Peak(s):  Little Bear Peak  -  14,037 feet
Blanca Peak  -  14,345 feet
Ellingwood Point  -  14,042 feet
Date Posted:  09/10/2007
Modified:  09/12/2007
Date Climbed:   09/07/2007
Author:  GREENSon14s

 LB->Blanca ridge traverse + Ellingwood Pt  

All my photos are taken at high quality with my 7.1mp camera and were too large to load. I might find a solution or I might be lazy about it.

I got out of work about 5:30pm and picked Robbie (from Boulder) up at the Denver bus station around 6. We left Denver at 7:00pm and drove past the unmarked Lake Como trailhead all the way to the dunes before getting reception and having Robbie's buddy look up TH directions (3 miles N of 160).
Started up Lake Como road at 11:50pm in Nick's stock Nissan Pathfinder. Nick's driving skill and the Pathfinder got us approximately 6 miles up the road to our tent site inside an old log cabin frame by 2am. A couple hours of sleep saw our 5am wake up call. Breakfast and finalized packs saw us on the Lake Como road at 6am.
We had about a mile or 2 on the road before reaching the lake (7:30am) but the skies looked great and we were alone on the trail. I had read TRs on here about the Hourglass and that was our plan but from Blue Lake we couldn't guess where it was so we on-sighted the easiest looking route. We headed straight up loose scree towards a black streaked gully that was very unstable. It didn't take long to pull our first 5th class moves of the day.

The terrain got steeper and more solid the higher we climbed and acceptable paths continued to show themselves as we ascended. There was still a TON of loose stuff and even being careful, we were dislodging rocks and slides constantly. We were all glad we wore helmets and either went one at a time or avoided following in higher climbers fall line.

The last section is where it really got steep and we got a taste of the exposure to come.

We did see 1 cairn pile very high and found a nice ledge system angling to our right towards a notch that hit the LB-Blanca ridge and took us to the summit by 10am for a lake to summit time of 2.5hrs.

This was Nick's 1st 14er and he was moving slower than Robbie and I. We knew to make the ridge traverse, we'd have to pick up the pace. Nick agreed to follow 2 other climbers back down the Hourglass and wait at camp. We signed the register and started across the intimidating ridge at 10:30am.

This ridge is everything you expect. Exposed, sketchy, exposed, chossy, exposed, 5th class, exposed, at high elevation, and almost constantly exposed. One of the previous TRs titled "Grand Slam" was very informative. It is steep to vertical off either side the whole time. Robbie and I are both 5.11 climbers and both have a great deal of experience free-soloing easy 5th class so we felt secure in our movements the whole way but it takes a lot of focus to put 100% into what you're doing and ignore where you're doing it at.

A lot of butt-scootin and crab walkin

Neither of us have done Capital but I think I understand what a knife edge is now.

Route finding is not too difficult. We skirted around a couple of towers but pretty much tackled it head on - up and over.

We went left around, what I think, was Capt Bivwhacko tower

This is at the lowest point of the saddle looking towards Ellingwood. Dark clouds were moving in and we felt a sense of urgency to push on.

The Blanca side of the traverse has 3 huge towers instead of lots of tiny ones like the LB side. Robbie soloing

After a long work week, 3 hours of sleep, sketching up LB and focusing all physical and mental energy onto this ridge, I found myself getting sloppy. We took a real short break for GUs to rejuvenate us for the final push. The clouds were getting even darker and moving in quick.

We made Blanca's summit at 1pm for a ridge traverse time of 2.5hrs. We moved as quick as safely possible for two in-shape, experienced 14er and 5.11 climbing 22-year olds. I cannot imagine doing it faster than that for a first timer.

We started descending Blanca's scree pile of a shoulder and all weather cleared away. I had totally written off Ellingwood because of the time of day, the way the weather had looked, and my aching knees but now I had no excuses. We powered across the saddle and descended to avoid the white notch on a relatively well-cairned trail.

We met another party that had a Ford Focus at the start of the road. They started at 4am and were just now taking Blanca's saddle. We summited Ellingwood about the same time they hit Blanca's for our 3rd 14er of the day. We were the only people to sign Ellingwood's register that day.

We tried descending the ridge back towards the lakes but were quickly met with steep drop-offs and had to scramble down terribly loose scree and talus that kept avalanching on us until we reached the cleaner trail.

The hike back was long and we were tired from a long, intense day. We reached the lakes at 4pm and camp by 6 for a 13hr day.
Final pic is Little Bear reflected in Lake Como. Beautiful and terrifying.


 Comments or Questions

Whats Standard?
11/30/2010 17:28
Congrats Greens

Solid for sure, but its only 4th if you drop off the ridge onto ledges in a few places. If you stay right on top its got a few 5 moves, hense its 5.0-5.2 rating. I believe there are many 'standard' variations on this ridge. For example, we saw both groups ahead of us this weekend avoid the first tower from the Little Bear side (not bivoac tower) to the left. We went over it and found a single 5th class move downclimb on the other side.

Just finished the four traverses. Like this one, you can 'chicken shit' your way around many of the difficulties on these routes, especially on the Maroon Traverse. Much faster, but more fun?


Down playing low 5th class stuff...
11/30/2010 17:28
Please remember who your audience is here. On average the experience level is fairly low and there's lots of relative newbies. When I write a TR or make other comments on this forum I think about that. Experienced scramblers and technical climbers often don't notice that line between 4th and low 5th class, but its there. I'd hate for anyone to get in over their head because of some casual remark I made.

By the way GREENSon14s, if ya wanna brag... my first and only time on the traverse I did it in 2:20. And I can't climb anything near 5.11 and I was 6 years older than you when I did it Just some friendly banter.


Second that...
09/10/2007 21:15
I think the same as you Sarah. This is not like doing the 4th class standard routes on the 14ers, its significantly different.

Climb14er? Sure, negligible to me too really, but there is a difference. I went up and over Bivoac Tower without a rope, does that mean its doesnt deserve its 5.5 rating?


Fruit salad?
09/10/2007 21:35
We seem to agree on the broad outlook of the route, its not your usual 4th class terrain. Kit North Ridge is similar although no where near as long.


Image Manipulation Programs
09/10/2007 23:30
Two great open source software programs are and Gimp. You can download them at:


One works as well as the other, and both are free and user-friendly. Lots of people would probably be interested in your images.


2 hours flat
09/10/2007 23:32
on the LB-Blanca traverse, back in 2005. I used rock shoes on the middle third of the ridge proper; I think that sped up the exposed moves considerably (amazing how small foot holds become ginormous in rock shoes). And, heck, I was a geezer at age 33 when I did it

i recall several exposed low 5th class moves, but I thought those moves were all on very solid rock, thankfully.

congrats on the traverse!



11/30/2010 17:28
I tried using photo bucket and nothings coming up. If I have time later today, I'll try one of the other options.

I agree with climber14 that the majority of the ridge is bombproof rock but for me, the only, ”O Shit” moment came on the Blanca side when I almost pulled a fridge-sized block off onto my chest. There is loose rock up there, you just need to find it!

Also, the debate around 5th class moves: We did some. If you didn't, perhaps your route-finding is better than ours but we were def into the 5th class, probably not higher than 5.2, but on more than one occasion with very airy exposure.

Sarah and Scott-not boasting traverse time, just trying to give future adventurers a reference. Thanks for your input and I'll see if I can get to the pics tonight

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