The Peak

Leaving for the peak by the blue light of the early morning.  We got a late start, I think like 9:00 a.m.

Notice that Adam is wearing... running shorts and a wool cap.  The rest of us are freezing.  I don't think he brought any proper pants on this journey.  He's a masochist.  ;-)

A lovely waterfall we passed along the way.  Where does the water for the streams come from? you ask.  Why, from the run off of the melting snow that we're about to traverse...

Ringo is officially an all terrain canine.  He was a hoot: he had a really hard time on the boulders about five photos from now, but he let his genetics show around the snow: he actually sought it out; he was at home on it.  Needless to say, we didn't have to bring water for him; he just ate snow.

Here we're about an hour into the peak ascent.  We're pretty much out of our valley where we had been camping.  Behind the climbers you see the ridge that runs north-south between Blanca and Little Bear.  We were actually camped right below LB, but it's supposed to be a potentially deadly climb, so we let her lie.

Ringo and I resting.

This was the most treacherous part.  We should have had crampons (shoe spikes for climbing on ice), but we didn't.  It was early enough in the day that this stuff was still pretty icy.  Sitting on a boulder in the foreground is Ned, who is waiting on Marc and Richard far below.  The grade was steep enough and the surface slippery enough that one false move and you would have been sliding a LONG way down.  Fortunately, no one did.

From where the photo above was taken, this was the view of what we had left to accomplish.  To the left (but not visible) is Ellingwood, to the right, Blanca.  To give you a sense of the scale of what you're seeing, there is a red sun spot in the middle of this photo.  Just beneath it to the left is a human being.  As it happened, what remained was the easy part.  There was still a lot of snow, but it was kick-stepped and frozen so that it was basically like climbing stairs.

Almost there.  The arrow on the left points to Ned and me, resting; the one to the right points to the peak.

All the literature says this is a class 2 scramble.  I'm not buyin' it.  Coming up the talus between us and the peak to the ridge is probably class 2, but, as you'll see in a minute, there's some class 3 after you hit the ridge.

View of the peak from below.  To the right you can see a couple of hikers.

Marc fell just after the treacherous snow slopes.  The medical diagnosis is that he tore the rotary cuff in his shoulder and cracked a rib.  He and Rich descended together from the basin below the ridge, which was justified considering that Marc would have been thus much impaired to protect himself in any other such fall, irrespective of the danger of conditions around him.

Here we are.  From the tops of mountains, of course, are the absolute most glorious views.  What you're seeing here is Ellingwood Point.  It's also a 14er, but about 300 feet lower.  Ironically, she's prettier to look at.

This is some of the class 3 I was talking about.  I suppose it depends on the route you choose.  We were coming straight up the spine of the ridge; the shortest path being a straight line.

This is the peak.  Kenn had just rescued Ringo (who is right behind him here; he blends in with the boulders), who was having a hard time with all that class 3.  Ned wins the SPCA Big Heart Award for getting him up to within about 50 yards of the peak, to where he just wouldn't go any further until Kenn came.

Behind Kenn, you're looking north into another valley.

Let's see . . . Harvard, LaPlata, Elbert, Oxford/Belford, Columbia, Yale, (almost Tabaguache), Missouri, and now Blanca together.  Here's to many more, amigo...

Ned, Kenn, Adam, and Darren: Mount Blanca, 14,345 feet, 4th highest in the CO Rockies.  An awesome climb, with awesome companions.

Next: The Road(s) Home