Last I left off, we had hiked Mt. Lindsey and returned to the car for some camping. We planned for the next day (Sunday) to be a mostly rest day, with a few miles of backpacking to Lake Como in the afternoon.

I set the alarm for 7:15 but must have turned it off in a sleep haze, not actually waking up until 8:15. I sat in the truck bed for a while listening to the breeze blow the aspens and watching their yellow leaves flutter to the ground. So nice.

Camping near Mt. Lindsey

We made chocolate chip pancakes and enjoyed the crisp autumn morning. I would say it’s my favorite season but can’t quite commit to that since fall also devastates me in its proximity to winter. I like winter way more than I used too, but not nearly as much as the warm months. Summer mountain conditions are way too short.

We packed our backpacks in preparation of our two night trip to Lake Como, home of Little Bear, Ellingwood, and Blanca peaks. We then drove 2 hours to Lake Como road. A couple thousand feet of switchbacks later and we were at the highest point a regular 4WD vehicle can reach [~10,000 ft]. This is one of the rougher roads we’ve driven on, but it gets much worse. Above 10,000 ft hosts a few ridiculous rock obstacles. Some specially modified vehicles may be able to pass through – or attempt it and fail, as we saw one customized vehicle towing out another.

We sat in the car for an hour reading and waiting for a graupel storm to pass. Then began a 2.5 mile, 1,700 ft slog up said rough rocky road. Here are some pics of the road taken when we were coming back down, in better weather:

Lake Como Road Colorado

Lake Como Road Colorado

Lake Como Road Colorado
Saw several of these.

Lake Como Road Colorado

It took about 1.75 hrs, including stops to put on/peel off our rain jackets over and over. It was hard to regulate wild swings between numbly shivering and full body sweating.

Also, backpacking doesn’t really scale well for number of trip days – aside from food, you need roughly the same gear for two nights or five nights. Ie, my pack was disproportionately large for the trip. But this time I didn’t bring a 4 lb hard-back library book!!

We passed about 20 people coming down, looking soggy from the cold precipitation. About half had backpacks and half had day packs. Doing either Little Bear or Ellingwood+Blanca as a day hike is a good option but since we wanted to do both – and the traverse was a lil too scary for me – backpacking it was.

Lake Como Colorado Backpacking
Nearing the end + a break in the weather. And Little Bear makes an appearance.

We made it to Lake Como around 5 PM. What a pretty area to camp. A group of special forces was training in the mountains, and they were camped near the lake. They had driven up to the lake in some interesting custom vehicles. It looked a little like this. Someone we passed on the way up told us that the group had been rappelling off the Little Bear cliffs that day. Neat-o.

Lake Como Colorado

Lake Como Colorado camping
Camp view in better weather.

We hiked around the lake until we neared the Little Bear trail junction and found a sweet camping spot. After setting up the tent, I hurried to peel off my wet clothes and put on every piece of dry clothing I brought because wet + 40 degree weather = uncontrollable shivering and misery. We were also really hungry because while we were in the truck waiting for the storm to pass, all we had access to was pretzels and jerky, quenching hunger enough to forget about it for an hour…just enough time to start backpacking and realize we basically skipped lunch [dammit]. But the first basic need to address was warmth.

Then food. I can’t really stomach backpacking meals so pre-trip I made one of those boxed rice meals and added vegan sausage (for food safety…?) . We ate it cold out of a ziploc bag like heathens. It was good, and well worth the extra water weight.

Then it was hours in the tent, reading and listening to a storm blow through, all lightening and thunder and sleet. It was neat and cozy but ALSO worrisome for the next day’s rock quality. I decided to start reading a fantasy series that Dan has on the Kindle, Dave Duncan’s A Man of His Word series. It’s pretty fun so far.

The next day would bring Little Bear Peak, most dangerous 14er in all the land!!

The end.



  1. Hi Ashley! Lake Como sure is pretty (I’ve only been to the one in Italy, which is gorgeous too but a completely different experience). I know what you mean about needing to pack almost as much for 2 day backpacking trip versus 5 day, not fair! Thanks for teaching me a new word (graupel). I have seen this type of precipitation before but didn’t know it has a specific name. Cheers, Caroline

  2. ashleyoutside Reply

    Thanks Caroline! The other [extremely spectacular] Lake Como is definitely a bucket list trip…

  3. Thanks for the write-up. My brother and I are doing an overnight trip this weekend and hope to summit Blanca, Ellingwood, or both. We will see if October conditions allow it.

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