Comparable in quality to the better routes in RMNP, this route provides 1100 feet of alpine ice before exiting onto snow and rock climbing. The crux pitch can easily be avoided by climbing in from the right on a snow ramp that crosses the gully.
A first easy pitch of alpine ice leads up a very narrow gully to below the crux. As the gully steepens, it becomes more exposed to the sun. Follow it up interesting patchy ice and snice to a short pillar. Once through the pillar you are on the ramp mentioned above. Cross the ramp and climb around 600 feet of 50-55 degree alpine ice to the split in the couloir. The start of the right branch can be extremely rotten, so we chose to go left. After the split, the first pitch was more great alpine ice with an 80 degree step. The second pitch after the split climbed through another icy step with a weird chimney in it and ended at a now-fixed piton. From here, continue around the corner on what becomes a snow ramp either climbing directly up some mixed ground to the top of the wall or coninuing far left on the snow ramp until it hits the ridge.
Getting down: One possibility is to rap off the ridge back to the snow ramp. Then downclimb the snow ramp to the fixed pin and rap off the fixed pin. A 60 meter rap from the fixed pin lands you back on 55 degrees ice which you can downclimb (or rap if you are so inclined) to the ramp. Head climber's right on the ramp until below Ellingwood and enjoy a nice, speedy glissade back to the bowl below the face.
On the north wall that lies between Blanca and Ellingwood, there is a narrow couloir that goes directly up to the col between the two mountains. The climb follows the first 900 feet of this couloir before branching off left into a slightly wider, more shaded gully. To get there, follow the Lilly lake trail to the first switchback. From there, cross snow to the base of the route.
Standard rock rack with some pins. Knife blades and Lost Arrows were particularly nice. Though not used on the FA, an ice screw or two could certainly have been placed.
BETA PHOTO: Under the route.
BETA PHOTO: The route follows the narrow couloir that is to th...