Trail Report - Ellingwood Point - Southwest Ridge - Colorado

August 22, 2020

Written by Paul van Valkenburgh

Showing Small Pictures    

Trail Report - Ellingwood Point - Southwest Ridge - Colorado
13.3 Miles Round Trip
5112 feet of elevation gain
Summit Elevation - 14,042'
Date Climbed: August 22, 2020
Climbers: Paul, Tommy

Beautiful View Of Ellingwood Pt After Lake Como

Stunning Scenery On SW Ridge Of Ellingwood Pt

Ellingwood Point - The Southwest Ridge!! WoW!! What an amazing route!! - The Blanca Group in the Sangre De Cristo range in south central Colorado is so stunning. The area has 4 14ers (Blanca, Little Bear, Ellingwood and Lindsey) and many surrounding peaks (lots of 13ers). One of the main ways to get up to the peaks is the infamous Lake Como Road!!

As with so many of my challenging climbs, my brother from another mother Tommy came with me, and this was our first time to the Blanca Group / Lake Como Rd. We left our rental cabin in South Park at 2AM, arrived at the the Lake Como Rd about 4AM, and started the drive up!

The road itself is an adventure!! We had my Xterra and so were going to give it shot to go up the road a bit. Some people will park all the way at the bottom at 8000' but we slowly traveled up the crappy, rocky, and pothole surface to 8800' and parked there and started walking. This still leaves you about 3.75 miles to Lake Como but it's better than the 5.5 miles hike from the bottom.

After 10,000', the road becomes 'not really a road'... unless you're in a crazy off road vehicle. The jaws 1-4 sections are entertaining as you imagine trying to drive over them!! It's really more like rock climbing than a road!! ha!! At 11,750' you finally reach Lake Como. There were some climbers and 4W enthusiasts there as lots of folks seem to camp in that area. We took a short break at the lake before heading up to the base of the peaks!!

Tommy Heads Up Lake Como Road

We Made It To Lake Como

After Lake Como, the trail is really cool with amazing veiws of Ellingwood Point and Blanca Peak. It winds up past a couple of the Blue Lakes towards Crater Lake. Before you make it to Crater Lake, you see the talus slope up the left hand side to Ellingwood Point's Southwest Ridge; identified by the 'Y-Couloir' near the top!

The slope up to the ridge is straightforward.. it's rocky and a bit of slog and took us a good 30-40 minutes, but arriving at the ridge is awesome! The views over to Twin Peaks and the areas to the south are awesome. And right away you get into what makes this ridge wild.. in many places it is thin and exposed!

Ellingwood Point Appears After Lake Como

Graphic Of Southwest Ridge Route Ellingwood Point

One Of The Blue Lakes On Way To Ellingwood Point

Talus Field Up To SW Ridge Route

Looking At Blue Lakes After Start Of Talus To Ridge

Tommy Heads Up Talus To SW Ridge

View Back To Basin From Near SW Ridge

Last Bit Before Reaching SW Ridge

Tommy Makes The Southwest Ridge

Paul Makes The Last MovesTo The SW Ridge

****Note - You should always try to get different opinions on a route before you try it. The trip reports and forum on 14ers dot com are great for that. There aren't a ton of reports on Ellingwood Point's SW Ridge, but there are some good ones. And most of them indicate it's a really fun class 3 scramble with some exposure. But there was ONE report that a climber talked with no minced words about how the exposure was pretty crazy in spots and that is was sustained class 3 with no way to escape it in many places! She basically said she was terrified. I should have paid more attention to this report. We had just done Kelso Ridge the same week and my opinion is that this route is much more wicked. There are LOTS of areas that are 'thin-on-top-of-the-ridge' where you have a foot or two to go across with huge drops on the sides. If you've done other Colorado traverses, this will be no problem for you. But if it's your first time on an extended exposed ridge like this, just be ready to keep your wits and nerves about you ... it's NOT for beginners!! Kelso Ridge has 'spots' of class 3 and exposure. Ellingwood Point's SW Ridge has a LOT more of it!****

The ridge has several different fun points including the Knife Edge, which actually does have a way you can bypass it below the ridge. Tommy did the Knife Edge but I was sort of 'done' with the exposure by that point and bypassed it. In retrospect, I wish I would have done the Knife Edge and could go back to try it, but I still did to lots of thin ridge exposed climbing! The views along the ridge are insane as you look over towards Little Bear and Blanca (and of course the LB-Blanca Traverse!). And looking back down the ridge to UN13,100C is really amazing!!

Tommy Enjoys The SW Ridge On Ellingwood Pt

Looking Down The SW Ridge To UN13100C

Paul Cruises Up SW Ridge Of Ellingwood Pt

Exposure On SW Ridge Of Ellingwood Point

Tommy Continues Up SW Ridge Of Ellingwood Point

The Knife Edge on the Southwest Ridge of Ellingwood Point:

Tommy Having Fun On SW Ridge

Paul Scrambling On The SW Ridge

Little Bear From Southwest Ridge Of Ellingwood Pt

Tommy Continues Up The Southwest Ridge

Little Bear Above Crater Lake

Blanca Looks Whack From SW Ridge

Looking Northwest From Southwest Ridge

Tommy Reviews Terrain To Summit

Overhead View Of Paul On SW Ridge

Tommy Takes No Prisoners

More Insane Terrain On SW Ridge

Tommy Hits Notch And Evaluates Moves

Another Beautiful View Of Blanca

After the Knife Edge you continue towards the 'horn' (a bump along the route) and then you arrive at the summit block. The descriptions of where to go are vague at this point, with several pointing to some red rocks to the right to make passage a little easier. Without really knowing where to turn right, I went right a little too early, and Tommy stayed ridge direct a little too long. We got separated as my way traversed around to the right. Even though it wasn't as hairy as what Tommy described, going around to the right way not easy. Tommy said he was in borderline class 4-5 territory staying on the ridge. So, sorry I don't have much more to add about the summit block, but read other reports and do your best!! I believe there is a way between what Tommy and I did that is supposed to be workable.

The summit of Ellingwood Point is so cool. The views of Blanca are just so sick as are all of the surrounding peaks and valleys. Looking down to Crater Lake is awesome. We loved it so much we hung out for 1/2 hour before heading down the standard route. We're not positive that we stayed 100% on the standard route on the descent, but the way we went was loose and no fun. So happy we took the ridge on the way up!! We also had initally thought maybe we would go for Blanca, but we didn't have time or energy at that point... one amazing ridge and summit was enough!!

Paul Goes Right On Summit Block

The Summit Of Ellingwood Point

The Summit Of Ellingwood Point

The Summit Of Ellingwood Point

View NW from The Summit Of Ellingwood Point

Little Bear Peak From The Summit Of Ellingwood Point

Little Bear Peak From The Summit Of Ellingwood Point

Beautiful View Of Blanca Little Bear Crater Lake

Pano From Ellingwood Point Summit

The Summit of Ellingwood Point:

The way down all the way to the Xterra was a long slog... and we didn't finally exit the Lake Como Rd until 8PM and back to South Park at 10PM. A long day but SO worth it!! The Lake Como area is brutal to get to, but so worth the gorgeous scenery and fun climbing!!

Hope this has been enjoyable and / or helpful to anyone reading it!!


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