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Ascent to Blanca Peak-Just short of Crater Lake on 2019-06-22

Climber: Bradley R

Date:Saturday, June 22, 2019
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Blanca Peak - Just short of Crater Lake
    Location:USA-Colorado
    Elevation:12533 ft / 3820 m
    Remaining Elevation:1812 ft / 552 m (29% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

Why I chose this peak: An ultra 14er in Colorado.

The plan: I chose to take some vacation time to climb this mountain. On short notice I asked my old college roommate, Josh, who lives in Denver if he wanted to join. He said yes. We initially planned to leave Denver around noon on Friday. We'd drive up the Lake Como Rd. as far as we could, and hike to Lake Como or maybe a bit further. After I booked plane tickets he notified me he had an appointment come up for a new job he was starting in Denver at 4 PM that Friday. If I waited on him we wouldn't get to start hiking till after sunset, and if I went it alone I would be... alone. I've done alone so much lately a hiking partner was exciting for me. It was an easy decision I waited on Josh. Now we just said we'd get to the trailhead and hike as far as we'd like and finish up on Saturday. Josh also wanted to touch Ellingwood Peak, and I agreed, but it was lower priority for me.

Travel to Denver: My flight was scheduled to leave Charlotte at ~10:30 PM on Thursday and to land at 12:05 AM. The flight was late to take off, then sat near the gate for nearly and hour after arriving in Denver. I had hoped to be in bed by 1 AM, but it was a bit after 3 AM. Only giving me 4 hours of sleep. My rental was an AWD Dodge Durango.

Where to Park: I placed Lake Como Road, Mosca, CO in Google Maps. Once on the road I just drove as far as I could and pulled off the side of the road. This is where we started.

The hike:

Friday:
We parked around 9 PM. The road had been pretty busy with a lot of car camping. There really wasn't many spots to the point we reached that you wouldn't be near enough to someone else's camp that you couldn't see/hear one another. We drove to about 8,200', ~2.2 miles off of 150. Where we parked there was some people that approached us and more or less asked us to leave their camp. We refused. We packed up and started hiking in the dark. The weight of my pack was certainly too much, this along with my lack of sleep had me ready to stop. Josh suggested a point a mile in. I was happy to stop, and getting camp weight off of me would help. We gained 630' in this distance. Including setting up camp this took about an hour. There wasn't much to see after dark, except a number of people that made it further up the road than us.

Saturday:
We packed our bags and were moving up the mountain by 5:30 AM. We stopped only 1/3 of a mile up the road to filter water. My Sawyer filter worked, but was only producing about 1/2 the flow of what I'm used to getting out of it.

We continued up the switchbacks and through some nice Aspen forests. Though we were on a "road" it was no easy hiking. The rocky surface wore on my feet and legs. Even without the camping supplies I had too much weight on my back. I discussed dropping my snow shoes to reduce weight several times with Josh, but I didn't pull the trigger till much later. We reached Lake Como at ~4.2 miles for the day, having gained 3,000 feet. Prior to Como there was practically no snow.

In another mile we reached Blue Lake that was mostly frozen. In this section we started hitting significant patches of snow. Not consistent enough to put on snow shoes, but enough soft stuff to post hole some. We gained another 400' in this section. Blue Lake was surrounded by snow, with the waterfall flowing with high volumes of water. I dropped quite a bit of weight out of my pack here (crampons, extra food, some clothing). We walked around and started up a rocky trail.

At 5.5 miles for the day, just above the water and another 750' of gain we looked in the sky and saw some clouds that were not yet too mean, but seemed to have potential. I very timidly wanted to continue, but wasn't willing to push Josh to continue. We turned around here, this was probably the correct decision. Even if we continued we would have probably had added on at least 2, likely 3+, hours of hiking, which would have pushed us late into the day, both for the hike and the drive back to Josh's.

We headed back down via the same route. We took a decent break at Lake Como taking in the views of Little Bear over the lake, the continued down. We passed on Jeep that had crossed all three "JAWS" obstacles on Lake Como Road, and only had "easy" ground left to Lake Como.

I'm not exactly sure where, but based on my pace I'd say 9.6 miles for Saturday (4 miles back down and 1.5 miles from camp) we saw what appeared to be a huge storm coming our way. We picked up pace as much as we could trying to get back to camp before the rain arrived. Just before reaching camp, and with the storm bearing down we met a couple of people that said it wasn't a rain storm, but rather a dust storm that we had seen. We relaxed a bit and walked the last 100 yards to camp... here we heard thunder and realized a thunderstorm was rolling in, but from the opposite direction of the dust cloud.

We quickly packed camp, and decided, based on the vehicles we'd seen, the Durango should be able to make it to camp. we left everything and headed to the vehicle with no weight. In my haste I sprained my left ankle, but only mildly. We reached the vehicle at 12.24 miles for the day in 10.5 hours (not including packing camp).

I made it higher than the day before, but ended up handing the steering wheel to Josh, who proved to be the better driver in the conditions and was able to reach camp, but there were challenges. Too bad we didn't get that far the night before.

Disappointed to not reach the top, but hopeful to have another chance.

People:
We saw quite a few people up to Lake Como. After the Lake the numbers did decrease. Around Blue Lake we did see ~5 people descending from a successful summit. I'm sure we passed others lower down as well.

Lessons Learned:
1. There's a certain weight I shouldn't pack over. The extra weight begins to hurt my progress more than the extra gear helps them. In this case I specifically wish, in hindsight, I hadn't of brought the snowshoes.

2. I should probably upgrade my jacket. I think there are lighter jackets that are warmer and more wind resistant.

Specific to Blanca:

3. My current conditioning isn't proper to complete Blanca from below the switchbacks in a single day... at least with much weight. (If I try this peak again I should make it further, hopefully Lake Como, on day 1).

4. Don't run on rough trail with my ankles. They will roll over.

Fun trip.

Time up and down doesn't include time at sleeping at camp or packing camp... it does include setting up camp.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4348 ft / 1325 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4348 ft / 1325 m
    Round-Trip Distance:13.3 mi / 21.4 km
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Headlamp, Ski Poles, Tent Camp
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4348 ft / 1325 m
    Distance:6.6 mi / 10.6 km
    Route:Lake Como Road
    Start Trailhead:Lake Como Road 2.2 Miles  8185 ft / 2494 m
    Time:6 Hours 47 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4348 ft / 1325 m
    Distance:6.7 mi / 10.8 km
    Route:Lake Como Road
    End Trailhead:Lake Como Road 2.2 Miles  8185 ft / 2494 m
    Time:4 Hours 50 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Bradley R
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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