Combination Route

Blanca and Ellingwood
Difficulty Class 3 
Risk FactorsExposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: Considerable  
Start8,000 feet
Summit14,350 feet
Total Gain6,800 feet
3,000 feet (starting at Lake Como)
RT Length18 miles if you start at the bottom (8,000')
7 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.


Traversing between Blanca and Ellingwood can be done either by a Class 3 route or by descending to the "standard" trail before climbing the 2nd peak. This description will focus on the most popular, Class 3 method and start with Ellingwood, although the traverse can be done in either direction. 1 is a broad view of the ridge connecting the two peaks.

First, climb to Ellingwood's summit using the standard South Face Route. From the upper portions of Ellingwood, you'll get a good look at the traverse route - 2. Descend Ellingwood's east ridge back to the notch described in the standard Ellingwood route - 3 and 4. To begin the traverse, descend approximately 150 feet and locate a cairned route which starts below the difficulties of the ridge - 5. Follow cairns as you traverse without losing much elevation. Part way across the ridge, carefully cross a gully which contains some loose, white rock - 4 and 6. Continue on the cairned route - 7. After passing beneath the lowest part of the ridge, follow easier terrain as you begin regaining elevation on the Blanca side - 8. Continue up to the left to reach Blanca's standard Northwest Ridge Route - 9 and 10.


To make this route a bit more spicy, you can climb directly along the ridge on the Ellingwood side of the saddle, between the gully with white-rock and the notch where the standard Ellingwood route reaches the ridge. Just be careful of loose rock when ascending/descending the gully from/to the main traverse route. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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Caution: The information contained in this route description 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 route description 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 route description 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.

Please respect private property: supports the rights of private landowners to determine how and by whom their land will be used. In Colorado, it is your responsibility to determine if land is private and to obtain the appropriate permission before entering the property.
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