Peak(s):  Blanca Peak  -  14,350 feet
Ellingwood Point  -  14,057 feet
Date Posted:  01/29/2021
Date Climbed:   01/13/2021
Author:  CaptainSuburbia
 Winter Ellingwood and Blanca with traverse   

Winter Ellingwood and Blanca with traverse


Last winter I summitted Blanca Peak in February. The plan had been to continue on to Ellingwood, but weather and time constraints forced us down. Ellingwood was going to have to wait for another time. So this year Ellingwood Point was high on my list and I jumped at the first opportunity. I was joined by Ben, and with a nice weather forecast and favorable snow conditions I hoped to add on the traverse and another winter summit of Blanca.

Day of Climb: January 13th 2021

Trailhead: Como Rd at 8900 feet

Peaks: Ellingwood Point and Blanca Peak

Mileage/Elevation Gain: ~15 miles and 6219 feet of Gain

Duration of Climb: 11 hours and 20 minutes

I arrived at Como Rd trailhead around 1 am and pulled off for a few hours of restless sleep. Ben showed up just after 4. We drove my truck up the mostly dry road to approximately 8900 feet where we started hiking way too early in the morning. I've lost track of how many times I've walked this road, but love it everytime. At first, the road was a mix of dirt and sporadic snow and eventually the snow became more consistent. At around 10,500 feet the snow deepened considerably.There was still a well worn path though so we continued the lovely hike at a quick pace reaching the lake in about 2.5 hours. Surprisingly, we were able to boot all the way to Como Lake.

Approaching Como Lake and our first view of Little Bear Peak

At the edge of the lake we encountered our first postholes and threw on our snowshoes. The trench had ended and we'd be making fresh tracks the rest of the way. We continued across the lake towards the upper basin with magnificent views of mighty Little Bear Peak.

Snowshoeing across Como Lake

On the other side of the lake the snow got deeper as we climbed through the trees on the standard route. It still wasn't bad though as we put in a nice trench to treeline and then on to Blue Lakes. We were more or less following the road until it ended at the lakes.

Passing the gully to Little Bear
Our first view of Ellingwood Point

After crossing over the larger of the Blue Lakes we climbed a steep headwall. The standard trail up this was buried in snow, so we just went straight up the mostly snow covered talus and continued to Crater Lake which we soon passed on the left. We were now at the end of the basin staring up Ellingwoods South Slopes. The standard trail up Ellingwood was nowhere to be seen being buried under steep snow. This was expected, although we hadn't anticipated seeing this much snow. We had 2 choices now to summit Ellingwood. Either head to the saddle with Blanca and climb the class 3 ridge, or look for a rock rib and go straight up the south face. We chose the latter and started up the face.

Crossing Blue Lakes and approaching the headwall
Back on the standard route above Crater Lake. Beware of the avy slope on the left when passing through here.
The end of the basin. Ellingwood on the left and Blanca is on the right
Heading up the south face of Ellingwood
Looking back into the basin

We stuck to rock ribs whenever possible. The snow was sugary and loose so staying in the rocks was always the best option for traction. The snow was less deep around the rocks too. Still, forward progress was slow because the steepness and sugary snow combined to make every step difficult as we often slid backwards. For this reason we pretty much beelined it straight to the ridge covering about 1000 vertical feet.

Further up the face on a very steep section
Almost to the ridge

It was a relief to make the ridge and to be on solid rock. On every climb there's always that uncertainty of whether you'll summit or not, and this is especially true in the winter. Before starting the climb up Ellingwoods south face I had my doubts, thinking the conditions might get the better of us (it looked more difficult than I had pictured) or maybe the winds would pick up. I was now fairly certain we would summit.

Looking back at Little Bear
Nearing the ridge

We took off our snowshoes, had a quick snack and began scrambling up the ridge. There was some snow on the ridge that didn't factor in and the difficulty was not harder than class 2. Fifteen minutes later we were on the summit of Ellingwood Point. And of course, the views of all the surrounding peaks were magnificent, especially that of Little Bear.

Getting close to the summit
Blanca Peak from the summit of Ellingwood Point
Looking down Ellingwoods east ridge at Mt Lindsey

The winds on the summit were vicious, so we departed quickly and began descending down Ellingwoods east ridge. Our next goal was traversing to Blanca Peak to complete the double. It was not even 11 yet so we still had plenty of time and the weather was great despite it being a bit on the windy side. After a few minutes of scrambling we turned a slight right and were on the connecting ridge to Blanca. We then located our snowshoes and attached them to our packs before carrying on.

Little Bear from Ellingwoods east ridge
Mt Lindsey

The first part of the traverse was pretty mellow, and we were still familiar with it having just ascended the top section to summit Ellingwood. Eventually it was more class 3ish and a fun scramble. There was some snow but it was never a hinder.

Making our way down the traverse with Blanca in view
Class 3 section
Ben posing after one of the harder downclimbs

About 3/4's of the way down the ridge we came to the notch which we climbed into it. There was a class 4 move to climb up it and back to the ridge. I had downclimbed that move on another trip and knew it wasn't particularly difficult, but with snow covering parts of it we decided not to take the chance. Instead, we went down a small gully and immediately went left to try and find a way back to the ridge. Ben was leading, and after clearing some snow, found a ledge to scamper up on to get us out of the gully. I believe we were now somewhere near the standard route (maybe slightly above) with lots of crappy snow between us and the beginning of the Blanca ridge. I immediately turned left and did a class 3 scramble back to the safety of the mostly dry ridge. I then quickly finished the rest of the descent to the Ellingwood-Blanca saddle. Ben chose not to return to the ridge (don't do this) and he continued along near the standard route. He ended up getting bogged down in some deep crappy snow which he found difficult to extract himself from. He eventually did make it back to the ridge and met up with me after having disappeared from my view for sometime. I had been slightly worried, but I knew Ben was more than capable of getting himself out of a jam.

Standing at the edge of the notch looking at Blanca in all her greatness
Climbing into the notch
Inside the notch and there's Little Bear again
Ben climbing ledge to exit gully
Ben back on ridge proper
At the saddle
Standing near the Blanca-Ellingwood saddle

With Ben's arrival at the saddle we didn't waste time and immediately started up Blancas Northwest Ridge. From the saddle to the summit there's about 650 feet of gain. This took us about 35 minutes and we were on the summit by 1. It was mostly a class 2 scramble through talus. There was snow here and there but it never impeded progress. Blanca always amazes me. When looking at it from Ellingwood, the ridge looks almost unclimbable, but in reality it's rather easy. This was my 5th summit of Blanca and probably not the last. On my last 2 visits up Blanca, I continued onto Hamilton and I was happy not to be taking that long out and back journey again.

Beginning the climb up Blanca
A little higher up
Ellingwood Point
Looking back down basin
Approaching the summit
Blanca Peak summit with Hamilton on right
Ellingwood from summit
Little Bear Peak
Beginning our descent

Like Ellingwood, the Blanca summit was windy and we didn't stay long. The descent back to the basin went quick, and before too long we had passed all the lakes and were walking down the road back to our vehicles.

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Heck ya
01/29/2021 07:13
Winter Blanca & Ellingwood are on my list. Looks like a great time

01/29/2021 08:20
that area is beautiful in winter, nice work

01/29/2021 10:07
11:20 is quick for those peaks in winter!

Nice Pics!

01/29/2021 10:23
Thanks Sbenfield and cotton! It was a fun day. I never get tired of that area. So beautiful!

Fast time
01/29/2021 10:26
Thanks Will! I was doing my best trying to keep up with Ben.

This report...
01/29/2021 22:07 full of insanity. From enjoying hiking Como Road to hero traverses in waist deep snow above cliffs to climbing the chosspile known as Blanca Peak five times (and liking that too), twice in winter, it's all right here! Glad we could be insane together!

02/09/2021 14:24
is the only way to do it! Thanks Ben for another great winter climb!

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