May 24, 2001 - South Face
I climbed Mt. Lindsey in 2000 but had yet to confront the Como Lake Road and the other peaks of the Sierra Blanca. I took off for Alamosa and arrived in time to catch some dinner and scope out the lower reaches of the infamous Jeep trail to Como Lake. The first two miles are not bad by any stretch of the imagination but as darkness approached, I called it quits at a point where the road makes its first sharp turn to the left above the split/rejoin section. I planned to treat the Como Lake road like the Colony Lake track, walk it the first time, checking out clearances and turnaround opportunities and then take a shot at driving it for the next climb if it appeared feasible.
I hit the trail the next morning at five a.m. and hiked up the switchbacks as they climb toward the Sierra Blanca. I found the infamous roadblocks to navigation started in earnest about 2 miles higher than I had called it quits. Of course, this was assuming that one is driving a smaller 4WD, has decent clearance and the requisite degree of common sense and driving skills to overcome some of the lower impediments. Overall, my call was that if I could drive the Colony Lake road, I could one get four miles up the Como Lake track as well. Regardless, I made it to Como Lake in about 2 ½ hours and found it still well frozen.
The snowline began at the lake and was hard frozen for the whole trip up the valley. I came across another climber, coming down on snowshoes, who mentioned that he had failed in his attempt of Blanca due to route finding difficulties. The route did not look that tough to spot and I surmise his lack of an ice axe and crampons was a more accurate and completely appropriate reason. I started the climb of Ellingwood from the head of the valley and made a climbing traverse toward a point on the ridge midway between the Ellingwood summit and the saddle separating Ellingwood from Blanca. This route provided the longest traverse wholly on snow. The only problem was that for all my efforts to get on the trail by five, I too had made a judgment error, this time with regard to sun hit and softening snow. The signs of wet avalanches were all along the flank of Ellingwood and the climber’s trails from previous days were cut in many places by avalanche debris, undoubtedly from just days before. I considered this and dispensed with any plan to climb Blanca, realizing the importance of getting back through the valley before the name of the game changed to “expedited” postholing.
The summit was snow-covered and provides one hell of view of the Sierra Blanca peaks as well as the Crestones to the north. I snacked and headed down the ridge to a route more rock than snowfield. Once in the valley bottom, I made good time across the snow, center lining the valley and scoring rock routes for both the short headwalls associated with the higher lakes. The timing worked perfectly and as I walked along Como Lake, my foot finally broke through the crust, 100 feet short of the snow line. The trip down the road was Colorado beautiful and at around 4 p.m. I got back to the truck and made the long drive back to Cheyenne.
Climbs of Blanca and Little Bear, also from Como Lake . . .