Blanca Peak - 14,345 ft.
This is the 4th highest peak
. It is also a fairly challenging one to climb, unlike Mt. Elbert
. Its name comes from the Spanish
word for white.
The first part of the approach to the mountain begins with an excruciatingly long 4x4 road. Most cars and other two wheel drive vehicles have to stop after only a short distance. And most cars that don't have a customized suspension can't make it much further. From here, you have a long walk from your vehicle to Lake Como, the most popular campground for climbing this mountain. The jeep trail is fairly difficult to walk on, because of the blazing sun, mosquitoes, and rocks. You have to cross a creek at one point, and there are not very many good rocks, so you should have a good pair of boots. There are places where it seems like it would be impossible for any vehicle to pass, but then, at the lake, there they are. And the lake, like the trail, has lot of mosquitoes (and I do mean a lot). It also has many fish.
Unless you plan to do this peak as a day hike (you crazy person you), then you will probably want to camp here, although there are places to camp a little bit higher with less mosquitoes. As you set off from Lake Como, you will follow the Jeep Trail past the Blue Lakes, until it disappears into a fairly steep boulder field. As you continue to climb, you will pass several other lakes, including Crater Lake, which has ice floes on it nearly year round. Should you want to climb Ellingwood Point, you will probably want to use the ridge to your left, as the saddle ridge is very difficult to climb.
However, you will want to use the saddle to attack Blanca Peak. As you get higher and higher, the trail becomes harder and harder to find. Sometimes it disappears, and sometimes it seems to turn into several trails. But, if you look for cairns, you can find it, and make your way towards the saddle, which you should reach at about 100 feet (of elevation) above its low point, follow the saddle to the summit, and enjoy the view. You can see Lake Como, and it seems to be a great deal further than only two miles away. It is a breathtaking view, just like any other Colorado Fourteener. As you face the lake, you will see Little Bear Peak (also a fourteener) to your left. The ridge that connects Blanca to this peak was once declared to be impassable. And it certainly seems that way to any average hiker. It has been done, but it's a very difficult climb. You can see several other peaks, including the fourteeners Ellingwood Point, Mount Lindsey, and several 13,000 foot peaks, including the memorably-named Iron Nipple.
As you head down, you should watch your footing, because the slope below the summit can be particularly slippery when coming down. As you get down towards a snow field, you might want to try glissadeing (sliding on your butt) down.
An interesting fact: at one time, there was a push to have it declared the highest mountain in Colorado and maybe even the world by a local radio announcer. However, that was not to be.
All-in-all, this is a challenging, but very rewarding peak to climb. If you happen to be in the San Luis Valley, and wish to climb it, you get to it by taking the road to Great Sand Dunes National Monument, but instead of turning towards the park at the fork in the road (left), take a right and follow this until you reach Lake Como Road.