Blanca Peak

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Blanca Peak
Sisnaajiní (Navajo)
View of Blanca Peak (left of center) from Mt. Lindsey
Elevation 14,351 ft (4,374 m)[1][2]
Prominence 5,326 ft (1,623 m)[2]
Isolation 103.37 mi (166.36 km)[2]
Listing Ultra prominent peak
Colorado Fourteener
Colorado 4000 meter summits
Colorado range high points
Colorado county high points
Blanca Peak is located in Colorado
Blanca Peak
Blanca Peak
Location High point of both Alamosa and Costilla counties, Colorado, U.S.[2]
Range Highest summit of the
Sangre de Cristo Mountains,
Sangre de Cristo Range, and
Sierra Blanca Massif[2]
Coordinates 37°34′38″N 105°29′09″W / 37.5772269°N 105.4858447°W / 37.5772269; -105.4858447Coordinates: 37°34′38″N 105°29′09″W / 37.5772269°N 105.4858447°W / 37.5772269; -105.4858447[3]
Topo map USGS 7.5' topographic map
Blanca Peak, Colorado[3]
First ascent August 14, 1874 by the Wheeler Survey (first recorded)
Easiest route Northwest Face/North Ridge: Scramble (Class 2/easy Class 3)
Blanca Peak Tripoint
Elevation 14,326 ft (4,367 m)[4][5]
Parent peak Blanca Peak[5]
Listing Colorado county high points
Location Tripoint of Alamosa, Costilla, and Huerfano counties, Colorado, U.S. High point of Huerfano County.[5]
Coordinates 37°34′40″N 105°29′07″W / 37.577824°N 105.48541°W / 37.577824; -105.48541[5]

Blanca Peak is the fifth highest summit of the Rocky Mountains of North America and the U.S. state of Colorado. The ultra-prominent 14,351-foot (4,374 m) peak is the highest summit of the Sierra Blanca Massif, the Sangre de Cristo Range, and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The fourteener is located 9.6 miles (15.5 km) north by east (bearing 9°) of the Town of Blanca, on the drainage divide separating Rio Grande National Forest and Alamosa County from the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant and Costilla County. The summit is the highest point of both counties and the entire drainage basin of the Rio Grande. Blanca Peak is higher than any point in the United States east of its longitude.[1][2][3]

The Blanca Peak Tripoint of Alamosa, Costilla, and Huerfano counties is located on the same drainage divide approximately 251 feet (77 m) northeast by north (bearing 30°) of the Blanca Peak summit at the boundary of the San Isabel National Forest. The Blanca Peak Tripoint is the highest point in Huerfano County.[5]


Blanca Peak is located at the southern end of the Sangre de Cristo Range, a subrange of the more extensive Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and is the highest peak in both ranges. It lies approximately 20 miles (32 km) east-northeast 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 notable not only for its absolute height, but also for its great local relief and dominant position at the end of the range, rising high above the San Luis Valley to the west. For example, it rises nearly 7,000 feet (2,100 m) over the edge of the San Luis Valley in only 6 miles (9.7 km).[6] 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 Medano Pass at 9,982 feet (3,043 m).

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 feet (3,580 m), and provides the most common access to Blanca Peak. Most vehicles stop at an elevation of between 8,000 feet (2,400 m) and 10,000 feet (3,000 m) on this road. The Como Lake Road is a designated Alamosa County Road and runs to the edge of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness just short of Blue Lakes. The Como Lake Road is rated as the most challenging 4WD road in Colorado. 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.

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.[7]


The granite that makes up the Blanca massif is pre-Cambrian in age, dated at approximately 1.8 billion years old. The major part of the Wet Mountains to the east and the Front Range to the northeast are also pre-Cambrian, also about 1.8 billion years old. In contrast, the Sangre de Cristo Range to the north and the Culebra Range to the south are Permian rock between 250 and 300 million years old.


Blanca Peak is known to the Navajo people as the Sacred Mountain of the East: Sisnaajiní[8] (or Tsisnaasjiní[9]), the Dawn or White Shell Mountain. The mountain is considered to be the eastern boundary of the Dinetah, the traditional Navajo homeland. It is associated with the color white, and is said to be covered in daylight and dawn and fastened to the ground with lightning. It is gendered male.[8]

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."[10]

As with other parts within and contiguous with the San Luis Valley, Blanca Peak has historically been no stranger to odd occurrences. Author Christopher O'Brien relates in his history of the San Luis Valley that two unexplained phenomena have been observed on Blanca Peak. The first was a large deforestation on the northwest side of the prominence, visible from the entrance to Sand Dunes National Park. O'Brien hypothesizes that this large and mysterious deforestation is related to covert military activity, although he notes that it cannot be ruled out that this was preparatory work on behalf of locals in expectation of an alien visitation. Christopher O'Brien notes in the same history of the Valley that many locals claim to have seen bizarre and unfamiliar black helicopters near the prominence of Blanca Peak, many of which get close enough to land but then disappear. O'Brien hypothesizes that this is the result of cloaking technology possessed by the military.[11]

Historical names[edit]

  • Blanca Peak [3]
  • Mount Blanca
  • Sierra Blanca Peak
  • Sierra Blanco
  • Sisnaajiní

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The elevation of Blanca Peak includes an adjustment of +1.754 m (+5.75 ft) from NGVD 29 to NAVD 88.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Blanca Peak, Colorado". Retrieved November 14, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Blanca Peak". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  4. ^ The elevation of the Blanca Peak Tripoint includes an adjustment of +1.755 m (+5.76 ft) from NGVD 29 to NAVD 88.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Blanca Peak-Northeast Slope, Colorado". Retrieved November 14, 2014. 
  6. ^ Blanca Peak on TopoQuest
  7. ^ Louis W. Dawson II, Dawson's Guide to Colorado's Fourteeners, Volume 2, Blue Clover Press, 1996, ISBN 0-9628867-2-6
  8. ^ a b Robert S. McPherson, Sacred Land, Sacred View: Navajo perceptions of the Four Corners Region, Brigham Young University, ISBN 1-56085-008-6.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Blanca Peak on Summitpost". Retrieved 2011-05-07. 
  11. ^

External links[edit]