Colorado, United States
Blanca Peak is a fourteener in the U.S. state of Colorado. It is the fourth highest mountain in the state, and the seventh highest in the contiguous United States. It is located at the southern end of the Sangre de Cristo Range, a subrange of the larger Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and is the highest peak in both ranges. It marks the common boundary of Huerfano, Costilla and Alamosa counties, approximately 20 miles (32 km) ENE of the town of Alamosa. Approximately 15 miles (24 km) to the north-northwest is Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
Blanca Peak is known to the Navajo people as the Sacred Mountain of the East: Sisnaajinii
Blanca Peak is notable not only for its absolute height, but also for its great local relief (by Colorado standards) and dominant position at the end of the range, rising high above the San Luis Valley to the west. For example, it rises 6,000 ft (1830 m) over the edge of the San Luis Valley in only 4.5 mi (7.2 km).
Blanca is also the third most topographically prominent peak in Colorado; it is separated from the higher peaks in the Sawatch Range by relatively low Poncha Pass (9,040 ft/2,755 m).
Summitpost notes that "the first recorded ascent of Blanca by the Wheeler Survey was recorded on August 14, 1874, but to their surprise they found evidence of a stone structure possibly built by Ute Indians or wandering Spaniards."
Three other fourteeners are nearby: Mount Lindsey to the east, Ellingwood Point to the north and Little Bear Peak to the southwest. Ellingwood Point is connected to Blanca by a short, high ridge, and is often climbed in conjunction with Blanca. Little Bear also has a high connecting ridge to Blanca, but it is a technical traverse, only recommended for highly experienced parties.
Valleys and access
Blanca Peak heads up three major creeks. Holbrook Creek is on the west, flowing from a basin including Crater Lake, Blue Lakes, and Como Lake. An extremely challenging four wheel drive road accesses Como Lake (11,750 ft/3,580 m), and provides the most common access to Blanca Peak. Most vehicles stop at an elevation of between 8,000 ft and 10,000 ft (2,440 m-3,050 m) on this road.
The Huerfano River flows from the north side of Blanca Peak. A road, starting out as a two wheel drive road, then becoming a four wheel drive road (less challenging than the Como Lake Road), provides access to the technical climbing on the North Face of Blanca Peak.
Blanca Creek drains Blanca Basin under the south slopes of the peak, and Little Ute Creek descends from the Winchell Lakes on the southeast side. However these are not used to access the peak due to private property.