Peak(s):  Blanca Peak  -  14,350 feet
Date Posted:  10/27/2020
Modified:  10/29/2020
Date Climbed:   02/16/2020
Author:  CaptainSuburbia
 Winter Blanca   

Winter Blanca


With snowflake season fast approaching, I thought I'd finish up a few trip reports for climbs I did last winter. I'll start with Blanca Peak from February.

Day: February 16th, 2020

Trailhead: Como Rd (8800 feet)

Peak: Blanca Peak

Route: Northwest Ridge (standard)

Mileage/Elevation gain: 13.96 miles and 5682 feet of gain

The road to Como Lake:

We parked at 8800 feet and surprisingly Como Rd was dry to that point. It was cold, dark and too early when we started up the road. The frosty air was the perfect remedy for my lack of sleep though, and it perked me right up. The 5-hour energy helped as well. The road remained mostly dry for the first mile or so and slowly transitioned to all snow. We dredged through the snow as long as possible before finally taking a break and putting our snowshoes on (I don't know why I always prolong the inevitable). We then trenched to the lake arriving at first light.

Little Bear from Como Lake

Como Lake to base of Blanca:

Once at the lake the snow depth increased and our speed decreased. We left the standard trail here, and walked along the right edge of the frozen lake to take advantage of it's hard packed surface. On the other side, we merged back with the standard route which we more or less followed the rest of the way.

Ellingwood Point

We crossed over frozen lakes when ever possible for the firmer snow as we continued into the upper basin. After passing Crater Lake on our right, and just before the base of Blanca, there was a significant avy slope coming off Ellingwood. We knew the avy danger was low that day (green on the CAIC scale), but still, we crossed under it gingerly one at a time. From there we crossed through a couple rock bands and were at the base of Blanca.

Crossing the avy slope

The Climb up Blanca Peak:

From the base of Blanca we could see that crampons would be needed, so we put them on and stashed our snowshoes. We then climbed a steep snowfield to reach the ledges section. An ice axe was nice to have here for support. Once at the ledges we kept our crampons on to the summit. The extra traction was nice for the snow and ice which was continuous the rest of the way.

Climbing snowfield to ledges
The ledges
Looking back down below ledges
Ellingwood Point

From the ledges we beelined to the cairn marking the Northwest Ridge. The standard trail was unidentifiable so we just worked our way through a mix of talus, scree and snow bands until reaching the cairn.

Cairn marking Northwest Ridge

The winds hit us almost immediately upon reaching the ridge. To this point the wind had been almost nonexistent and we thought we lucked out. I've climbed very few winter peaks without significant wind at some point. It was definitely howling (I won't guess at the speed) and almost kept us from summiting as we progressed up the ridge. As you can see from the picture below, the ridge was a mix of talus and deep snow. For the most part the snow was supportive, so we used it whenever possible to avoid the talus as we battled the winds. Sometimes we'd punch through the snow though so we had to be careful.

A break on the ridge
Working our way up on the supportive snow
The final push to the summit
Keyton reaching the summit

Despite the winds we eventually made the summit. Amazingly, these winds were very calm on the summit, and we enjoyed the most beautiful winter views.

Celebrating on the summit
Ellingwood Point from the summit
Little Bear Peak blowing smoke
Mt Lindsey, Iron Nipple and Huerfano Peak
My crew

We enjoyed a longer than normal stay for a winter 14er summit. None of us were looking forward to going down that windy ridge. We had hoped to hit Ellingwood too, but this summit took longer than planned (they always seem to in the winter) and we didn't want to spend too much time walking out in the dark. A winter Ellingwood would have to wait. We eventually did head down and the descent was uneventful. It was another good day in the mountains.

Heading down. Top left is California Peak
Ridge looks pretty steep from here
Ellingwood coming into view

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Comments or Questions
Excellent report
10/27/2020 16:59
That was a very entertaining report with wonderful photographs.

10/27/2020 17:28
I do like the pictures a lot. Nice job!

opening photo
10/27/2020 17:35
That's a cool perspective shot with the clouds and snow! And it's obvious you got a thing going on for Blanca....

10/27/2020 18:19
Very nice write up! Beautiful pictures and it still amazes me that you did it in February! Nice job buddy!

10/29/2020 09:06
Thanks everyone! It was a perfect day for pics and my buddies outfit really helped to make them.

d_baker- Yeah love Blanca! (especially the view of Little Bear)

Vadim- Thanks buddy! I know how you love the snow.

10/30/2020 10:44
Nice report. We ran into you guys that day!

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