Formerly UN 13206 - Map
Summit Location ›
N 39° 02' 54.67", W 106° 28' 01.01"
(Not Field Checked)
Previously identified on the USGS map as a point of 13,206 ft., then re-estimated to be 13,220 ft., and finally pegged at 13,222 ft. by Lidar, this high point of Ellingwood ridge has now been promoted in 2022 to ranked status with 305 feet of prominence. Primary access is by the La Plata Peak trail and then venturing off into trail-less terrain with a long, steep slug up a rock-filled couloir and a briefly entertaining, Class 2+ summit scramble. This will be a fairly long day for most, but faster, more capable types can complete in about a half day.
Ellingwood Ridge Route
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From Ellingwood Ridge-La Plata Pk:
From Aspen, take CO 82 and drive over and down Independence Pass. From the very last switchback as you drop down to the level of the North Fork of Lake Creek, it's 5.1 miles south and east on Co 82 to the trailhead parking. Space is very limited here. Even on summer weekdays, arrival by 6:00 AM is mandatory.
From where CO 82 intersects US 24. south of Leadville, turn west onto CO 82 driving past the Twin Lakes and continuing for 14.5 miles (from the intersection) to the trailhead parking on the side of CO 82 at the coordinates provided.
Camp spots are available all along CO 82 as it follows the Lake Fork. One of the best and most reliable spots we have found is located 2.25 miles west of the La Plata-Ellingwood TH. This fairly large, primitive camp area sits at the foot of Graham Gulch and a diversion tunnel. Coordinates for the turnoff are: N 39° 04' 54.16" W 106° 32' 13.02". There are also campgrounds along CO 82 closer to Twin lakes. The two closest are Parry Peak and Twin Peaks. Both participate in a reservation system and have standard facilities.
Graham Gulch ›
N 39° 04' 54.16, W 106° 32' 13.02"
Click thumbnail to view full-size photo + caption
Year Climbed: 2022
From the trailhead parking along CO 82, hike south on FR391, crossing the recently constructed bridge across the North Fork of Lake Creek and walk SE up the road for about .3 mile to where the road makes a turn to the SSW. At this corner is where the trail for La Plata Peak takes off heading eastward. Parking here is not allowed. N 39° 04' 04.33" W 106° 30' 18.34". Follow the trail to the crossing of the South Fork of Lake Creek on a sturdy, steel bridge, then continuing east to cross the unnamed creek flowing out of La Plata Gulch on logs. Once across, the trail swings out away from the creek a little, but generally heads south, always staying on the east side of the creek and usually staying well above it. Note that the La Plata trail no longer follows the USGS map or the 2016 Forest Service map, which indicates it heads farther east and then turns up the long, forested, northwest ridge of La Plata. Instead, the trail now stays closer to the creek in La Plata Gulch, at times climbing very steeply above the watercourse. Eventually, you'll reach a section where the trail is following close to the stream and things have flattened out some. At these coordinates is where we turned off the trail and began hiking up a steep hillside of open trees and not too much deadfall. N 39° 03' 07.39" W 106° 29' 32.86". 11,025 ft. elevation.
Gain about 800 feet in elevation up this slope to reach the ridge above. Once on the ridge, head for these coordinates at an open and flat meadow. N 39° 03' 04.19" W 106° 29' 09.63". Ellingwood Ridge and the high point will be visible from here. Continue in an eastward direction at the level of the meadow at 11,800 ft. There's no need to gain any more of the ridge. Instead, you'll be contouring SE over into the next drainage of La Plata Basin. The overall goal is to get to near the last trees in the upper basin. The contour will take you across both open tundra and areas of talus. There is a gradual loss of elevation. Near the last group of trees on the west side of the creek, the stream is choked with willows. Crossing through the willows and crossing the creek at these coordinates will be the easiest place to get through. N 39° 02' 51.36 W 106° 28' 35.36". Elevation here is very close to 11,700 ft. At these coordinates, you'll be at the foot of a steep rock glacier tongue with large boulders. Walk north along the edge of the creek a short distance to gain a grassy slope that heads east and up along the boulders. After the last trees, you should be at the foot of the great couloir that leads to a saddle about 1,200 feet above. About 1/3rd of the way up this couloir, a great rock outcrop splits it. Going up on either side works but there may be less small. loose scree by working the left side. Either way is not easy with plenty of scrambling over boulders of all sizes and gravel/sandy areas. We went up the left side and descended the lower right-hand side later after the summit.
After the long slugfest to the saddle, turn south for the finish on Class 2 terrain of rock blocks and the like for some fun scrambling. Depending on exactly how you work toward the top, there may be one or more Class 2+ or Class 3 moves without any great exposure. The actual summit is an uneventful area of rock blocks. The view of La Plata is outstanding as is also the view of the remainder of Ellingwood Ridge toward La Plata. Once you've enjoyed your summit scenery, descend by retracing your route all the way back to the trailhead. Before making this descent, back at the saddle at the head of the great couloir, you may wish to ascend the other summit point just south of the saddle. This can be easily done by contouring around the east side of the ridge, then working up a shallow gully to the left to regain the ridge crest for the final short distance to this other false summit. There's one short Class 3 move to reach it with no significant exposure. We noted some marginal trail here and a few cairns.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
"One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star." Gilbert K. Chesterton