Peak(s):  Ellingwood Point  -  14,042 feet
Blanca Peak  -  14,345 feet
Date Posted:  03/22/2020
Date Climbed:   06/09/2019
Author:  CaptainSuburbia
Additional Members:   annie_hughes, desertdog
 C2 couloir to Ellingwood and Blanca   

With couloir climbing season fast approaching I thought I'd put this up. This was my first real snow climb and it was really enjoyable. This was also my first 14er route that went beyond a class 2, and it opened up the flood gates for me wanting to climb all 58 14ers as fast as possible.

Day: June 8th and 9th 2019.

Peaks: Ellingwood Point and Blanca Peak

Trailhead: Zapata Falls

Route: Ascent - C2 Couloir, Descent - Crossfire Couloir

Because of work, I got a late start heading to the trailhead in the Sangres. The plan was for me to meet my 2 climbing partners at a campsite just below Zapata Lake. Camping on a 14er would also be another first for me. I arrived at the S. Zapata trailhead late in the afternoon after the long drive from Fort Collins and immediately headed up the trail. The route started on the Zapata Falls trail which was busy with hikers heading back to their cars after the short hike up to the falls. I reached a junction here and turned onto the S. Zapata Lake trail, and enjoyed the rest of the hike in solitude. About an hour and a half later I broke treeline and found my climbing partners Richard and Annie waiting for me. They had set up camp in the last dry spot available before continuous snow began. The view of Ellingwood Point was incredible from here.

Camp just below Zapata Lake and Ellingwood Point

I got up around 4 am and the 3 of us were on our way to the C2 couloir by 5. It was a short hike around Zapata Lake to the base of the couloir where we put on our crampons.

Approaching C2 couloir

With the sun just beginning to rise we began our ascent up C2. It was a windless morning and not too cold. We were able to quickly make our way up the couloir with perfect snow conditions.

Starting up C2
Looking Down C2
Further up C2
Looking down from near the top of C2
Zapata Lake

We topped out on C2 in about 25 minutes and were now on the West Ridge of Ellingwood Point. The slope up C2 was moderate most of the way, and a bit steeper on the final section with good snow the whole way. We had timed it perfectly! From here we turned left and headed for the North Ridge of Ellingwood.

Starting up the ridge

We climbed straight up the rocky ridge. There was patchy snow but nothing that bothered us. Soon after we contoured right off the ridge and began heading up a steep talus slope. This eventually put us directly on the North Ridge not far from Ellingwoods summit.

Looking back across talus slope to Twin Peaks
Looking back on our tracks, Crossfire Ridge and Twin Peaks again
First look at Little Bear Peak
Approaching the North Ridge of Ellingwood

Once reaching the North Ridge we were stunned by the views of the Huerfano Valley and 14er Mt Lindsey with an incredible cloud inversion layer.

Huerfano Peak and Huerfano Valley
Mt Lindsey

Once on the ridge we still had some work to do with about 400 vertical feet left to cover. Initially the ridge was a fairly wide scree slope. With about 200 feet left the ridge narrowed, and the difficulty went up to class 3 for the final section.

Beginning of class 3 section
Final climb to the summit

From the summit the views were breathtaking!!! I'd never seen anything like it. We were thrilled to be on Ellingwood and could now see Blanca for the first time. The sun was still low in the sky giving us amble to reach Blanca if we made that choice. We quickly assessed the traverse, and with near-perfect weather, we made a decision to go for it. After taking a bunch of pics we were on our way.

Huerfano, Iron Nipple and Mt Lindsey
Blanca still skiable in June
California Peak
Huerfano Peak
Heading down Ellingwoods East Ridge

The descent towards the Ellingwood-Blanca saddle went quickly at first. We knew we needed to get this done fast to get back to the C2 couloir before it softens too much as the day warmed.


We stayed on the ridge crest until reaching a notch. From here we down climbed through the notch and did a snow traverse around a few obstacles before returning to the ridge. The snow here was way too sketchy for my liking, so on the return, we made sure to stayed on the ridge proper the entire way back to Ellingwood.

Snow traverse

Once back on the ridge we were able to move quickly again while enjoying more incredible cloud inversion views.

Looking back on Ellingwood Point
Huerfano Peak

An hour and 30 minutes after leaving Ellingwood we had reached the summit of Blanca Peak! The final section had a nice, steep snow climb. And once again we were blown away by the views created by the inversion.

Little Bear Peak and traverse from Blanca
California Peak
Mt Lindsey looking like a volcano

We enjoyed the views for longer than we should have and then headed back towards Ellingwood.

California Peak again
Huerfano Valley
One more look at Little Bear
Blanca again
Going back down Ellingwood with Twin Peaks below
Posing for a pic on a fun knife-edge section

It was a long haul back to the C2 couloir (or what we thought was C2). When climbing down from Ellingwood you first arrive at the Crossfire couloir (C2 comes next). We made a big mistake and went down Crossfire thinking it was C2. This was a terrifying descent for me. Funny thing though, I didn't realize our mistake until much later. The whole way down I assumed we were in C2. I attributed the increased steepness and rocky outcroppings to the fact that I was going down, facing inwards, and this made it seem more extreme. Anyways, after taking our time we both made it down and even got a great glissade as we neared the bottom. The route description on this website says:

"WARNING: You will also see the Crossfire Couloir just to the left of the C2 Couloir. It is tempting to climb this couloir as it gains Ellingwood Pt's West Ridge at the lowest point. DO NOT attempt to ascend or descend this couloir. It is VERY steep and dangerous whether snow filled (icy) or dry (hard packed scree)."

Please heed this advice. I think it was only manageable for us because of the record snowfall that fell the previous winter and the great snow conditions.

Crossfire Couloir
Last look at Ellingwood Point

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 30 31 33 34 36 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58

Comments or Questions

See To
03/22/2020 17:36
> "This was also my first 14er route that went beyond a class 2, and it opened up the flood gates for me wanting to climb all 58 14ers as fast as possible."
> Climbed: 06/09/2019
> Today's date: 3/22/2020


Couloir climb season better not be ruined by this coronavirus crap, I have a feeling this is going to be a phenomenal season conditions-wise! We got some work to do, Judd!


Gotta do that one in snow...
03/26/2020 16:07
I've done C2 a couple times - both in summer conditions. Looks like a ton of fun in winter. Thanks to your VERY nice report, I guess I'm gonna have to do it a 3rd time...


Great Report!
03/26/2020 20:48
Really enjoyed this. Such a nice, remote place. Haven't done C2 in the snow (yet!).

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