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Sunset from Ellingwood Peak

Sunset from Ellingwood Peak, Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, Colorado

Sunset from Ellingwood Peak, Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, Colorado

Ellingwood Peak commemorates Albert Ellingwood, who pioneered technical routes on Colorado's highest peaks in the 1910s and 1920s. His bold first ascents included Ellingwood Arete on Crestone Needle, Lizard Head, and Ellingwood Ridge on La Plata Peak. He might also be considered a pioneer feminist. Certainly he didn't share the prevailing notion that women couldn't handle the rough-and-tumble outdoor life. The team he recruited for his July 1916 expedition to the Sangre de Cristo Range included seven women and no other men. Ellingwood and various members of his crew proceeded to bag the first ascents of the last unclimbed Fourteeners in the state, Kit Carson, Crestone Peak, and Crestone Needle.

I got a good view of Ellingwood Peak, my next objective, while on the summit of Little Bear Peak and also got an updated point forecast for 13,000 feet in the Sangres on my smart phone. (Albert Ellingwood would have been dumbfounded, I'm sure. Did I feel guilty about resorting to such technology? Not in the slightest.) The forecast called for near-perfect weather the next day. From a photographic perspective, I knew that sunset from the summit of Ellingwood Peak would be more interesting than sunrise. With the risk of thunderstorms very low, I slept in the night after my Little Bear climb and then took my time dealing with the steep talus of the standard south face route on Ellingwood Peak.

I arrived on the summit just after noon and spent the next few hours chatting with the various peak-baggers who arrived and departed at regular intervals. As the sun began sinking low in the west, the last climbers departed, and I was alone. Wave clouds began forming over the crest of the range to the north. At sunset the clouds caught fire. My favorite image from Ellingwood Peak shows the silhouettes of Kit Carson Peak, Crestone Peak, and Crestone Needle dwarfed by the spectacular lenticular clouds floating high above.

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