Rt Length: 9.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 3622’
I’d been crying all day, so when I made it to the trailhead I was quite the mess. My eyes were swollen, my nose was red, and I was tired. My 23-year-old daughter coaches color guard, and last week, one of her team members was murdered. I’m not going to go into the details of what happened (news article here), but my daughter wanted to be at the viewing and also at the funeral to support her students. I wanted to be there to support my daughter. She was determined to make sure she talked with each and every one of her students individually, which meant we were there a long time. I watched high-schooler after high-schooler break down in front of the (open) casket, crying, some uncontrollably. There was a slide show of the best moments of her 17 years scrolling, with several pictures including my daughter. When all of the guard members were there, they held hands and stood in a semi-circle around the casket, grieving together. This was one of the hardest things I’ve had to witness in my life, and I was just on the sidelines. I was mad, angry, hurt, confused, and so many other emotions I can’t put into words, for everyone involved. I cried excessively during the entire funeral, my arm around my daughters’ shoulder, trying to comfort her as well. I dropped my daughter off at the airport (she’d been in Georgia for the summer, and flew back for the funeral), and drove to the trailhead. I needed a hike, as I had a lot to process.
When I got to the La Plata Gulch Trailhead it was raining, but after a few minutes a rainbow came out. I needed that rainbow. I also needed sleep.
I went to bed early, and was on the trail at 4:30am. The trail begins by following the La Plata Gulch Trail
After following the trail for 1.3 miles, and after the second bridge crossing, there was a faint trail I took to the left
I followed this faint trail until I came to a third creek
At the creek the trail stopped, so I turned right and followed the creek. It’s important not to cross the creek too soon!
The creek had a lot of deadfall, but there is a faint trail that can be navigated. I followed it until just after I saw this large rock formation on the left, at about 10630’.
AFTER this rock formation I crossed the creek, and made my way to a small ridge
I followed this ridge to treeline
At treeline, to my left I could see my route to gain the ridge.
This is the route I took… up an obvious gully.
I started out rock-hopping on unstable rocks, which gave way to a scree and raspberry bush filled gully, which gave way to tundra.
I followed the tundra southwest
This is where the hike gets interesting. I’ll show you the route I took that worked (I tried a couple of different things that didn’t, so I have a messy GPX file). First, I put on my helmet for some rock hopping
Then, I went straight up the face of this
And then class 3’d this ridge to the right. Notice the cairn in the red circle? I erroneously assumed this was the summit of Ellingwood Point, but it isn’t. In any event, DO NOT aim for that cairn.
Instead, you’ll encounter some class 3-4 scrambling as you go under the ridge, losing about 50 feet of elevation.
I descended down what I felt was a class 4 chimney, before turning left and finding a somewhat grassy ramp that turned to rocks and took me back to the ridge
Just before reaching the ridge, I saw another cairn, and what I thought would be the summit of Ellingwood Ride. This is also not the accepted summit. DO NOT follow this cairn.
However, when I made it to this point I could clearly see it was about level with the OTHER point I wasn’t supposed to summit (here’s looking back)
When I turned and looked south, I could see the true summit of Ellingwood Point.
The route wasn’t straightforward. I made my way down, and over to the ridge. I then lost 115’ of elevation as I made my way towards Ellingwood Point. Here’s my overall route
Here are some step-by-step pictures
Make sure you choose the correct gully to descend! It’s not the first gully you encounter, but the second that ‘goes’
Then I turned right and made my way towards the saddle, staying above the snow
At the saddle it was choose your own adventure up
I think the traditional route is to take the gully up, but it was covered in snow, so I made my way on the rocks until it was safe to use the gully, quite near the top. This is the route I took
I did encounter a little bit of snow towards the top, but I was able to navigate around it. Once at the top of the gully, I descended some class 3 terrain, and re-ascended another short gully
There was a small cairn there, letting me know I was at the summit
I summited Ellingwood Ridge at 9am
Here’s looking north at the route I took in. As you can see, it’s difficult to tell where the ‘true’ summit is.
I was making this an out and back, mainly because there was a storm headed my way, so I turned and retraced my steps. Here are some visuals of the harder areas to ‘figure out’
Looking down the gully, I stuck to the wall and did just fine
Then I made my way back down the ridge, keeping to the right, and heading back up that second gully, which is more obvious going this way, as it’s the only one that ‘goes’
At the top of the gully I once again lost elevation and navigated the west side of the mountain
Here’s looking up at that class 4 gully
And the ridge back to the tundra
The tundra to the rocky gully
And the gully to the ridge
As soon as I hit the ridge it started raining. I followed the ridge to the stream crossing, then followed the stream back to the trail
Once on the trail, it was easy to follow it back to the trailhead
I made it back to my truck at 12:30pm, making this a 9.9 mile hike with 3622’ of elevation gain in 8 hours.
While I unpacked quite a bit emotionally, I didn’t come up with any answers on the hike, except that it’s important to listen when people tell us something is wrong, and to love each other, as you never know what the other person is going through. I can’t combat the evil in this world, but I can appreciate and acknowledge, and even contribute to the good. I raised a daughter who chose to go out of her way to be there for her students, when it would have been easy to say something like “I’m all the way in Georgia”, “I don’t do well with death”, “I can’t afford the trip” or “I don’t do well with funerals” and not show up. She showed up and she supported her students as they grieved, and even shared some of her favorite memories of Riley with her parents. That’s something to be proud of.
On to the next trailhead!