Blanca and Ellingwood Summit Ski Descents 5.1.10
Skiers: Carl Dowdy, Marc Barella, Mike Bean, Ben Conners
Route: Ascent of Ellingwood Pt. via South Face, ski descent of South Face to 13,100', ascent of Blanca via North Face, ski descent of North Face and out
Numbers: 5,100' climbed, 4,500' skied, 12 hours
One of the more solidified goals Carl and I had for this spring was to wrap up the Blanca Group on skis. The first weekend in May had been the plan for awhile, and as a bonus the days leading up to the trip saw some new snow in the Southern Sangres. Mike, Marc, Carl, and I motored to Alamosa Friday evening after work and pulled onto the Lake Como road around 9pm. We had our sights set on getting the Land Cruiser to 10,400' or close to it, I think we ended up parking it a bit lower but who's counting. I enjoyed a decent night of sleep in my bivy bag on the ground next to the truck, the other three guys managed to squeeze inside the truck, I think Mike slept sitting upright in the passenger seat.
An early start had us skinning across Lake Como at 4:30am:
The one thing I remember about this morning is that it was COLD, really cold. With a stiff breeze added in I'm betting it was single digits until we were finally high enough to be in the sun.
Skinning through the moraines below Ellingwood's South Face:
After a good amount of skinning and cursing our cold hands, we got above the sun line on Ellingwood's South Face and things immediately felt better. After a long break in the sun, we geared up and began climbing the face in earnest.
Our South Face ascent route:
Some excellent snow climbing this face delivers:
There's a cool little slot that cuts up through the cliff bands guarding the middle of the face:
Carl and I heading through:
Looking down the slot from above:
Above the slot we had a decision to make; either traverse over to a snow couloir and use it to climb the final 400' to the summit, or else gain the South Ridge. From our position the couloir looked fairly wind loaded up top, so the ridge was an easy decision.
A look at the remaining terrain to the summit:
30 minutes later and we were on top:
The views of Little Bear were spectacular:
A cool shot Mike took:
After a short break, it was time to ski the South Face.
Off the top:
Carl enjoying the snow, Mt. Lindsey in the background:
Me cashing in:
We skied to around 13,100' where the skis went on the packs for the climb up Blanca. Looking across at the peak earlier in the day had me skeptical, it just didn't look like there was enough snow for a summit descent. After a short team huddle we figured we might as well give it a shot, so up we went.
The climbing on the North Face was tedious; lots of dust on talus, verglass covered rocks, etc. It made for some slow going.
A cool shot of the four of us ascending the North Face taken by a 14ers.com member "Snowgirl":
Near the summit ridge:
Upon finally cresting the summit ridge some clouds had built to the north and were heading our way. From the summit, Carl and I could see a ski descent line heading northwest the but it looked sparse. We committed to it, making several steep jump turns in between rocks to get off the summit. From there we traversed to the west and made a few turns down the southwest side of the peak before regrouping with Mike and Marc at the saddle. From there we took turns skiing the obvious couloir on the North Face. Now for the pictures:
Carl leading the way off the summit:
...with me in tow:
Turns down the southwest side:
Marc rides the North Face:
Me on the long ski out:
We were able to ski to around 11,500' before removing skis and boots for the hike back down the road.
The car was a welcoming sight:
Then it was off for some calzones at a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint in Ft. Garland.
Thanks for reading!