Blanca Peak
standard Northwest Ridge
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Difficulty:
 Difficult Class 2 
Ski/Board: Extreme, D11 / R3 / IV  
Risk Factors:Exposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Moderate  
Commitment: Moderate  
 
Trailhead:Lake Como (Blanca Pk)
Start:8,000 feet
Summit:14,345 feet
Total Gain:6,500 feet
2,700 feet (starting at Lake Como)
RT Length:17 miles if you start at the bottom (8,000)
6 miles if you start near Lake Como
USGS Quad.:Blanca Peak
County Sheriff:Alamosa: 719-589-6608
National Forests:Rio Grande, San Isabel
Author:BillMiddlebrook
Last Updated:7/2019

Trailhead

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 on Lake Como road. 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 approximately 10,000'. An ATV or modified jeep/crawler can get to Lake Como but it depends on the driver.

Route

#1 is a distant view of the route. Hike up the nasty Lake Como/Blanca Peak road to reach Lake Como ( 37.57009° N, -105.51547° W) at 11,750'. Following the road, continue around the lake (#2) and up through more forest to reach tree line, at 12,000' - #3. Stay on the road until 12,200' where it ends near Blue Lakes then continue northeast on a trail - #4.

Left of a waterfall, follow the trail as it weaves 300 feet up through talus and small ledges (#5) to reach easier terrain near a small lake - #6. Pass the lake on the right and another on the left (#7) to reach Crater Lake ( 37.57694° N, -105.49594° W), at 12,800' - #8. Above Crater Lake, continue toward ledges near 13,000' - #9 and #10. Hike to the base of the ledges and follow cairns and a defined trail up the steep terrain. Taken from above the ledges, #11 looks back down over Crater Lake. Continue east on the trail as it ascends onto Blanca's northwest face. In early summer, there may be snowfields I this area so an axe may be helpful.

From 13,300', on the lower portion of the face, follow the trail east/northeast (#12 and #13) to reach the Northwest Ridge ( 37.58022° N, -105.48701° W) at 13,750' - #14. Turn right and begin climbing on or just right of the ridge crest - #15 and #16. As you ascend, do not climb left of the ridge crest because it doesn't take long to encounter steep terrain with loose, rotten rock. There are a few spots where you have to scramble around some large boulders but it's always possible to keep the difficulty at "Difficult" Class 2 - #17. From the top ( 37.577473° N, -105.485443° W), #18 looks north and #19 looks east.

Skiing?

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 a long, solid based of 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 your best option is to be patient and wait for the face to be filled in, providing easier entry from the summit and a much better descent. Several hundred feet below the summit, the best skiing is usually off to skier-left in a broad, shallow couloir which drops from Blanca's south ridge down to 13,000'. Below this you may be able to ski southwest all the way back to Lake Como!
Ski overview: #20
The top: #21
The ski: #22, #23, #24, #25, #26, #27

Notes

The Lake Como road is hideous and few types of vehicles can actually get to the lake.

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Route Photos  Print Options

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