| How to turn a mellow 8 mile Class 2 hike into a 12-hour Class 4 adventure without really trying
Peaks: Mt. Lindsey and Northwest Lindsey
Route: Roundabout via Lindsey-Blanca traverse
Date: June 12, 2011
Length: About 10-12 miles
Vertical: A lot of ups and downs. Probably between 5,000 and 6,000
Time: under 12 hours
Who: Lynn (LynnKH) and Natalie (nkan02)
LynnKH and I teamed up again this past weekend to attempt a mellow hike up Mt. Lindsey. We were planning to do Class 4 ridge near the top and maybe bag a nearby 13-er for added fun. We got a pretty late 6.20am start, expecting an easy day (and “0” chance of precipitation), and were merrily skipping along a nice flat dirt trail admiring the unfolding views and reviewing our past weekend adventures and possible future weekend plans.
Cheerfully we blasted past the Lily Lake TH sign to arrive at the Huerfano river crossing. There was no bridge and the creek was gushing down with all the snowmelt it has recently received. Confused we went back to the Lily Lake TH sign and studied the TR description. For whatever reason we read “do not turn right at the Lily Lake TH” as “do turn right at the TH” – well it was 6.30 am in the morning. Relieved that we did not have to cross the ominous looking river without the help of the bridge we cheerfully dashed along, once again admiring the views and the nice easy flat trail. After a mile or two of this we suddenly found ourselves somehow bumped against the north wall of Blanca.
After Lynn suggested we follow the trail to the right, I vaguely recalled that Blanca and Ellingwood Point should be far to the right from where we needed to be at this point. Similarly, I recalled that the ascent of EP from the north side is rated 5.0-5.2 in the Roach book. We unfolded the maps and studied the TR instructions once again. Ellingwood Point (or one of 3 of them – I’ll get to this in a minute) loomed immediately in front of us. It became pretty clear that we overshot a standard trail by about a mile or two.
Our options were to turn around and look for the proper trail (how lame!) or to climb a beautifully laid out boulder field immediately in front of us.
Surprise, surprise, we chose the latter. Half an hour later we found ourselves on top of Class 3 trail entering a higher amphitheater. We knew that we were a bit lost, but the views around us were so stunning, that I did not think we minded it at all.
After gaining the highest point on the next plateau (about 11,700 feet at that point) we studied our options once again: 1) we could go along the higher ridge to the left (which did not look appealing due to apparent loose talus and somewhat limited views) 2) climb the ridge head on (vetoed due to visible traces of rockfall and steepness) or 3) continue a gradual ascent to the right through the beautifully framed snow-filled valley with a nice-looking exit ridge at the end. We chose the 3rd option.
Again, we were not sure 100% about our location and the three Ellingwood Points continued to look confusing, but the views were not disappointing.
The Ellingwood Point must be on the right (or left?)
wait, which one is EP? Left or right?
After approaching the end of the ridge we again saw the traces of the recent rockfall.
Alarmed, I suggested we skirt the ascent gulley sticking to the snow and rocks on the right side. However, Lynn, correctly predicting that this could possibly be the Lindsey-Blanca traverse ridge, suggested entering the ridge as far to the left as possible, just in case we will have to traverse back to the left to get to Lindsey. The ridge in fact was none other but the L-B traverse. As we were gaining the 2nd ridge of today, the views started to unfold.
We were also glad to see some faint traces of footprints, likely of people exiting or entering the traverse, so we got mildly encouraged. After topping off on the ridge we could see the full picture. Lynn uttered the seminal words: “It looks like we have finally found the right mountain”, correctly pointing out to Mt. Lindsey looming about a mile and a half to the left, and thus sending me into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
Here is the correct mountain
At this point we were finally able to differentiate Blanca and Ellingwood Point from an unnamed EP-look-alike.
On top of the Lindsey-Blanca traverse
How do we get back to Lindsey from half-way the Lindsey-Blanca traverse – that was La Question Du Jour. Again, it appeared that we had a couple of attractive options to consider – 1) to climb up the ridge that looked to me like a Class 5 climb with unclear descent prospects on the other end and a possibility of being cliffed out half-way
or 2) to downclimb a nice-looking Class 4 gulley, traversing a few short snow fields and regain the grassy hill on the other side.
We went with the 2nd choice. Slowly downclimbing through the gulley we dropped down to the beginning of the snowfields. I led the climb by making footsteps in the snow. The snow was good – not too firm, not posthole-prone, so steps were not an issue. However, upon reaching the snowfield, Lynn was not happy with the traction in her boots and microspikes, so we chose to climb a bit higher to gain an added support of the rocks. The lower part of the traverse very much reminded me of the Blanca-Ellingwood traverse that I’ve recently completed, but the gulley itself was a bit steep.
This is the gulley we downclimbed into. It turned out a bit steep.
Upon reaching the grassy slope, we regained elevation to observe our further options and were greeted by this guy.
The options did not look bad either, although the future route would require further elevation loss and gain.
We glissaded down the snowfield to meet the connecting ridge to Lindsey. Upon gaining the saddle we finally met with the standard trail (after about 7 hours of searching).
And this is where we came from (the left side of the traverse)-
Started on the right of the ridge, finished on the left
Sufficiently tired by that time, we decided to go with Class 2 standard route for the final push up Mt. Lindsey.
Lynn opted for the grippy rocks on the right side of the couloir, while I went with the snow (I am still a bit surprised the couloir was rated Class 2). Since we both were using our hands, it was probably closer to Class 3 at least, and this not factoring in the exposure.
topping off on the couloir
Upon topping off on the couloir Lynn firmly stated her position – she wanted to gain the ridge. Grudgingly, I followed her, thus regaining the Class 4 section approximately 1/3-1/4 from the top.
I forgot to mention that winds picked quite a bit at this point, so let’s just say, the climb up North Lindsey was “interesting”. Still, there were good options to hide from the gusts behind the rocks on the left side. We got to N. Lindsey, but were hartbroken to see that the Lindsey proper was still maybe 0.2 ahead of us. We finally got to Mt. Lindsey at about 2.30pm and happily found a shelter to hide from strong winds.
We were cautiously optimistic that without losing the standard trail on the way back, the return trip should take a bit less than 9 hours. We were right! Upon carefully descending the standard route from Lindsey and narrowly avoiding being thrown on the rocks by wind gusts on the connecting saddle, we safely escaped into the cozy confines of the well-marked Class 1 trail. For two and a half hours were wondering where the initial turn-off was that we so badly missed, until we bumped into the Huerfano river crossing again, the same one as in the morning, only even more powerful at this late, post-5pm time of the day. With our boots sufficiently soaked from all the snow traverses that we’ve done that day, we did not waste any more time and attempted to walk on water without getting wet. Unfortunately we did not succeed at that, but luckily, the car with dry socks and shoes was a mere mile away. Overall, a great day with an awesome hiking partner, and honestly, I don’t regret that much being lost. I think we have found a great new route up on Mt. Lindsey, definitely a more scenic one!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):