Peak of the Week

INTRO
Blanca Peak and Little Bear
Blanca Peak, Colorado's 4th tallest mountain, on the left
Blanca Peak is special for a number of reasons. At 14,345' it is the fourth tallest mountain in the state of Colorado and the tallest outside of the Sawatch Range. It is also considered "ultra-prominent" and with 5,326 feet of topographical prominence is the third most prominent peak in the state (behind Elbert and Pikes). To make it even more interesting, Blanca is known as Sisnaajini, the "Sacred Mountain of the East" to the Navajo people. According to their beliefs it's orientation in the east, the direction of the sunrise and thus the beginning of the day, means that Blanca "determines the orientation of a person’s mind and physical presence on earth."

By many measures it is a worthy and interesting peak and is a mountain that should make Coloradoans proud. As the anchor and gem of the Sangre De Cristo Range, it is important for many reasons.

DIRECTIONS
As with Little Bear, an ascent of Blanca Peak starts at the Lake Como trailhead. Turn onto Hwy 150 about 26 miles east of Alamosa heading towards the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. Just over 3 miles later, follow a sign towards Lake Como. Go as far as your vehicle will allow you, as much as 7 miles all the way to Lake Como (for a burly off-roader).

ROUTES
Northwest Ridge (class 2)
This is the standard route on Blanca Peak and the easiest way to climb the peak. It is very long, however, and without a stout 4WD vehicle you will be forced to gain over 6,000' of elevation, making it one of the more serious undertakings in terms of stamina in the 14er world. Though there are some tricky ledges and steep terrain past the lake and above 13,000' the difficulty should never stretch into the class 3 realm.

Blanca-Little Bear Traverse (class 4)
This ultra-exposed traverse is listed in Gerry Roach's classic guidebook as one of the four classics 14er traverse in the state. He also considers it to be the most difficult. It is famous for exposure and commitment. Remember that you will have to climb Little Bear's famous "Hourglass" just to get started (most people do the traverse from Little Bear to Blanca.)

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS
Blanca is a massive peak and takes a bit more grunt effort than many 14ers. It is also one of the four sacred peaks of the Navajo so treat it with respect!

LINKS

Sisnaajini- A discussion of Blanca Peak by the Navajo Nation including many thoughts about what it means to them historically and symbolically.

14ers.com- A detailed look at the standard route of Blanca Peak

Summitpost.org- a detailed page of Blanca Peak including photos, route descriptions and more


PREVIOUS PEAKS OF THE WEEK

Mt. Massive- Second highest peak in the state and one of the most beautiful. There are many great ways to tire your legs on Mt. Massive. All-in-all this is a mountain that can make Colorado proud.

Quandary Peak- Known for being easy, this popular Tenmile Range peak has something for everyone, and a few hidden surprises as well.

Mount of the Holy Cross- Certainly one of Colorado's most photographed and famous mountains, Holy Cross is a rugged and breathtaking gem in the northern end of the Sawatch Range.

Longs Peak- Colorado's most famous mountaineering mountain, and for good reason. No Colorado peak has such a vast array of world-class routes and challenges. Longs is the supreme monarch of alpinism in this state.

Mt. Sneffels- one of the most popular mountains in the San Juans and a mountain with a lot of class...and options. From the standard class 2+ standard route to the more remote lines on Sneffels breathtaking and complicated north face, this peak has a lot to offer.

Little Bear- Possibly the most difficult of Colorado's 14ers. Information about the notorious "Hourglass" crux and possible ways to avoid the Hourglass.

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