Islands in the Sky
Ellingwood Point (14,042') and Blanca Peak (14,345')
From Lake Como Road- starting at 9200'
13 miles RT; 5700' of Elevation GainIn 1856 the "Sierra Blanco" mountains already attracted the attention of exlorers for their impressive appearance. The Sangre De Cristo range in Southern Colorado is an amazing testament to God's creation. These beautiful, rugged mountains seem to rise right of a a hot, dry, high altitude desert. The surrounding area is very flat, like the sea, and the mountains rise up sharply and abruptly from this plain You turn off from the highway around 7800'. From this point you will travel through at least 3 different climate zones before reaching the summit. In a way it reminds me of stuff you see from Kilimanjaro.
The hike starts off on the undisputed nastiest 4WD road in Colorado. I only drove up to 9200 feet and it was very rough on my Nissan Frontier. Many people park around 8800'- in hindsight, this is what I'll be doing next time- the shorter hike is not worth the damage and stress to your vehicle in my opinion.
Here's some pictures taken during the ascent to Lake Como and beyond. It's a nasty road to drive on, and not the nicest place to hike. Shade is in short supply and the road is often covered with powdery dust or loose football and softball sized rocks. Also being an "extreme 4x4" trail, it has kind of a unique feeling. There is more noise, more traffic, and more trash on the road than you'll see on a hiker's trail.
|Looking back from where we parked. We are ~1500' off of the valley floor.|
|Where we parked. It's actually a ridge that drops off on both sides.|
|Looking SW from the road|
|Right after "Jaws 1" with a cabin the background.|
|Scott super thrilled that I made him stand by a cabin|
|Jaws 2. This obstacle was made easier when a log was installed on the left side|
|This obstacle is not good for your paint job|
|Jaws 2.5, a nasty little rock shelf|
|Nearing the end with Little Bear taunting us from above|
We reached Lake Como after around 3.5 miles and 2600' of gain- it took us 92 minutes from the truck to this point. Because it was cool, breezy, and overcast, it was really just about the most pleasant experience you could have hiking on Lake Como Road.
|Little Bear Peak, as seen from the West side of Lake Como|
|On the other side of Lake Como, looking SW|
|Ellingwood Point from our campsite near Blue Lakes|
|One of the Blue Lakes|
|Looking SW about 12,200'|
|Huge Panorama from our camping area|
|Ellingwood Point's SW ridge hit with the setting sun. This is our route tomorrow|
|Photo by Scott Lowery|
|Photo by Scott Lowery|
|Bighorn Sheep. Photo by SL|
|The SW ridge route provided maximum excitement. The Summit is visible.|
|Scott tackles the first section. Blue Lakes are visible to the left|
|Scott tops out on the easy class 3 "triangle" section|
|Me climbing the "triangle"- Photo by SL|
|Scott crosses the "knife edge" section. We found this to be the most stressful part|
|Fun little section with some exposure- photo by SL|
|Another small "knife edge" section with some awkward moves|
|The final obstacle is an easy class 3 scramble over some shifty rocks|
|Heading for the summit|
|With all the difficulties behind us, the final push was fast and simple|
|(Left to right) Challenger Point, Kit Carson Peak, Columbia Point, Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle|
|Victory! Crestone group in the background.|
|Challenger point from the side of Blanca Peak|
|The impressive and scary summit of Little Bear Peak|
|Huerfano Peak (L) and Mt. Lindsey (R) from the summit of Blanca Peak|
|Worst summit pose ever on Blanca Peak, with Little Bear behind me|
|Carefully downclimbing off Blanca Peak- Photo by SL|
|Looking down to Crater Lake|
|Huge Panorama I took. It's a composite of 8 shots|
|Crater Lake- photo by SL|
|Relaxing, Colorado Style|
|Nice waterfall below Crater Lake|
|This is our campsite just above 12,000'|
|The view West from our campsite|
We quickly broke down camp and loaded our packs. We both took time to drink our second beer in celebration of another successful trip. I had a Ska Brewing Company (Durango) True Blonde Ale, which was quite tasty. This with some Cheddar & Sour Cream Lays chips made for a tasty snack before the hot and dusty slog back down to the truck, which was over 4 miles away. None-the-less, the feeling of accomplishment propelled us down the rough and rocky trail and in less than 2 hours we were driving down.
|Finally, back at the truck|
The difficulties were not over as the road proved to be quite rough and rocky on the way down, and it took another 45 minutes or so to reach the highway. As we headed back east from the town of Fort Garland we got this last parting view of the Blanca group.
|L to R: Little Bear Pk, Blanca Pk, Ellingwood Pt, and Mt. Lindsey|
This was a fantastic whirlwind trip into the Lake Como basin and up to 2 of the great mountains in this area. They had very nice views and provided an adequate challenge. It was sobering being that close to the dangerous and grand Little Bear Peak that we are planning on visiting again next year.