Ellingwood Point

  • Ellingwood Point
  • 4280 m.
  • Primary factor 104 m.
  • 42nd in Colorado
  • Location: North 37:34.950, West 105:29.517
  • Climbed August 22nd, 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. The rocky obstacles are called "jaws" and a memorial plaque tells the sad story of a fatal accident in August 2002.
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, the trail continues with a sharp turn left across a small meadow then climbing the left side of the valley in gentle zig-zag turns. After this uphill, the terrain again is more gentle as one pass Crater Lake with Ellingwood Point towering on the left side. Continue along the very nice Blanca trail until you are directly below a very distinct, narrow gully that extends up slightly left of the Ellingwood summit. There is a field of talus between the gully and the Blanca trail. This point was marked with a wooden pole when we climbed, however this marker may not be there next time. Ascend through the rocks and find the deeply inset entrance to the narrow gully. At the lower end, this gully is very narrow with quite solid rocks. Climb directly up inside the gully, this is fun scrambling YDS class 3. As you ascend higher, the slope eases and the continued climb is class 2. This part of the gully has more loose rocks, ascending along one of the sides is still quite easy. Continue until the gully tops out at the southwest ridge of Ellingwood quite close to the summit. Follow the southwest ridge a short distance to the summit, this part is easy class 3 scrambling on good rock.
Descend the standard route down talus and scree into the bowl below the Ellingwood-Blanca ridge and find the very distinct Blanca trail.
Comments: I did this climb with Arnt Flatmo. The climb took about two hours from Como Lake to the summit.
This route (described above) is not described in the common guide books. The route should only be climbed by a single party at a time, and even then one must pay full attention to the the potential danger that rocks may come down this very narrow path. Wear a climbing helmet and consider the conditions before launching.
The "normal route" on Ellingwood follows the Blanca Peak route all the way to the slope below the Blanca-Ellingwood ridge, then turns left up talus and scree slopes staying well below the connecting ridge. This route is YDS class 2.