Blanca Peak

 Northwest Ridge
Difficulty Difficult Class 2 
Ski/Board: Extreme, D11 / R3 / IV  
Risk FactorsExposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Moderate  
Commitment: Considerable  
Start8,000 feet
Summit14,350 feet
Total Gain6,500 feet
2,700 feet (starting at Lake Como)
RT Length17 miles if you start at the bottom (8,000)
6 miles if you start near Lake Como
Last UpdatedJul 2023
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From Colorado 160, east of Alamosa, turn north onto Colorado 150 toward Great Sand Dunes National Park. Drive over 3 miles and turn right onto Lake Como road (aka Blanca Peak road). The type of vehicle you are driving will determine how high you can park. Most cars can drive about 1.5 miles up before it gets rough. 4WD SUVs and trucks can slowly make it 3.25 miles to several pull-offs at 8,800', before the road turns nasty. This is a popular parking spot and gets you within 4 miles of Lake Como. If you have a high-clearance, small, 4WD vehicle you might be able to drive to 10,000' but you'll find very few places to park. An ATV, UTV or modified jeep/crawler can get to Lake Como, depending on the driver.


1 is a distant view of the route. Hike up the nasty Lake Como/Blanca Peak road to reach Lake Como at 11,750'. Following the road, walk around the lake ( 2) and up through more forest to reach tree line, at 12,000' - 3. Continue on the road until it ends near Blue Lakes, at 12,200' - 4. A trail starts at the end of the road and your next task is to ascend a headwall with a waterfall, just beyond the lake - 5. Staying left of the waterfall, follow the trail as it switchbacks 300 feet up the headwall - 5. After reaching easier terrain, continue to 12,600' to reach a small lake and pass it on the right - 7. Pass another small lake at 12,650' ( 8) and then around a corner to reach Crater Lake , at 12,800' - 9. Above Crater Lake you'll see another headwall ahead, near 13,000' - 10.

Follow the trail through talus to reach the base of the headwall and swing right to begin climbing it - 11. The trail zig zags through ledges before traversing to the right side of the headwall beneath some cliffs - 12. Near 13,300', turn left as you approach the top of the headwall - 13. Just above 13,400' you'll reach a corner with a couple of cairns - 14. The trail to Blanca continues up to the right but if you're looking to climb Ellingwood Point first, there's a less-defined trail that starts to the left near one of the cairns. If you plan on doing the traverse to Ellingwood after summiting Blanca, you should aim to return to this junction , so it's good to mark this spot on your GPS or smartphone mapping app. To continue to Blanca, climb a couple more switchbacks before turning left and traversing Blanca's northwest face to reach the northwest ridge - 17 and 18. Turn right and begin climbing on or just right of the ridge crest - 19. As you ascend, do not climb left of the ridge crest because it doesn't take long to encounter steep, dangerous terrain. Along the ridge, there are a few spots where you have to maneuver past large boulders but it's always possible to keep the difficulty at "Difficult" Class 2 - 20. Carefully continue to the top - 21 and 22.


Blanca's northwest face is known for being scoured by southwest winds so in most years it's difficult to get a ski of this route with good, continuous snow. The snow coverage on the upper face greatly determines the difficulty of your ski and the location of your drop-in point. Some skiers climb down through the rocks to reach continuous snow but the best option is to be patient and wait for the face to be filled in, providing easier entry from the summit.
Ski overview: 23
The top: 24
The ski: 25, 26, 27, 28, 29


The Lake Como road is hideous and few types of vehicles can actually get to the lake.
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13 #14 #15 #16 #17 #18 #19 #20 #21 #22 #23 #24 #25 #26 #27 #28 #29

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