Combination Route

Blanca and Ellingwood
Difficulty Class 3 
Risk FactorsExposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: Considerable  
Start8,000 feet
Summit14,350 feet
Total Gain6,800 feet
3,000 feet (starting at Lake Como)
RT Length18 miles if you start at the bottom (8,000')
7 miles if you start near Lake Como
SheriffAlamosa: 719-589-6608
Last Updated10/2022
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From Colorado 160, east of Alamosa, turn north onto Colorado 150 toward Great Sand Dunes National Park. Drive over 3 miles and turn right onto Lake Como road (aka Blanca Peak road). The type of vehicle you are driving will determine how high you can park. Most cars can drive about 1.5 miles up before it gets rough. 4WD SUVs and trucks can slowly make it 3.25 miles to several pull-offs at 8,800', before the road turns nasty. This is a popular parking spot and gets you within 4 miles of Lake Como. If you have a high-clearance, small, 4WD vehicle you might be able to drive to 10,000' but you'll find very few places to park. An ATV, UTV or modified jeep/crawler can get to Lake Como, depending on the driver.


Climbing Blanca and Ellingwood from the Lake Como Approach can be done by either traversing the Class 3 ridge between the two peaks or by descending back to the "standard" trail and then up to the next peak. The later option requires several hundred feet more of elevation re-gain, but it keeps the difficulty at "Difficult Class 2." This route description will briefly describe the Class 2 option but focus mainly on the Class 3 traverse.

The Easiest Option (Difficult Class 2):
This method keeps the difficulty at "Difficult" Class 2 and follows the main (standard) trails up each peak. Most people start with Blanca because it's the prominent peak, but on a busy weekend it may be best to start with Ellingwood, which may provide some early solitude. So, climb your first peak: Blanca Peak - NW Ridge Route or Ellingwood Point - South Face Route. Described in the Ellingwood route, you will find a location where the standard trail to Ellingwood starts off of the main Blanca trail, near 13,300'. After climbing your first peak, descend back to this location and begin up the second peak. This method will keep you on the trails used by most climbers. The most confusing part is usually trying to locate the Ellingwood trail when it leaves the main Blanca trail. This is partly because many climbers have created some small, alternate trails toward Ellingwood. It may be helpful to study photos #11 and #12 on the Ellingwood Route to locate some landmarks that assist with the turn-off to Ellingwood. After your second peak, return down the standard trail into the basin.

Traversing near the Ridge (Class 3):
If you are comfortable with Class 3 scrambling and don't mind a bit of loose rock, this is a fun alternative that will keep you from losing (and re-gaining) approximately 300' when compared to the easier option, described above. The traverse can be made in either direction, but I have chosen to describe it from Ellingwood-to-Blanca. 1 is a broad view of the ridge connecting the two peaks. Climb to the Ellingwood summit where you have a good look at the remaining challenge to reach Blanca's summit - 2. Start back down Ellingwood's East Ridge ( 3) toward the rugged ridge connecting the two peaks. Near 13,800', and before the difficulties of the ridge, descend to the right ( 4) to reach a vague "trail" about 150' below the ridge crest and turn left onto the steep rock below the ridge. Look for cairns and begin your traverse below the ridge crest. 5 shows some of the scrambling below the ridge. Nearly half way across the ridge, carefully cross a gully ( 6) which contains some loose, white rock. 7 and 8 are good reference photos which show the location of the gully. Continue ( 9) southeast on the tiny, cairned trail and after traversing for a while near 13,600', the route becomes easier. 10 looks back on the traverse and 11 is a closer look at the final difficulties. After passing beneath a notch in the lowest part of the ridge, follow easier terrain to reach the main Blanca trail. Turn left ( 12) and continue up Blanca's Northwest Ridge route. From Blanca, 13 looks back on the entire traverse.

Traverse Variation (More Difficult Class 3):
After leaving Ellingwood and descending to 13,800' continue along the ridge crest a bit longer. Shown with a dotted line in 13, stay on the ridge and enjoy some exposed (still Class 3) scrambling - 14 and 15. Continue to a large notch ( 16) where the ridge becomes much more difficult. Downclimb to your right, into a gully ( 17 and 18) and reach the main, Class 3 traverse route, described above.


Wear a helmet and watch out for loose rock. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13 #14 #15 #16 #17 #18

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Caution: The information contained in this route description may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this route description provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the route description author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

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