Blanca Peak: a history and etc.

Blanca Peak: a history and etc.

February 20, 2012 by sam

RMFI began reconstructing the popular summit trail from Lake Como Basin to Blanca Peak (14,345') in 2011. Our goal has been to mitigate environmental degradation associated with the ample foot traffic on this mountain. This  work includes rerouting a trail away from an alpine wetland near crater lake and restoring the many social trails of the area. The work should be completed this year and is part of our Earth Corps program (more details).

RMFI's trail work is simply the latest chapter in the long history of this mountain. The first “recorded” ascent was part of the Wheeler survey. This survey was an expedition lead by First Lieutenant George Wheeler from 1872-1879 with the goal of mapping the SW united states west of the 100th meridian. His team members Gilbert Thompson and Frank Carpenter summited Blanca on August 14th, 1874. Surprisingly, they found a man made structure on the summit.

They were beat to the top, but by whom is still a mystery. Most think that native peoples were first. Either the Ute to use the mountain as a lookout or the Navajo given that this mountain is one of their most sacred peaks. Some even wonder if Spanish explorers may have made the treck.

The Navajo call this mountain Sisnaajini, or sacred mountain of the east. It marks the eastern boundary of the Dinetah, the traditional Navajo homeland. This mountain forms a corner of the third or yellow world and makes in the Navajo “Story of the People”, Dine Bahane, their creation myth.

Our modern world has sidelined such mythical tales but Blanca Peak still holds some wonder. This mountain is the 4th tallest peak in Colorado and the 8th tallest in the contiguous United States. This mountain gets its name as the tallest member of the Sierra Blanca (spanish for “white sawtooth mountains”) a subgroup of the Sangre de Cristo range. This group includes Blanca, Ellingwood Point, Little Bear and Mt. Lindsey and was undoubtedly named due to their year round snow caps. To the west of this peak lies the Great Sand Dunes National Monument.

This mountain is a great summer day climb but takes a couple days and lots of experience in the winter. There are three access points one from Lake Como, one from the Huerfano River Valley and one from Blanca US route 160, for more climbing information visit ( or

This mountain is largely made up of a granitic batholith dated to 1.7 billion years old, or during the late Proterozoic. This rock has been metamorphosed into metagabbro and gneiss. There is some younger Miocene and Oligocene (~25 millions years old) felsic dikes that run through the older rock. This metamorphic character excites prospectors and the remnants of cabins on the mountain speak of the areas mining history.

RMFI is happy to be working on Blanca for another year and hopes to see you all out in the alpine treading lightly this summer.