Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Blanca Peak, Ellingwood Point (8/11/04)

Route Name: Blanca's Northwest Ridge + Ellingwood
Lake Como TH Elevation: 6500 ft.
Lake Como Camp Elevation: 11,750 ft.
Blanca Elevation: 14,345 ft.
Saddle Elevation: 13,700 ft.
Ellingwood Elevation: 14,042 ft.
Total Elevation Gain (from camp): 3250 ft.
Round-trip Mileage: 5.73 mi (estimate from Lake Como Camp)
2.52mi. up Blanca, 0.75mi Traverse, 2.46mi. down Ellingwood


After having summited Little Bear the day before we had little worry about what we'd find on Blanca and Ellingwood. Part of the thriller of this day was just waking up for a 2nd day at Lake Como and this amazingly beautiful basin, not to mention being at the foot of Little Bear's amazing northwestern face.
The beginning's of this hike actually followed the Lake Como Road which heads out southeast past Lake Como. The road then heads to the northeast towards Blue Lake before it begins to disappear. After Blue Lakes the trail climbed sharply past a waterfall just above 12,200. At around 12800 the climb puts you in the upper basin that meanders around just north of Crater Lake. After Crater Lake the real climbing began. It gets relatively steep and purely talus rocks at this point on. We were honestly expecting a very easy hike to the summit of each peak and it was almost a little disheartening as we encountered much more difficulty than anticipated. The climb up to the Blanca-Ellingwood saddle went well and from there it was a careful and slow trek through precarious rocks to reach Blanca's summit. I remember being on this part of the route and getting disappointed in a way that yet another 14er was so hard and even dangerous. I think much of this feeling was left-over emotion from the crazy challenge that was Little Bear and the anticipation of a safe, easy hike of Blanca. Nonetheless we summited Blanca well and started on over to Ellingwood.
We didn't keep the ridgeline all the way over to Ellingwood but rather descended below it to a line we felt safe on, but also didn't lose us too much elevation. At first Ellingwood looks quite daunting from Blanca from acceptable class 2+ routes presented themselves as we made our way over. We had an amazing time getting these two peaks but we also knew what still lay in store .. the death march out. After descending safely from Ellingwood we made quick work of getting back to the Lake and our Camp and then packed it all up. The nices temps we had around the lake qucikly started to rise on us as we descended the elevation. It was an awful hike being tired and being on day 7 in the backcountry and looking forward to a solid meal.


I do not have a track of my own from this hike so I have included generic tracks Blanca and Ellingwood combo. This track shows hiking Ellingwood first and then traversing over to Blanca. We hiked Blanca first and then traversed just below the ridge over to Ellingwood.


Here are my photos from this combo hike:

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Little Bear Peak (8/10/04)

Route Name: West Ridge to Southwest Face (Hourglass)
Lake Como TH Start Elevation: 6500 ft. (my estimate)
Lake Como Camp Elevation: 11,750 ft.
Summit Elevation: 14,037 ft.
Elevation Gain: 2300ft. (7537ft.)
Round-trip Mileage: 3.5mi (from Lake Como) (+4.75mi up Lake Como Road)


Our trek up Little Bear began with the infamous death march up the Lake Como Road. We dropped off our van around 6500 on the Como Road when it became evident it would go no further. Our arrival at the Lake Como Road came on the tail-end of a backpacking trip in the Comanche-Venable area of the Sangres. So these would be nights #5 and #6 in a row out in the backcountry. The plus side is we were very well acclimated and ready to roll on these peaks. Our challenge going up the Lake Como Road would be carrying the roads we intended to use on Little Bear (they were heavy!). Another interesting detail we had with us was our good friend Jim Laatsch was going to meet us up at Lake Como. We were supposed to arrive first and then he would find our camp. Well the hike up the Lake Como Road starts out very hot, almost desert-like. Thankfully the temperatures cool quickly and you enter the trees more as you get nearer the lake. Along the way you pass rock formations in the road, commonly known as Jaws 1 and Jaws 2 which the 4WD enthusiasts like to pull their custom vehicles over. We were blown away at a few points that anyone could drive something up this road as it was even a challenge hiking it at times. We arrived at the Lake a little before nightfall and found a nice camping spot off to the southwest side.

Monday, August 9, 2004

Comanche-Venable Loop (8/5-9/2004)

Trail: Comanche-Venable Loop
Trailhead Begin: Comanche-Venable Trailhead
Trailhead Elevation: 9,037 ft.
High Point: 13,334 ft. (Venable Peak)
Trip Elevation Total: 9375 ft.
Trip Mileage Total: 19.51 miles


August 5

This day began with the always wonderful drive into the Wet Mountain Valley with the wonderful views of the Sangre de Cristo range. This hike though it begins and ends in different drainages on the east side of the Sangres has a single trailhead. We parked and geared up and headed to the northwest into the Venable Lake drainage first. This hike predominantly follows Venable Creek the whole way. This means on the positive side that there is always water relatively near the trail for an abundance of good campsites. On the downside, the mosquitos were terrible every time we stopped and even while hiking.

Monday, August 2, 2004

Harney Peak, South Dakota (8/2/04)

Route Name: Southeast Slope from Sylvan Lake
Start Elevation: 6,160 ft. (Sylvan Lake)
Summit Elevation: 7244 ft.
Total Elevation Gain: 1084 ft.
Round-trip Mileage: 6 mi (according to the books)

About Harney Peak

Harney Peak is the high point of the state of South Dakota. It is located in the beautiful Black Hills in the southwestern area of the state. It is also a notable peak as it is the highest summit in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. And it is the highest summit west of the Pyrenees Mountains in Europe. Harney Peak tops out at 7,244 feet, which when compared to the Rockies is relatively short. But on its own in the Dakotas, and with a summit of mostly bare rock, the views are unimpeded for miles. It is one of the highlights of the Black Hills.


This was the second time I've climbed Harney Peak. The first was back in 1990 during our family's trip through South Dakota and on to Wyoming and Colorado. This year's trek up Harney Peak was a quick on the spot idea after we had spent the morning enjoying the Badlands. It doesn't take much convincing though for one to want to see beautiful Sylvan Lake and then make the easy trek up to Harney.
The trail is all easy class 1 dirt and rock, quite easy to follow as well. It is a nice 3-mile length hike gaining only 1100 feet in elevation to the summit. In the first mile of the hike into the forest 500 feet is gained rather quickly. Over the next mile the hike drops into a low spot in the forest losing almost 300 feet. At around the 2-mile marker the hike again starts gaining the elevation. Picking up roughly 600 feet in about 3/4 of a mile. At about 2.6 miles in the hike finally starts climbing the southeast slope of Harney Peak. And at just over 3 miles the summit of Harney Peak is gained. The granite rock of the Black Hills is spectacular as it pokes its way through the surrounding forests. The summit of Harney is one such example as it is bare of any rock making for great views. There is also an old stone tower upon the summit which used to be a fire-watch tower. Now it is a great tourist viewpoint on the summit.


I did not take a GPX track of my own from this hike so I have included a generic KML track of the hike up to Harney Peak.


Here is my photo album of this hike:

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