Monday, July 6, 2009

Blanca Peak - 14,345

Kit Carson had been exactly one year before as, in January of 1977, four of us skied into the Como Lake basin for an ascent of Blanca's North Ridge.

Blanca is the fourth highest peak in Colorado and from the way it dominates its neighbors, that is easy to believe. I once had a picture of Karl Kiser standing in front of Ruby, my old girlfriend's red 1965 VW beetle, parked at the mouth of the Como Lake road, her front bumper packed with snow from our recent effort to take her farther up that road than she was willing to go - the second time on this trip when Ruby's front bumper had been so encrusted. The first time had been a week or so earlier when myself and Karl and Ed Ward, two friends from Las Cruces, had tried to ram her through a snow drift in the Coulter Bay campground below the Grand Teton. We wound up spending one long night in this abandoned campground, beating the snow from our tent's sagging canopy, before deciding the Grand was a no-go. Leaving word at his home (as was done in the Olde Days) for Cliff Naveaux, Ed's pal from Canada, to meet us in Denver, we high-tailed it back down I-25.

Here the meeting here took place as scheduled and the four of us embarked on our secondary goal of the Notch Couloir of Long's Peak, a project that had every reason to succeed and yet did not, for reasons to be elaborated in my trip report on that successful climb three years hence. For now suffice it to say the collapse at Long's led directly to our tertiary goal of Blanca Peak.

In that photo mentioned above, Karl and I are waiting for Cliff and Ed to show in hopes that Cliff's Jeep will have better luck with the road. It did. Despite being packed to the gills with four sets of skis and winter packs, it took us all the way up to where the jeep road enters the canyon of Holbrook Creek. It was already late in the day so we made camp after little more than a mile among some abandoned mining structures. The next day saw us easily into Como Lake, where we lounged away the afternoon, boiling water and making plans.

Our skis took us quite a distance into the upper basin below Ellingwood, Blanca and Little Bear. But then they had to come off for the trudge up the West Face to meet with the North Ridge (see Karl in picture below).

The tortured weather of previous days was gone - the day could not have been nicer, a true halcyon winter. The summit came and went and we had a good time glissading down the West Face (see photo below) before skiing back down to camp and then out the next day.

This trip went exactly as planned, as will the Dogleg Couloir of Mount Sneffels two years later.

1 comment:

  1. I am indeed "the old girlfriend", grey hair and all. It's great reading your words again and recalling friends and adventures. I think Ruby was a 68 VW? Doesn't matter. Remember that time she threw a rod near Tom's cabin and Ted had to come out to tow us back to Farmington? Good luck on climbing the fourteeners. Margaret