Blanca Peak

  • Blanca Peak
  • 4372 m
  • 4th Highest in Colorado
  • Primary factor 1623 m
  • Climbed June 13, 2001, and August 23, 2002.


How to get there: Go east from Alamosa or west from Fort Garland on US 160, to the road US 150 that heads north to the Sand Dunes National Monument. Go US 150 north exactly 5.1 km, then turn right onto a small dirt road. This road heads straight towards the Blanca mountains. Drive this road as far as your vehicle/driver finds reasonable, then park somewhere off the road and start hiking.
Route description: The route is most easily divided into two parts, from the trailhead to Como Lake and from Como Lake to the summit. Most climbers will camp in the vicinity of Como Lake due to the long approach and, in particular, the large vertical gain from the trailhead to the summit.
Jeep road: This road can be quite hot, carry enough water. There is a jeep road from the trailhead and all the way to Como Lake, this road has the reputation of being the worst in Colorado. However, the first part of this road is not at all very unreasonable, with a sturdy 4 wheel drive vehicle one can drive approximately 3 km without trouble. The first spot indicating what will come is perhaps some rocks in a left switchback part way up the hill. There are numerous places along the road where one can pull off and park. The road (from the trailhead) first climbs gently, later more agressively with hairpin turns up the hill. Eventually it contours into the valley formed by the creek from Como Lake. The jeep road continues for a while on the right hand side of the creek, but eventually crosses the creek and continues its seemingly endless climb. Finally, one arrives at Como Lake, elevation about 3600 m. It should be stressed that the final part of this road is extremely rough and should not be driven, this applies in particular to the section after crossing the creek.
Climb from Como Lake: The jeep road continues well above Lake Como to some small lakes called Blue Lakes. (Very rough, few motorized vehicles can survive it.) As you hike up the valley, Ellingwood Point is dominating the view, a nicely shaped, pointed peak. Little Bear Peak is towering on the right hand side, while Blanca Peak is partly hidden as part of the ridge connecting it to Little Bear.
The road ends just in front of a steeper "step" in the valley. At this point, one is tempted to proceed straight ahead up among the rocks, however, there is quite a good trail continuing if one turns left, crosses the small meadow and use the zig-zag trail all the way over to the left. After this hill, the terrain again is more gentle as one pass Crater Lake with Ellingwood Point towering on the left side. At this time of the year, two distinct snowslopes separated by an area of rocks, lead towards Blanca Peak. We chose to crampon up the left snowfield. The snow was quite firm and excellent to walk on, the slope is rather moderate. This slope connected with the Ellingwood Blanca ridge quite a bit higher than the saddle on the Blanca side. From here we followed the ridge to Blanca's summit. The ridge falls off steeply to the north-east, also following the ridge all the way to the summit requires some moderate scrambling near the top. It appeared that the normal route goes into the south-west face near the summit, thereby circumventing the steeper part of the final ridge. However, this alternative featured loose rocks and a couple of snowfields in early June, not necessarily either easier or safer than staying on the solid ridge rock.
Comments: I did this climb with Pål Jørgen age 12. A cold front with clouds had arrived in the night and we decided the weather did not permit a continued climb of Ellingwood Point. We started from Base Camp at Como Lake at 0645, summitted after 2.5 hours at 0915, spent 30 minutes at the summit and about 1:45 on the return hike, arriving back at Como Lake just before 11:30.
In August 2002, I was back and climbed this peak a second time, this time with my friend Arnt Flatmo.