash from this point are mind-blowing, and only become more so as we turned right and began heading along the ridge toward Blanca. From here, the ridge undulates for a while, requiring the occasional down climb into notches here and there, but as you approach the pinnacle above the gash proper, the climbing gets continuously steeper until you reach the summit.

19853_13
Getting closer, with my favorite sections labeled
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HB - almost to the pillar just east of the Gash itself


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HB - almost on the pillar

Although some reports I had read indicated that certain points along the ridge could be bypassed by contouring to the south, HB and I stuck to the crest all the way up to “The Gash”, a deep, dark, sinister notch that must be negotiated in order to reach the upper section of the route. For the most part the rock was typical of ridges most of us have encountered before. Much of the rock was good and some sections had loose blocks piled all over the crest, requiring very careful navigation, but we were careful to avoid the loosest stuff and arrived at The Gash around 9:40 AM.


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The view north toward Lily Lake from the top of the pillar. The upper lake above and west of Lily is barely visible


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The view south from the pillar. The 20R2 buttress is the projection with snow on its right, immediately right of center

Our initial reaction seeing this up close was a bit of a shock. The pinnacle narrows down as you walk over to the western edge, and when you look down from there it’s a big, steep drop – maybe 40 ft. The shadowy nature of the gap, along with your exposed position on the west edge, makes it feel especially intimidating, so I immediately backed up and began looking for an alternative to the south. It turns out that there is a very narrow, extremely exposed ramp that is visible to the south so I headed on down. The ramp slants down and west, so at least I felt I was going the right direction. Near the bottom of the ramp, you encounter the rap anchor, two ancient iron pins, each of which was slung with new-looking webbing. A quick step down and west from the anchor and it was finally possible to look around the corner and into the gash from the south. From there I saw an obvious line of holds down and to the north, and carefully descended into the notch at the bottom.

… a quick digression regarding the down climb. When discussing the difficulty with HB and another friend later on, I mentioned that I thought it was third class, but HB disagreed and felt it was fourth, if not low fifth. That discussion got me thinking about my perception of difficulty (i.e., third through low-fifth) while solo on exposed terrain. I ended up describing why I believe I sometimes under-rate difficulty in my report about the 2-Way Bells traverse, just in case you are interested.

19853_18
Looking south again from the bottom of the Gash. That's HB's foot, photo-bombing my picture in the upper left

The fun climbing really begins once you start climbing out of the notch. Initially, HB and I trended up and slightly left, in order to avoid some obvious, loose, stacked plates protruding from the ridge crest. From there we eventually angled back toward the actual ridge, where we reached the best climbing on the entire route. At that point, the ridge crest is more like a prow because it’s so steep, and it narrows to a compact slab of extremely clean, exposed rock, the right side of which literally hangs out and over the NE Face. From there you can peek off and into the gaping void – a drop-off of nearly 3,000 feet – all the way down to the base of Blanca’s NE cirque. It was obvious to both of us that if you were to fall from the right side of this slab, that’s where you were going to end up.

On the other hand, if you were to move just a couple of feet left on this same slab and fall, there was another empty void below, perhaps only 1,000 feet down in this case, where you would land near the small lake at the base of Blanca’s SE face. That lake, by the way, is not one of the Winchell Lakes, but rather a smaller lake north and above them.

The net-net is that this makes for some very exciting climbing. It’s steep and doubly-exposed, but the rock is clean and beautiful. HB took the honors and led this slab, which I’m going to refer to as the “Lower Slab”, where he climbed up about 15 feet above me and paused before committing to a high-step up and out to his right. I think it was at this point he said something like, “watch it, this is really effing exposed” (regarding the aforementioned ~ 3,000-foot void to the right, except I don’t think he used the word “effing”). After that, he quickly reached a stance where I joined him, although I opted to hug the right edge the entire way up this section, preferring the slightly easier, but more exposed climbing.

19853_19
HB on the Lower Slab, making a tricky step up to the right
19853_20
OldTrad climbing the same section of the Lower Slab, but staying closer to the north edge drop-off. The sloping hand hold is pretty typical of what you find on the technical parts of the route
19853_21
And one more, because HB caught me, all of Gash Ridge, and all of Lindsey in a single shot. Apparently I was enjoying myself here

Above the stance, I began to lead the “Upper Slab”, a similarly angled and beautiful, but wider section of exposed rock. The bottom of the slab forms an overlap against the main wall below, so I had to make a steep move or two in order to climb up and over onto its base. Then, after traversing up and left for about 10 feet, I aimed for the top of the slab, which turned out to be a wonderful ledge where I sat and snapped pictures of HB as he climbed safely on up.

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HB about to climb over the overlap and step onto the Upper Slab
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Relaxed, unflappable, and in his element, HB flashes a V-sign. It's only around 1,000 ft down to the lake below.

For those who are interested, the Upper Slab is the same slab shown in Eskermo’s TR, where he included a great picture of his partner climbing below him. Brad Snider included a photo of this same section in his report too. My thanks goes out to both of these guys for tipping us off as to just how beautiful this section was going to be.

Above the slabs the difficulty eased somewhat and we reached the summit just before 11:00 AM. There were four or five folks already there when we arrived, of course. After all, it was a beautiful Sunday in August; so many people were on their way to and from Lake Como.

19853_24
We were really happy when we arrived at the summit!

After congratulating each other, food, sunblock and a rest, we headed down and across to Ellingwood, where we met two other guys on the summit who had come up from Zapata. Others were on their way up the South Face, but our time spent on the summit was relatively quiet, and we soon headed down for the North Ridge for more fun. We had had our rest on the relatively trivial third class traverse from Blanca (relative, of course, only as compared Gash Ridge, as well as what we were about to face for the next several hours), and now it was time to start paying the piper again.

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HB on the saddle between Blanca and Ellingwood. You can see the actual Gash on the skyline, at the bottom of the steep part on the right

Having not climbed Ellingwood up from Zapata, it’s a pretty intense experience heading north and right from Ellingwood’s summit toward the end of the exposed ridge. It’s another one of those places where it becomes so steep that until you get right up to the edge and look off, it seems as if it’s going to drop off into space (which in this case it sort of does). Hence, we had to approach the drop-off on faith, assuming that there would be a route there when we arrived, and there was.

19853_29
About to take the step off into oblivion

I won’t describe the down climb, but will say that after the junction with the west-trending ridge (to Zapata, etc...) we stayed on the west side of the North Ridge. Eventually we reached a point where we were able to traverse northeast to the ridge/saddle that runs between Ellingwood and Point 13,618, and continued north from there. I also have to say that by this time, the exposure was taking on an exhausting aspect and I was beginning to feel fried. Of course, our fatigue was also due in part to the continuous physical exertion, but overall we were paying our dues and the effort was taking a toll. We hugged the ridge for the bulk of the traverse over to Point 13,618, and I had a chance to get some good looks at what I suspected was the entrance to the actual, fifth class down climb on the North Ridge. However, we were still determined to continue so we passed that spot, finally reaching Point 13,618 around 2:30 in the afternoon.

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A look back at the route, with Pt. 13,380's North Ridge visible as the long "ramp" on the left side of the picture
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This is aimed slightly more to the east, capturing more of Ellingwood and its North Ridge
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Further right again, in order to show the ridge between Ellingwood and Point 13,618 at the lower right
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...and finally, with our route marked in blue

Of course, our original plan was to continue from here, around Lily Lake and over the two unnamed 13ers, but shortly after we started climbing again HB said he didn’t think we were going to make it all the way to California. It was already mid-afternoon, we were drained both mentally and physically, and it was time to look for a way down. Up until then I was convinced that our next opportunity to get off was going to be from Point 13,577, north of Lily Lake, via the steep, loose slope on its south-western flank. Therefore, if I had had my way, I would have dutifully slogged all the way around the ridge, over Point 13,660 and up 13,577, and descended to Lily Lake as in the 14ers California Peak South Ridge description.

Fortunately, for both of us, however, HB spotted a closer alternative - the red-brown gully directly west of the small lake above and west of Lily. I was skeptical at first, but he assured me it would be possible by “talus surfing”, although he also asserted that it was “going to suck”.

19853_35
Our descent route can almost be seen in this photo - the gully between the two "bumps" just left of center. The upper lake, barely visible, is directly below the small snow patch, above and left of Lily Lake

Trusting HB’s judgement, we remained on the ridge until above the gully, just short of Point 13,660, and then proceeded down. As it turned out, it did in fact suck. Finally, we were into full-on Type-2 terrain! HB dropped down quickly, trending across the fall line to the north and back, and eventually moved between two ribs of more solid rock, directly below a spot where I had stopped to rest. The terrain throughout the descent up to this point was extremely loose, where each step caused large areas of slope to slide along with you, though luckily the bulk of the mass was closer to dirt/gravel than big stuff. I realized that I needed to wait for him to get clear of me below; given the funnel he had just stepped into. Several hundred yards lower, the slope ran out, he was finally clear of potential danger, and he moved out of range onto more stable talus. We had finally arrived again on solid, though talus-covered uneven ground, and the exposure was behind us for good.

19853_36
Incredible

I was relieved to be able to pull my poles out for self-assist as we descended further to Lily Lake, down the Lily Lake trail (an actual trail!), eventually reaching an incredible spot where HB paused in front of the massive Blanca NE face and I snapped several pictures which turned out to be among the best of the day.

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HB, contemplating our adventure. If this doesn't sum up why we climb then I don't know what does

As we trudged out the remaining three miles to the TH, my right knee suddenly decided to react to the day’s stress, and rewarded me with sharp, extreme pain. Fortunately, I had carried some ibuprofen in my pocket on the chance that this might happen – it had flared up, seemingly out of nowhere just 3 days prior, at which point I had managed to beat it back into submission using a course of anti-inflammatories and cold-packs. In any case, my knee slowed me down considerably for the last hour, though in hindsight that relatively short-lived discomfort was a small price to pay for what we had achieved. It was now obvious that I was no Marmot72 or Monster5 (although in my mind I still seem to think I’m 25), but my almost year-long dream had been realized and another part of me was floating on air as the magnitude of our day began to soak in.

We made it back to Denver in time for (a late) dinner, so were still able to claim “day-hike” status and each spend a few hours of “re-entry” before going to sleep prior to the work week ahead. As the following week progressed, I discovered that I felt strangely alienated from the world – a feeling I had not experienced since spending days up on El Capitan. It felt as if I had been on a different planet and then returned; suddenly it was more difficult (than usual) to relate to society around me. Midway into the week HB and I texted one another and it turned out that he was feeling exactly the same way. Whether it was that a long-term goal, once finally achieved, had changed our perception, or it was the ~10 hours we spent “walking the edge”, I’m not sure. What I am certain of, however, is that our day on Gash Ridge up and around the Blanca Massif was an incredible experience, and one that I’m never, EVER going to forget.




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38


 Comments or Questions
eskermo

Wow!
09/19/2019 17:52
Congrats on one heck of a day. That ridge continuing north and the descent look rough, but way to figure it out - and thanks for sharing some beta. I'm happy that my trip report helped with planning and firing the stoke. Your trip reports have been great - keep 'em coming!


OldTrad

Thank you!
09/19/2019 20:09
Thanks for the kind words, and thanks also for your own Gash report - your description of conning your partner into that trip reminded me of what I sometimes used to do when my normal partners weren't available to go up on some, hideous rock route with me.

"Hey, I was thinking of going up and climbing the Maelstrom. Wanna go up there with me? I'll lead everything..."


Jay521

Nice!~
09/19/2019 20:54
Way to rock it!


jahselassie

09/19/2019 21:21
Excellent report


Tornadoman

Great report!
09/19/2019 21:22
Looks like a lot of intensity there. Glad you guys pulled it off safely, and thanks for taking us along for the journey!


Cygnus X1

Intense!
09/19/2019 21:36
Obviously our Massive Mania trip was just a walk in the park! Great report of an epic day.


OldTrad

Once a climber, always a climber
09/20/2019 09:03
Thanks all, that was a challenging day and it was a huge relief once we stepped back onto the Lily Lake trail.

Cygnus - We'll just have to wear hair shirts the next time we climb Massive Mania, though we'll have to get our "Teem Geez" logos transferred from our matching cotton Tee Shirts first. We could go barefoot and wear loincloths too in order to complete the look.


ltlFish99
Excellent report
09/22/2019 16:59
What an absolutely delightful trip report.
Thank you!


Broken Knee

Excellent!
09/24/2019 20:44
Thanks for the TR. Great photos and route info.


handonbroward

Sixty what?
09/27/2019 13:20
Great TR Bruce, and a hell of a day. I had so much fun 🤟


Marmot72

Love it!
09/27/2019 16:54
What a great day you had! Enjoyed the report and photos; reading this brought back memories.


OldTrad

Thanks All -
09/28/2019 13:01
@ltlFish99 - You made my entire week! I'm so happy that you enjoyed this.

@Broken Knee - Thank you for reading and commenting!

@HB - Thanks for believing that guy (who claimed to be "in his low 60s") when he first told you that he really wanted to climb this. He meant it. This summer has been an unforgettable ride!

@Marmot72 - Thank you so much for your kind words. Coming from you that means a lot. I've leaned on your reports heavily, including the one on Gash, and especially loved the "6-Pack". Also loved the one by Monster5 where he showed you guys on Mummy Kill/Blitzen. Thanks again!


Mtn_Topper

Down climb beta
05/27/2020 12:09
I am looking to do this same route in a month (and hopefully have gas to continue on to California). I'd love to hear more about the descent off the north ridge of Ellingwood. What's the rock quality and route finding like?


OldTrad

Re: Down climb beta
06/01/2020 18:49
First, be sure to study this article by Marmot72. He gives lots of info regarding the entire stretch from Ellingwood all the way to California, although for me personally, the most important thing was the picture of where Monster5 was dropping down off the North Ridge. There is a similar picture in this report also, where the caption points out that HB is about to step off into oblivion. After that, it felt like there was really only one way to go.

At the drop off point you immediately hit what I felt was the crux of the downclimb. You end up on the east side of the ridge and work down a very exposed and steep, slanting corner system/ramp. At the bottom there's a 5th class downclimb move where you need to turn around and face into the rock to get down from and out of the corner. Though I'm not great at rating technical scrambling, I'd say that's probably 5.3 or 5.4, with enormous exposure down to the bottom of the NE face of Ellingwood. The rock quality of that section was ok, though like everywhere it needs to be carefully navigated.

After the downclimb move you soon transition around to the west side of the ridge, where there's a relatively long set of a couple of corners, maybe a couple hundred feet, which can be climbed mostly by facing outward. I'd say this is all continuous 4th and low 5th. This is also extremely exposed, though somewhat less than the previous section.

Near the bottom of this corner system you can finally see a place where it is possible to traverse back east to the long ridge section that goes all the way to point 13,618. Once at the ridge, there is more flexibility as to where you can go, either by staying on the ridge proper or climbing below the ridge on the west side. Rock quality along this part is still pretty good, though there's still plenty of loose rock to look out for. Overall, the N Ridge is relentlessly exposed, and IMO is way more demanding than LB-> Blanca.

Happy to discuss more if you want to send a PM - if not then best of luck and have a blast!

p.s., if you end up having to descend the way we did, down the red-brown gully west of the small lake above Lily, there's a picture of it in Bill M's route description of the S. Ridge of California Peak (pic #17 looking west to Point 13,660)



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