| Mt. Lindsey, Standard Route
After summitting several 14ers last summer, I've found it more of a challenge this year to successfully reach the top. It took me two attempts to reach Mt. Bierstadt, and I fell short of the Lindsey summit in July, due to weather. So, this past Tuesday, I decided to give it another shot.
Being a second attempt, I knew exactly how much time to allow for driving. I left Denver around 12:30 AM, and drove through the night. Getting to Gardner is nothing, but that last leg up to the Upper Huerfano trailhead was definitely a stretch for a Ford Focus. I stopped within 1/2 mile of the trailhead at about 5:20. I took a quick nap to allow for better light, and pushed off at 5:50.
On the drive up towards Gardner, I had not been seeing any stars, so it was obviously cloudy. Things cleared up a little, but the air had a very heavy, damp feel to it (for southern Colorado).. I made nice progress through the forest, and across the stream several times, as the trail gained in elevation.
By about 7:30, the skies had continued to improve, as I got my first view of Lindsey in the morning sunlight. I reached the flat area at the edge of the forest, with several campsites, by about 8. I took a few minutes to get some nice Blanca pictures. When I turned around, the sky was beginning to roil with developing clouds already. I quickened my pace down into the valley, and up towards the Lindsey / Iron Nipple saddle. The sky had completely clouded over by 9, so I wasn't sure what the weather had in store. I noted the progress of a group behind me, to make sure they were not turning around. It appeared that we were the only ones up there, and I certainly didn't want to wind up being the only one.
At 9:20, I reached the saddle, but wasn't overly encouraged by the view. I decided to wait for the group behind me to catch up, and see what they planned to do. I got this nice picture while I waited. When they arrived, they introduced themselves as Christian and Pat, and Christian (who obviously had a lot more 14er experience than me) didn't seem overly concerned with the immediate weather conditions, and said that they would continue. I trusted their judgment, and we continued on together.
The scree in the gully does look foreboding, but I tried to remember the many trip reports I've seen, that claim that it really isn't as bad as it looks. I found that out to be true. I quickly got the hang of keeping the arms ready to reach out, and assessing the stability in each step. "Stay to the right" is definitely quality advice. The three of us tried to give each other plenty of space, avoiding single file, to limit the risk of falling rocks.
As we moved higher, the visibility dropped to near zero. I made a few mis-steps onto loose rock, but always reacted quickly. It seemed like we were above the gully in no time at all, and the rocks became more stable. I was on the summit at 10:45. Almost 5 hours is a bit on the slow side for me, but I was just happy to reach the top of a somewhat difficult mountain. I didn't fall short this time. Due to the fog, these summit pictures aren't overly impressive, but they are still beautiful because just because they are summit pictures!
After about 25 minutes, it was time to head back down. On the way up, I was sort of dreading the trip back down the loose rock in the gully, but I found it to be very reasonable. I thought it was actually easier to spot stable rock / hand-holds on the way down, than on the way up. I focused on the small steps, rather than the entire task, and was back on the ridge by noon.
During the descent, other than a few sprinkles, the weather held out. It wouldn't last forever though. Thunder loomed off in the distance, and just as we made the final crossing over the stream, the skies opened up. Hustling across the meadow near the trailhead, with lightning flashing overhead, was a bit unsettling. The drenching I took, caused me to make a solemn vow, of "No more 14ers until I lose the cotton". Even though we hastily said our goodbyes at the trailhead, we tried to stick together on the drive down. That was smart, since we all had some minor issues navigating our vehicles through quickly ponding water on the Upper Huerfano. This was an old-fashioned Colorado mountain maelstrom, and I was content to experience it within my car.
I really enjoyed the Mount Lindsey hike, and consider it my finest accompishment in a short 14er "career". On paper, Lindsey seemed like a bit of a stretch for someone of my experience level, but it's always satisfying to push yourself beyond what you think you might be capable of. I was especially grateful towards Christian and Pat, for allowing me to team up with them for that final push towards the summit, and the descent. Lindsey was definitely a worthwhile experience, and I strongly recommend it to others like me, who have hiked a few moderate 14ers, and are looking for a challenge.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):