| Beautiful Day on Mt. Lindsey
Left South Denver: 4pm
Arrived CO Springs: 5:30pm
Left Co Springs: 6:30pm
Arrived TH campsite: 8:30pm
Entered Basin: 9:15am
Break until 9:30am
Reached Saddle: 10:45am
Took Our time (1st of the season and amazing weather)
The drive to to TH is not all that bad. Sure, it takes 3.5 hours from Denver, but it is a straight shot on I-25 and then the last hour is a gorgeous drive on unpaved roads with beautiful views and solitude through this amazing piece of private property. There were tons of deer along the road, and they did not seem bothered by us, which was odd given how untraveled it is.
We have a 4x4 Jeep and had no trouble with the roads. We saw mostly SUVs at the TH, but did not encounter any spots where high clearance would have been essential. I think our Subura would have made it just fine. We are able to set up camp just before dark, which also allowed us to enjoy the scenery on the way in, which I HIGHLY recommend. The views are not the same on your way out, so arriving past dark would take away from this experience. There is ample camping along the road just before the TH, as well as up and around the TH. We were suprised at how many cars there were when we arrived, but still were able to find a nice private spot off the road just below the TH. The wind in this valley is unreal. You can hear it coming a mile away, as the road almost forms a tunnel. We were slightly worried about what this was going to mean for the summit, but it turned out not to be an indicator of the hike. We also heard several cars arrive after us, one as late as 1:30am. We heard no campers or wildlife.
We had intentions of getting up and starting at 5am, but given I can't sleep above 9,500 and the cilly weather, we snoozed and started at 7:30am instead. We started the hike around the same time as several others, of which we all met at the stream crossing. This is no river, but this is not something that is easily waded through either. The water reached the bottom of my knees. We had brought chacos because I hate hiking in wet socks/boots, and we shared our chacos with another couple for them to cross as well. Other people were not prepared and thus chose to go barefoot, which was totally doable as well. The water was FREEZING, as in it was extremely painful, but still worth having dry shoes for such a hike. (We did cross via the log upstream on our way back, as at that point we were not as concerned if we fell in, but someone had tried that in the morning and fell right in we were told. If you are wanting to try this, at the stream crossing, take the trail that juts uphill to the right.
Follow this along the stream and down to the left where it flattens out in a little opening of the woods with pretty views. There are two wood structures that create a little bridge that will take you to the log.) I honestly would imagine that the stream will be low enough in parts to cross within a month or so. This piece did add about 20 minutes to our trip when all said and done. From here, the trail follows along the other side of the river before making its way up towards the Boulder field. It was at this point that the snow made it more difficult for us to find the trail, but we went slow and managed to stay on it and make our way right to follow the gully. The trail becomes steep and remains so until the basin, with the exception of some flatter portions along the gully before crossing to the other side. On the other side of the gully, we encountered more snow drifts in the shades of the trees that became more annoying. This area is steep as well, which presented more challenges in avoiding the snow. We eventually went straight up the hill and took the ridge over into the basin, although the tracks in the snow allowed it to be doable without any gear. It is amazing how these somewhat skinny trees manage to block the sun and thus keep the snow shaded so well.
Entering the basin was great, as this last tree section (first 1/3 of hike) was a no walk in the park. Although it was our first of the season, I think this is still a burner. The basin also offers beautiful 360 views and a look at Lindsey. She seemed really far away, and I was pretty surprised that we had already been hiking for almost 2 hours. But the weather was great-- sunny and 50s, so after a break and some fruit bars, we kept moving. The hike up to the saddle and out of the basin is the toughest part of this hike in my opinion. It is pretty much straight up and started to become VERY windy towards the top. Windy, as in, be careful not to blow over. At this point, we started encountering some people descending, all of which said “Windy,” when we asked how it was. This section is not only steep, but is the portion where you go from 12,000 to 13,000, which is a significant change for most people. It became harder to breathe, and yet the steepness was not giving up at all. Thus, upon reaching the ridgeline, I felt like the toughest part was behind me, with about 1/3 left to go.
We were not sure which route we were going to take, but the people who had descended had taken the gully and said it was fine without axes or crampons, neither of which we had. Plus, the ridge was SO windy, that I honestly couldn’t imagine Class 4 climbing on a point with that wind. And, since the gully side was completely blocked from the wind, we decided to ascent that way. We were happy with the route, although met some guys at the summit who enjoyed the NW ridge as well. The gully definitely allows for some fun Class 3 scrambling. The snow in the gully was minimal, and the trail was pretty well defined all the way up to the notch. I will say that the gully seems like it most of the portion of this last piece, but really, it is not. I would say a majority of the hiking between the ridge and the summit is beyond the gully. I would also say that the hiking beyond the gully is more difficult than the gully. There was still Class 3 scrambling parts, some loose rock sections, as well as 3-4 snowfields to cross. Luckily, the footprints were sturdy in the snow, as trying to go above or below would have presented some challenges. We did not need any gear for these sections. It was also sunny with barely any clouds and NO wind. Due to this, we were really able to take out time and find fun routes, take pictures and rest.
We spent about 30 minutes on the summit rehydrating, eating, and taking in the views. We had about 10 minutes before we were joined by 2 guys who had taken the NW ridge. It was windy up there, but nothing unbearable and certainly not the windiest summit that we have encountered. We all descended together through the gully, taking our sweet time while comparing 14er stories, stopping to take pictures or adjust layers, all with nothing by blue skies above us. As soon as we came around the corner on the saddle, the wind met us again, but lasted only for our hike down from the saddle and into the basin after a brief break at the saddle to take in more views. We entered the trees at approximately 2:30, and going down the steep trail with the snow was more difficult. We had some slipping here and there, but nothing too terrible. It just takes some time to pick your way through, of which we had plenty of and took for sure. The legs started to hurt from downhill walking by the time we crossed the gully and entered the last bit of forest. At this point, I was pretty exhausted and had to stay focused due to it still being steep and with some snow here and there. Finally, it flattened out and it felt wonderful to walk on flat ground again. We successfully crossed the stream with the log as I mentioned before and made it back to camp around 4pm.
All in all, this was one of our favorite 14ers. The scenery was spectacular and the weather was amazing, which allowed us to take our time and enjoy a whole day of fun. It was definitely a burner, but was broken up nicely by the different terrains of forest, basin, climbing. I will say that with the basin route, you are definitely exposed for the last 2/3 of the hike. If weather or clouds had been rolling in, I think I would have panicked a tad….that is a long way out if you are anywhere above the saddle. Also, I think we lucked out starting a bit later, as it sounded as if it were more windy in the monring. However, given the exposure, leaving later is also more risky, unless you have a perfect weather day like we did I would highly recommend this 14er to anyone, particularly if you are looking for variety, challenge and solitude.
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