The 14ers Part 1. Blanca & Ellingwood

After much some very last minute planning Jake, Jon and I left my house Wednesday night at about 7pm in Jake’s truck and headed toward the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range. We took turns driving all night and closing our eyes and trying to sleep (actually I did not bad layed out in the back seat with a ground pad as a pillow). We stopped a few times to switch drivers and then arrived at the gravel pull off of the highway around 4am.

The gravel pull off started out pretty standard but got more and more into a jeep trail and then an atv trail. The farther we drove it up the mountain the less we had to climb so we slowly bounced our way up the mountain. Eventually we decided the truck could go no farther and pulled off. It was still dark but we were too excited to sleep so changed, packed our backpacks up and started up the road.

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It was obvious pretty quick we would not have made it much farther in the truck.

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On the road we saw a few more cars as we climbed

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And some old mining cabins.

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The lack of sleep, less air, 60lbs of gear on our backs and rough steep road made the climb pretty taxing. Once we crossed a nice little stream we were all glad to shed the packs and make breakfast.

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Jake had premade some mix of dehydrated potatoes, dehydrated eggs, precooked bacon and cheese powder from mac and cheese. It was a great tasting and filling breakfast. Around this time the sun came out and the hike continued.

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We took a few more breaks.

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Eventually we stopped going up and could see Como Lake and the top of Little Bear mountain.

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The lake was beautiful, clear and we could see lots of trout swimming around.

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The chipmunks were also really friendly

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We explored the area and filtered some water and had a great stop but decided we needed to be farther up in the mountains so continued on.

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Fortunately we didn’t have too far to go before we started to run up to the tree line so we stopped at a really nice spot and set up.

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We had some lunch and caught our breaths and did some side hikes. We tried to hang a bear bag but could not get our crazy heavy bags of food and things that smell far enough off the ground and away from trees.

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Both the other guys had some signs of altitude sickness around this time and did some resting. I decided to climb a few trees and hook up a really sweet setup for the bearbag and took turns doing some small hikes w/ each guy. Jon got feeling really bad and laid down to go to sleep for the night really early. Jake and I got firewood and started a fire to kill time and keep the mosquitoes away.

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(In the background you can see Mt. Ellingwood our 2nd peak)

Eventually we cooked some dinner and ate and then Jon got up feeling a lot better. As soon as it got slightly dark we rose the bear bags and all crawled into our tent. It was fairly warm and I never ended up zipping my sleeping bag up all the way.

I was asleep immediately but I guess like 10 min later (it was still light enough to see) a lot of wind came through and started whipping the tent around and rain started to fall but it only lasted like 2 minutes and then was gone. We had all been drinking water like crazy for the altitude and at one point I got up to pee and looked up and the sky was crazy packed with stars but I was too sleepy to look for long.

Around 4am hikers passed our tent on the trail and we heard their feet and saw their headlamps. A bit later we got out of the tent and got ready. We made and ate some cold oatmeal in the dark then grabbed our light day packs and headed toward the mountains. We passed a few small lakes,

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then entered what I felt like was the real trail next to a waterfall.

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We all were so excited to be off the jeep trail and on a nice trail and not to have the big packs on.

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We wound our way farther into the mountains and passed several more lakes.

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We zigged and zagged a bunch on the trail but for the most part just climbed right between the two peaks.

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We could see the Blanca peak on our right

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But first we had to reach a ridge between them.

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We had planned to go to Ellingwood first but missed our turn and took the main trail to Blanca. We had a great view of another valley on the way up.

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And a great view of the valley we came up.

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But we also had a lot of climbing to do.

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I think it was right at 3 hours after we left that we all reached the peak of Blanca.

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The views were amazing and we took some time to check them out and catch our breaths.

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Then we headed across the ridge to the next mountain.

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Everything to this point was rated as class 2 in difficulty and this was class 3 now.

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It was actually really fun getting more technical.

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I think it was like 60-90 min of this before we were standing on Mt. Ellingwood with Blanca behind us.

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We had seen a few people at stops along the way or heard them yelling from the peaks but for the most part we were alone all day. At the top of Ellingwood there was a small but really fun group.

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They were really fun and interesting and we enjoyed comparing some stories with them. Eventually we started looking down the mountain. The trail was pretty hard to find from the top and we ended up not taking it for a while. We had each carried 3 liters of water and it was running pretty low so we decided to bee line as much as we could for the first lake.

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I had to take a small detour to walk across some snow.

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It was a lot farther then it looked but we reached the lake.

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I had a little sawyer life straw and we drank as much as we could and made some tuna bacon cheese roll ups for lunch.

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They were so good I had 2 and then a plain cheese one. The farther down we got the easier it went. We got into camp pretty beat but really interested in getting off the mountain. We took a really quick power nap then broke camp. We haphazardly stuffed everything into our packs and somehow managed to get them on our backs and start packing them down the mountain.

Dreams of burgers, hot tubs, beers and hotel beds were the only things that kept us going. The way down was not as bad but it was hotter and sunnier then the way up.

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There was a lot of traffic coming up the mountain as it was Friday night and everyone wanted a good campsite. Eventually we reached the truck and got to take off our boots and it felt great to sit on the truck seat instead of a rock.

It was a long slow drive going down and we had to wait or backup for some traffic coming up a few times. Then we drove about 20 minutes into Alamosa and started the hotel search. We had a really tough time finding a reasonably affordable hotel with an open room and a working hot tub. At 8:30 we ended up back at the first hotel we went to getting a $90 room w/ a hot tub that had hot water but broken jets.

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The hot tub closed at 9 but it didn’t seem to mater much and we soaked our worn out feet and legs a bit longer.

Then we took showers and went out for dinner. There were only 2 places in town open that late for dinner and we ended up at the Brewery.

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We got beers and burgers and super tired. Once we ate we went back to the hotel to sleep.

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