|Time||12 hr 2 min|
|Summit Elevation||14,345 (BP) / 14,042 (EP) feet|
|Elevation Gain||8,832 feet|
|Route||Lake Como Trailhead|
My sister Natalee is here for her annual summer visit. In 2001, we did Longs Peak. It took our virginity. So for years we didn’t do anymore mountains. Then a few years back, I felt challenged again and started working through the rest slowly. Now, when Natalee comes to visit, we go and try and bag a few. In her last few visits, Natalee had brought folks to share in the experience. It was fun to share but this year she was solo so I knew we could step it up a notch. So in conversation earlier in the year, Natalee mentioned that she would like to meet B2. Let’s bring her on our hike — that will step it up a couple of notches!
Becky and I chatted about where to go for quite a while. However, as the day approached it was clear the weather would not be perfect. Usually, I stay home on those days but when you have a guest you have to make the most of it. We decided on Blanca and Ellingwood. They are a pair of neighbors in the Sangre de Cristo range which is way way south of here. Becky has done a few in the area and I was down there for the Willow Lake debacle a few weeks back.
So we loaded up the car at about 10:30 PM and headed down the Interstate to pick up B2 on the way. Everybody was alert and talkative the whole way down. It was going to be a 4+ hour drive south to the trailhead so we needed to keep the energy alive. There is always the desire to nap but it is tough. We stopped in Pueblo, CO about 1 AM and got McDonald’s. This was kinda like the breakfast replacement.
We arrived at Lake Como road in the dark. It is an unmarked dirt road. We only knew we were in the right spot by the direction of the road and the approximate mileage of the turn-off. The road is known as the toughest 4WD road in the state. We started motoring up it in the H2. It got pretty bumpy quickly but nothing major. We knew that soon it would turn into “oh shit” so we pulled off and parked on the road like all the other trucks that wanted to be able to drive back home.
It was 4 AM and pitch dark and we were off. Heading up the road with our headlamps blazing. The road was curvy and filled with 4WD obstacles that I was in awe of. How could anyone get up these? The good news about leaving in the dark is that you zone out. The miles kind of melt away. By the time we hit Lake Como, which was the first big checkpoint, the sun started giving us light. There was no sunshine however. The clouds were thick and misty. Felt like we were in some sort of bubble. I decided that the camera was worthless because you couldn’t see 100 feet in front of you.
We kept following the road till its end. I usually think a road would be a good way to go but this one sucked. It is full of baseball size rocks and other inclines that make it fun for 4WD but hard on your ankles. Not the best way to get up…oh, how I missed the Barr Trail! The end of the road gave way to a short section of grassy plains. Always my favorite part. Then we started into the class 2 rock and it was up up and away from that point. Route finding was challenging at times with the wet conditions. It was raining and everybody was wet. We had rain gear on so we were dry but you felt like you were soaked. My gloves became water logged and my fingers were freezing. The wind started kicking up to the point where you had to get close to others and yell at them to talk. But we kept at it. Rain just makes things slick so as long as you take extra care, it isn’t the worst thing (that is lightening). So just after 9 AM, we hit the summit of Blanca Peak, the 4th highest in Colorado!
Awesome photos, right? There was nothing to see! No blue sky all day. We were in a sea of white rain clouds. We spent a few minutes there on the summit and then started back down. Down is worse than up in rain. More slippage. On the way down, we started discussing going over to Ellingwood Point. Problems I saw where the fact that we were off our time target for Blanca. Then its raining. Then we can’t see where the hell we are going. GPS helps that last one but my nice waypoints were far apart. So I think we decided to bail on Ellingwood at that point. I was OK with it but B2 was not. We got down to the saddle/ridge that connect the two peaks and B2 threw out a logical claim that we should try Ellingwood. It was the right call and we reversed the other decision and headed back up and into the clouds again. We saw some folks and they said it was well marked and about another hour up. We were game. So at about 11:15 AM we summitted Ellingwood Point, 43rd highest in Colorado.
Same view! Oh well. We didn’t stay long and then headed back down. On the way off the rock face, I was talking and zoned out a bit. B2 was in front of me and did a move and got down this smaller rock face. As it was my turn, I very fluidly spun onto the ledge, reached for the rocks to grab, and lost my handhold. Everything went s-l-o-w motion. Imagine spinning, grabbing and your hands just miss. I started going over the ledge backwards. There was nothing to grab on to. My mind started racing about how i was going to stop tumbling down the entire mountain. All that came to an abrupt end when I landed flat on my back probably 4 feet down on a flat rock face. I felt my butt bone in sharp pain. I seriously started wondering if I could walk. I laid there and gathered myself and started wiggling my toes. Yep, nerves work. I then rolled myself up and over and got on my feet. If I had not been able to walk, I wouldn’t have been surprised. That’s how I felt like it was going to happen. It wasn’t pretty. Other than a bruised knee and butt, I feel pretty good. However, I was a bit shaken and I lost a lot of speed on the way back down because I was babying that knee.
The way back down was pretty uneventful and VERY long. The Lake Como Road was worse to walk down that walk up. We were slower going down it than up it to. That’s what you get with these nasty roads. The crew kind of spread out and went through long stretches of 45-60 minutes without muttering a word. Everyone was happy to have completed 2 summits but the sight of the parked H2 would be the true “best thing ever”. The road kept winding and descending. I kept watching the elevation on my watch because I knew what we parked at. It ticked away very slowly and finally we rounded a corner and there she be! 12 hours round trip. Awesome except we had to drive 4 hours back home now!
I picked up a new Flip video camera last week and really liked using it on the adventure. So here is my super awesome movie with great, I mean no, scenery footage. Hopefully, I can get something you can see one of these days. Once again, you will have to enjoy our witty banter. Remember, the air is thin up there so stuff seems really funny on the trail.
Thanks to Natalee and Becky for a great trip in not perfect conditions. It wasn’t on the epic list but it is close. What was epic was Natalee coming from sea level and pulling it off and keeping pace with B2 and I (because we are so awesome). The big disappointment for me was that Natalee never even got to see the peak she climbed. So I made her pose by the road sign for the memories.
Here is the route from Google Earth.
Since I didn’t have good photos, I am going to link to some photos from 14ers.com so you can see what we were up against.
Blanca as seen from Ellingwood.
Ellingwood as seen from Blanca.
View all photos from this event.