Type: Trad, Alpine, 1500 ft, 10 pitches, Grade III
FA: unknown
Page Views: 19,590 total · 145/month
Shared By: Joe Stern on Dec 10, 2007
Admins: Lauren Heerschap, Mike Snyder, Jake Dickerson, Taylor Spiegelberg

You & This Route

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The North Ridge of Ellingwood is one of those Rocky Mountain alpine adventures that is familiar-sounding to many, but few actually put in the miles required to climb it. You'll find significant sections of 5.5 - 5.6 climbing on almost all of the 10 pitches on this route. The crux will vary a bit depending on the exact path chosen, but expect all manner of 5.6 climbing, including face, cracks, and overhangs. The rock is overall of very high quality, but don't forget that it's still the mountains, so you'll encounter some sections of loose rock and you should be ready to move fast enough to beat the common summer thunderstorms to the summit (and down a bit!).


Ellingwood Peak sits at the southeast end of Indian Basin, near Titcomb Basin. The North Ridge is the obvious intersection of two steep faces that rises straight up from talus to the summit. The climbing starts with some scrambling up on the left side of the ridge. The route follows the path of least resistance up the ridge, which narrows toward the top. A short scramble follows the technical climbing to the summit.

Descent is via the Southwest Ridge, which leads to a saddle between Elephant Peak and Ellingwood. The key to a successful descent of the Southwest Ridge is to stay very close to the ridge crest the entire way down to the saddle between Elephant Head and Ellingwood Peak. The initial descent links up ledge systems on the northwest side of the descent ridge. 2 or 3 rappel stations (i.e. tattered webbing pieces and rusted carabiners) will be encountered, mostly pretty close to the summit. It's worth investing some time to scout out the best path on the ridge almost constantly. So, save some energy for the descent, stay close to the ridge, and expect to spend about half the amount of time on the descent as you did on the climb.


As with almost all Wind River routes, a set of nuts is recommended. Bring 1-2 sets of cams from fingers to about 3 inches, depending on your comfort level on 5.6 terrain. Expect to build anchors for each belay. You'll encounter a handful of random fixed stoppers and pitons of variable quality. 60 meter rope(s) is/are useful for the long pitches.

Remember to bring plenty of water, as you won't find any between the middle of the approach and the saddle at the base of the Southwest Ridge descent. There's a good, small drainage among the boulders on the hike up to the ridge from Lake 10,813. You're likely to find some snowmelt near the top of the saddle between Elephant Head and Ellingwood after coming down.
jbak .
jbak .   tucson,az
Looking at these pictures, I can see that we started way too low and right when we did this route. After being tent-bound by a 3 day storm, we just shot up the first rock we saw once the weather broke. First pitch was wet 5.10 and there was more hard (and wet) stuff above. Some of it with pretty bad pro. Rain and snow all morning. I thought maybe we were asking for trouble.

Then, just above halfway up, the sun broke out, we found the actual line (beautiful, dry, bulletproof rock), and life was good. Bootied 2 stuck Friends on the way up too. 16 pitches in all. Oct 14, 2010
FA: Fred Beckey, Patrick Callis August 25, 1970. Aug 11, 2011
Zolen Boogaerts  
We attempted this route July 26th (I think) 2013. It is an unbelievable route. By far the most amazing thing I've ever done. We got kicked off the mountain by sleet and lightning, but it was incredible. We only had one day, so we had to go despite the threatening weather. It started clearing up, then the bottom fell out. We were lucky to get down. I heard lots of reports of confusing starts, so I added some pics with the exact route we took, which should really help future climbers on this route. We were 100% definitely on-route. We found lots of stuck gear (bootied a brand new yellow TCU), and had just made it about a pitch or two up the arete proper when things turned nasty. The bottom 2-3 pitches are decent, with nothing harder than 5.6-5.7 max (and I only even mention 5.7 because there was a 5.7ish, to me, crack, but I'm a Southeastern climber, so I don't do much crack). There was some mild loose rock down low, but once you're on the arete, it's beautiful. The setting is amazing. We didn't see a soul for three days. DO THIS CLIMB!!! Aug 29, 2013
South Jordan, UT
C.M.Jones   South Jordan, UT
Just did the route last weekend on the 2nd. It was amazing! Great climb, well sustained with plenty of protection. Route finding on first three pitches is a bit tricky, but after that, it's beautiful and straight forward. We 4th class climbed onto a ledge, had a bit of a run out start on the line we chose, but easy enough. Hit a couple of spots that felt 5.7 at the top, maybe it was because we were tired and of the line we chose. Otherwise, beautiful, sustained 5.5/5.6 climbing. We ended up doing 11 pitches and 30 feet to the summit. Must've missed the 4th class scramble. Still, we had good weather, slightly sketchy and confusing 4th class descent, but not too bad. Beautiful exposed route.

Considering protection we had 2 sets of nuts and 1 set of cams. We would've been a bit happier with a second set of TCU's, the route likes them towards the top, but did just fine. Couldn't retrieve our Metolius 3 and 5 stoppers, that was sad, but otherwise Ellingwood was incredible. Aug 9, 2014
Rodney Ley 1
Fort Collins, Colorado
Rodney Ley 1   Fort Collins, Colorado
I did this route in August 2015, no complaints with the route description(s), just start in the right place and keep on the most obvious (5.6 ish) route. We did move the belay right or left a few times to insure we had the optimal choice.

It would be helpful to have someone with more experience on the route to better describe the descent route. We moved over lots of 3rd class terrain, did several raps (some from not-so-great blocks), and eventually after 500-600' of descent traversed climber's left to the actual base of the route. It was hairy at times.

Later folks down in the valley said we missed a key route choice ("only one 10' rappel" they said) that would have us do a walk-off with minimal difficulties. Can anyone provide beta? Aug 24, 2015
Stone Ridge, NY
lucander   Stone Ridge, NY
Descending this route (3 hrs) took almost as long as climbing it (4 hrs). There is a rappel point off the summit that leads down a gully - we took it for a while and then climbed back up and followed the ridge down. The talus field from saddle between Ellingwood and Elephant is absolutely terrible, prepare for an hour or so of surfing on boulders. From lake 10,400-ish we took 11 hours round trip, so plan on two-ish hours to and from the climb if you basecamp there. Aug 25, 2015
mark felber
Wheat Ridge, CO
mark felber   Wheat Ridge, CO
Rodney, I walked past a couple of rap stations on my way down, but never saw a reason to rap. Nor does returning to the start of the route strike me as a good option, just carry everything up and over with you. Best way down is to head down the ridge line between Ellingwood and Elephant. If you're camped at Island Lake, go cross country from the Ellingwood/Elephant to Island Lake (which is probably a good way to approach the climb, too). If you're camped in Indian Basin, follow the same ridge until just before the Ellingwood/Elephant saddle, then turn down a narrow gully that is climber's left of the talus field. Oct 7, 2015