Peak(s):  Ellingwood Point  -  14,042 feet
Blanca Peak  -  14,345 feet
Date Posted:  05/03/2010
Modified:  05/24/2010
Date Climbed:   05/01/2010
Author:  Carl
 Skiing Ellingwood and Blanca   

Peaks: Ellingwood Point & Blanca Peak
Vert: Approx. 5,100
Time: Approx. 12 hours
Group: Carl (Wesley), Ben (Benners), Mike (Bean), & Marc

A couple inches of fresh snow on Lake Como road meant we couldn't get enough speed to blast through the first major snow drift at 10,000ft. After a half hour of shoveling we had to chain up to continue upward progress.

With careful driving 4wd vehicles can now make it to 10,300ft. Tired of driving and ready to call it a night, we parked about 10,100ft and settled in for a few hours of car camping. Not sure who ended up with the shortest straw, Ben, who slept outside, or Mike, who slept in the front seat.

By 4:30am we were hiking the road, and well before the sun came over Little Bear we were skinning across Lake Como.

Mike and Ben skinning below Ellingwood Point.

It was a cold morning in the Sangres. Or maybe our expectations were just skewed with it being the first day of May. Looking back at Marc as the sun slowly gets closer.
photo by Ben

Faced with deciding between skinning across the south face and then kicking steps, or beginning our ascent immediately and gaining the southwest ridge, we chose the latter. Our route, as seen later in the day.

Rejuvenated by the sun and in good spirits thinking we were only an hour from the top, I really started to enjoy the day. Especially when Ben passed me and started putting in the staircase.
photo by Ben

Snow conditions made for rather slow progress, with a foot of snow from last week's storm sitting just below a sun crust and another few inches of new snow on top of that. All of which was penetrated by almost every step. Good news was the significant snow from last weekend had started to bond well with the spring snow pack. Only the new snow wanted to move on us.
photo by Ben

Ben leading through one of the breaks in the cliff band on Ellingwood's south face.

Looking back at Mike and Marc.

Ben and me heading through the choke. Crampons stayed on the pack the entire climb.
photo by Mike

Mike enjoying the ascent.

Little Bear looking mighty impressive.
photo by Ben

About 13,800ft we realized this wasn't going to be a trivial snow climb. Forced between committing to a wind loaded couloir, or a ridge with unknown consequences, we went with the deceptively easy looking mixed route.
photo by Ben

It probably took an hour to climb the last couple hundred vertical. And the cameras stayed in our pockets as we chipped ice away from the rocks and were challenged to find secure foot placements. Looking back as the terrain mellowed on the ridge.

Mike making the final push.

photo by Marc

Moments later Marc and Ben gain the well-earned summit.

With the snow conditions and arduous ridge we were all a little beat, but excited and appreciative to be in such an awesome place.

photo by Marc

Views from the Sangres are among the best in the state in my opinion. San Luis Valley to the southwest.
photo by Mike

Another shot of Little Bear.
photo by Mike

With another peak on the agenda we kept the summit break short and geared up for the ski descent.
photo by Ben

Unfortunately the line off the summit with the best coverage also looked somewhat suspect with the recent loading. Probably not a risk of burial, but getting knocked down at 14,000ft and pushed through talus and over cliffs would be a less then enjoyable descent. Ben eying the options...

and dropping the more conservative line off the top...

which also meant dealing with thin coverage near the summit.

Mike opening it up a little lower down.
photo by Ben

Me making a few turns.
photo by Ben

Marc pausing on the descent with Lindsey in the background.

Ben enjoying the snow.

A look back at our descent route on Ellingwood as we contoured around to about 13,200ft.

Marc, Ben, and Mike making their way towards Blanca.

Having pounded a red bull and a half bag of sour patch kids on the summit of Ellingwood, I was enjoying a burst of energy and about ready to start booting up Blanca when I heard the sounds of a mutiny (Mike's words) forming in the basin. I think Marc encouraged Ben to speak for the group. I knew at "Hey Carl" that second thoughts were brewing as to a Blanca summit. I acknowledged that a summit ski descent might not be in the cards but that I was going to have a closer look, from the top. I was doubly motivated having not summited (or skied) Blanca.

Thankfully, Ben and the crew took off after me and eventually provided some much needed step kicking relief.
photo by Mike member Snowgirl provided us with a great shot of our group ascending Blanca as she climbed Ellingwood. Thanks!

Thinking there might still be hope for a ski route down the northwest face we (me and Ben?) decided to lead everyone that way. It was not one of our better ideas. Ascent in red, descent in yellow.

Me and Marc still enjoying reasonable climbing snow on Blanca.
photo by Ben

About 14,100ft things got difficult as we took turns trying to pick our way through rock hard snow and loose ice covered rocks, dusted with a couple inches of powder.

After a slow and calculated last 150 vertical feet of climbing, we reached the summit around 2pm. Although the weather helped make our late in the day ski descent manageable, we could not be happier to quickly escape the fast brewing storm.

Determined to make a ski descent happen I dropped off the northwest face of Blanca and jump turned my way through a little talus.

photo by Ben

Ben likes true summit descents more than me, and of course followed suit.

Much to my surprise, we were actually able to ski around to the southwest face of Blanca and make some reserved turns there before meeting up with the group at the ridge.

photo by Ben

At this point the line was straightforward (albeit lit with flat light) and we all enjoyed about 1,300 vertical of sustained maybe 40 degree skiing.

Taking advantage of the backdrop I lined up some shots and grabbed one of Ben too.

As well as Mike.

As the slope mellows Marc finds a nice line out.

Ben making his way back to Lake Como.

An hour or so later I was very glad to see this, and to know that it would be a long time before I walked Lake Como again in ski boots.

Felt even better after an hour of bouncing down Lake Como road as we turned onto Hwy 50 and I knew I would soon be enjoying a post-climb calzone at All-Gon Pizzeria in Fort Garland for the second time in 8 days, concluding another memorable Sangres adventure with great friends.

photo by Marc

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Followed your tracks
02/05/2011 00:22
Me and Skisotope were the two people climbing in your tracks up Ellingwood later in the afternoon. I have to say, I wished someone had kicked in steps that were a little more appropriate for my shorter legs, but we were happy to not have to do the work ourselves! I have pictures of you guys climbing Blanca that I will post in our trip report.


05/04/2010 12:51
Great job guys! Views were a little better than 8 days before, huh?


Doing it in style
05/04/2010 13:21
Nicely done boys and nice writeup of the adventure.


Great Report!
05/04/2010 13:50
Way to get two more done! Pictures are head turners. Excellent report.


Yup, great report!
05/04/2010 13:57
Excellent photos and report. You guys have really been getting it done this year! Too bad on the thin coverage up high.

Based on Blanca‘s snow coverage, looks like I will wait until next year to take the boards. Bummer


05/04/2010 13:59
Snowgirl, we were wondering who was across the valley from us all day, and what they thought of our route. Glad it worked out for you (sort of).

I was hurting...I don‘t know if I had it worse than Ben or not for sleeping arrangements but a few hours of broken sleep probably isn‘t the right way to prepare for a day like that.


Beautiful day!
05/04/2010 15:14
That was a great day up there. We saw your group as we were getting up the gully for LB. Way to get it done!
Snowgirl - are the feet healed up yet?


Nicely Written Carl
11/30/2010 17:28
Thanks for a fun and rewarding day out fellas! Climbing that chute on Ellingwood followed by that ridge run made for some fun climbing no? P.s. I think it was Mike who got the short end of the stick in terms of sleeping arrangements; I was toasty all night and slept pretty well all things considered .

Bill: The only skiable line off Blanca was a pretty wild one; steep turns off the top, some rock skiing, and some steep turns off the southwest side required to connect with the main face snow gully. You're right about waiting until next year if you're looking for straightforward skiing, unfortunately.


05/04/2010 17:32
Thats a hairy descent off Blanca. Nice route one Ellingwood. Me and Mark Milburn did that entire ridge couple springs ago. That last couple hundred feet along, what you described as a ”ridge w/ unknown consequences”, that was an intense ridge to put it lightly. Nice work w/ nice weather.


05/04/2010 17:38
Epic trip, great pictures!


Fantastic Photos ...
05/04/2010 21:52
Really nice way to catch the light on the snow, the blue sky (and then the gray sky) ... crisp and clear. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


06/02/2011 14:57
Your whole group made me realize just how far I have to go in terms of knowledge, skill, and endurance to achieve what I want to achieve. As I said to Ben in a pm, your line made me sick. (Bill, can you get a smiley face that throws up for cases like this?) I was tired just looking at it.

Impressive job to you all and to the second group as well!


Damn, you guys are good!
05/04/2010 23:47
Sounds like a glorious adventure. Nicely told story too, Wesley. Looking forward to some more skiing with you gentlemen soon!


Now I feel like a bum...
05/05/2010 01:29
...for giving up on lowly Flattop Mountain the other day. Maybe if I could ski down it I would have kept going. But the Sangres - now that looks like fun. Nice pics: that traverse to Blanca looks unreal, and some of the snow climb and summit shots of Ellingwood just make it look amazing, and difficult. Well done.


Loved it.
05/05/2010 03:01
Real nice photos, great story, and an incredible route.

What do you do when you run out of stars for a report like this!


05/05/2010 14:05
Ridge of Unknown Consequences - that is a classic name for that ridge! Like Lord Helmut said, that whole ridge is intense and sketchy with snow, but it‘s a massive dose of adrenalin! Awesome pictures! I am NOT looking forward to climbing up that road again in two weeks!


05/09/2010 14:19
Nice work guys! and Snowgirl also! Awesome photos! I want to hang out with you guys!


05/17/2010 19:35
Super report guys. I am going after LB (no skis) on Friday. Hope some of the snow has melted. Vort.

Easy Rider

Image #35
06/01/2010 20:46
Really helps to clarify that gnarly little deviation to the south side.

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2017®, 14ers Inc.