Peak(s):  Ellingwood Point  -  14,042 feet
Blanca Peak  -  14,345 feet
Date Posted:  08/25/2020
Date Climbed:   08/21/2020
Author:  Raphael
 Ellingwood and Blanca from South Zapata   

I parked my car at the South Zapata Trailhead in the late afternoon. This is a campground with a day-use parking lot for about 15 cars, which gets really crowded as people come to see the Falls. I didn't want to pay for a campsite, but was allowed to sleep in my car.

I started the next morning at first lights, around 6am, for a mountain running/fast scrambling adventure.
The trail to the South Zapata Lake is in rather good condition, although the end is a bit overgrown and can be hard to follow in some places. There is a good use trail on the left of the lake than brings you to the C2 couloir. I was careful to take the proper couloir, as advised.

The C2 couloir is a good climb, but rather safe. I stayed close to the rock on the right side to avoid the slippery sand and scree. The couloir was completely dry.
At the top, follow the talus near the edge in a field of rocks and small boulders. There are a few cairns here and there but they are not really necessary.
The talus eventually becomes a narrower ridge line, solidly class 3. It's not very technical and not very exposed, but you have to remain focused. If a move seems too risky or difficult, there is probably an easier option nearby. The last move to reach the true Ellingwood Point summit was a tad bit more delicate.

From there I traversed to Blanca. I had been all alone so far, but Blanca is more popular.
The traverse is pretty well marked with cairns and even some rocky tracks, so much that I thought I was on the official trail, but looking at my GPS tracks I wasn't. The ridge to Blanca is also pretty straightforward class-3, with no major issue and generally people to follow. The top of Blanca is wide and smooth, unlike Ellingwood which is rather narrow. There was no snow at all on the traverse either.

The way back follows the same line. I found the boulder talus was the most annoying to go down, as the rocks tend to roll a lot. The couloir is also a bit tricky, and as someone was going up at the same time I had to be extra careful not to shed rocks all over the place. Staying near the solid rock is again a good strategy.

Aside from the vicinity of Blanca, there was only this one person going up and camping at Como, and a couple people I saw lower on the trail on the way back. There is water up to the lake, but nothing above it. Healthy marmots, probably bears too but I didn't see any.

1h35min to the bottom of C2 couloir
1h from bottom of C2 to Ellingwood Point
40min from Ellingwood to Blanca
So about 3h15min TH to Blanca, and 3h back.
***Note: these are times for an experienced mountain runner, not for an average hiker. Hiking times could be significantly longer than that.

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

Comments or Questions
Total Time
08/25/2020 21:34
Great write up!

Would that be a total of about 6:15 for both peaks?

Thinking of doing the exact same trail run/hike.


08/26/2020 07:41
That's right, 6:15 for both peaks, round trip. It can certainly be done faster, but that was a time for jogging the trail and sustained climbing after that.

I recommend it, it's a beautiful route, and you don't get the usual crowds (except at the trailhead)!

Good info
08/31/2020 18:11
Planning to do these 2 wed this week so thanks for the great detailed write up. Solo as well.


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