Peak(s):  Blanca Peak  -  14,345 feet
Ellingwood Point  -  14,042 feet
Date Posted:  08/15/2009
Date Climbed:   08/12/2009
Author:  denvermikey
 Blanca/Ellingwood/Lake Como road sucks  

Hello, my name is Mike, and I am a peak bagger...

I have had fun this year trying to squeeze in multiple 14ers between work, family functions, trips, etc. I have had my eye on jumping up in class/skill level so I decided to try something in the Sangres. On Tuesday afternoon, I left work in Littleton somewhat early (not as early as I had hoped) and stopped off at REI to purchase my first climbing helmet and headlamp. My goal was to get up Lake Como road as far as I could and then car-camp. I read several reports about how bad the road is, but I was very limited on time that I was able to spend there. Anyway, as I worked my way up the road, the sun had set so I finished the final stretch in the dark - not recommended. Made it all the way to Jaws 1 (took 90 minutes) without any problems, but then as I was backing my truck up to position it for the night, I heard and felt a loud crunch.....crap, oh well, nothing I could do about it and it was dark anyway (Lake Como road sucks by the way ). So, the next morning I got an early start at 4:20 and started hiking up the remainder of the road to the lake, by the way, the road even sucks to walk . It was quite spooky hiking in the complete darkness alone. I was hoping not to become an early morning meal for some hungry mountain lion!! The pre-dawn light was finally illuminating the area enough to where I could turn off my headlamp just past Como, right near the turn off for Little Bear. There was a planet that was brightly shining right above LB in the pre-dawn light, cool sight, but my camera would not catch the image without a tripod to steady it As I continued along the route I heard a rock slide to my left. As I looked up I noticed a bighorn effortlesly pouncing from rock to rock.
Continuing up the path, I turned to my left to begin my ascent up Ellingwood. Looking back down from where I came, I took this shot of the sun starting to warm the valley.
It was at this time that I put on my helmet. After some time and effort (very tough route finding), I reached the ridge where a gentleman was resting after reaching the ridge just before me. We chatted for a bit then continued up to the summit. Reaching the summit at 9:00 am, we both took each others' summit shots and carried on some conversation.
I feel like such a dork because I forgot his name, but he told me he was from Albuquerque, and is in his seventies!!!! Wow, I hope I have that much inspiration and energy when I am that age. Here is a shot of Blanca, my next feat.
Anyway, about 15-20 minutes after summitting, up from the west ridge came a couple of guys, Scott & Allen, uncle & nephew. After chatting with them for a few, we decided to try the traverse over to Blanca together. We left at 9:45 to begin our quest. I was glad to have them for company along the way. There are not very many defined routes in the area and 3 sets of eyes were better than 1. Even with all of us trying to find any resemblance of a trail, I think we pretty much just made up our own route for 90% of the way over to the ridge of Blanca. We met up with a couple from Alamosa and continued on up the ridge to the top of Blanca. Now, I am no expert (but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night ) but all of us were thinking that Blanca could be rated a class 3. Route finding is quite difficult and there are plenty of areas where using your hands is a must. Nonetheless, I summited at 11:30. As you can see, helmets do wonders for your hair.
Shot looking back to Ellingwood.
Intimidating Little Bear (I'll see you in the future!)
Spent about 30 minutes on top before working my way down the ridge. Wanted to make good time to see how soon I could make it back to my truck. Well, getting down to the valley is very time consuming. Trying to find anything resembling a trail, picking rocks that are more stable than others, etc. After finally reaching the upper lake area, I felt like I was getting a giant blister on my right foot. All I could think about was dipping my feet into the chilly Lake Como. After trudging along the trail, I got into an 'autopilot' mode. I just kept on putting one foot in front of another, and stayed focused on my final destination - my awaiting truck! I bypassed the lake and continued down Lake Como Road, which sucks by the way. Passing several hikers who were on their way up with camping gear, they would ask me how much longer to the lake, and I would ask them how much longer to my green truck by Jaws 1. They were about equally divided into two groups. Either congratulatory about me getting my stock 4Runner up that far, or the other group who said, 'we were wondering who the crazy person was who drove that far up this road.' Finally at 3:55, yes just shy of 12 hours, I reached my truck. Boy, what a long exhausting day. I was finally able to survey the damage on my truck, toasted running board.
At that point I really didn't care too much, I was just glad to be sitting down and off my feet in the air conditioning . I began the long, tedious, descent of Lake Como Road (which sucks by the way). Along the way, I kept thinking, how the hell did I get up this, in the dark no less? Anyway, just to make things even out, on the way down, I crunched my other running board. Damn. Turned out to be an expensive little trip. So, the question that I have to answer is, when I return for LB, will it be better to park further down, hike up with camping gear, stay the night at Lake Como, summit, then pack the gear back down? Or, fix my running boards, get a lift kit for my Runner, and start from the same spot. It was very long to do it all in one day, but that was part of the appeal, getting it done in less time. Part of me of course wants the lift kit for my 4Runner 8), but I will have at least a year to think about it!

p.s. - have I mentioned that Lake Como Road sucks???

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Who needs ‘em?
02/05/2011 00:22
Just ditch the running boards!
Nice job, Mike! Now you‘re ready to get your axe and crampons for next year‘s spring snow climb of Little Bear with me!


Nice job!
11/30/2010 17:28
Mike, Howdy and good job with the report and that long hike. Allen and I were wondering how you made out getting back down all in one day. Glad your vehicle damage wasn't something to leave you stranded. We didn't get as far up the road as you with my longer wheel based Dakota so decided to pack in camp and do all three peaks. The highlight of that trip for me was that SW ridge to Ellingwood, the sheep we sent down your way and of course a swim in Crater Lake. Good luck with Lindsey next week. BTW, I think the guy we met from NM was Wesley.


08/25/2009 09:04
I suggest camping at Lake Como. Its an amazing place to spend the night/morning. And yes, the road sucks, especially hiking from 8000ft.

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