| Taking a breather on Lindsey
From Little Bear to Lindsey:
Taking a Breather
Mountain: Mount Lindsey (14,042')
Route: North Face with standard gully
Climbers: Greg (gregory_fischer), Jeff (SurfNTurf), Rob (RJansen77)
Three weeks ago, our group of six managed a successful climb of Little Bear in mixed conditions via a less-than-common route. I can't speak for the others in our party, but I stumbled down the Lake Como Road feeling like I had just completed the Longs-Wheeler-K2-Chipotle traverse. While I recovered physically over the next few days, my mental state had taken quite the beating from that peak. Even a climb and ski of Mount Hope a few weeks ago couldn't seem to shake off the spell Little Bear had cast over me, and despite hearing positive reviews of the snow conditions in the Sangres, I struggled to round up the motivation to head down there again for a Lindsey attempt. Then, on Wednesday of last week, Jeff (SurfNTurf) woke me from my Little Bear-induced coma, and a Lindsey attempt was scheduled for this weekend. The idea of a 2.2 mile hike to a campsite, followed by a 3500 vertical foot, 8.25 mile round-trip day seemed like it would be a nice, gentle breather after our "Tour de Little Bear," and I was excited that a Lindsey summit would leave me with just Culebra and Humboldt to complete the Sangres. Proven friend and partner Greg (gregory_fischer) joined us to create a strong trio.
We left Denver around 1:45pm on Saturday and immediately jumped on I-25 north, bound for the Springs. Quickly realizing that the trip wouldn't happen if we continued in that direction, we regained course. Several hours and three stops later, we approached the town of Gardner. Views of the Blanca and Crestone groups greeted us, and our spirits were high.
Expert driving by Jeff and abundant rock removal by Greg and me allowed us to reach the current end of the road, which is ~2.2 miles below the summer trailhead. There are several downed trees beyond here, as well as snowdrifts that will likely persist for a couple more weeks.
We started hiking at 7:30pm, and quickly lost the sun, opting to camp in an obvious clearing on the right side of the road.
Jeff on the brief hike to our campsite
We set camp as the sun vanished, and scanned the sky unsuccessfully for meteors until around 10pm.
The alarms went off at 5:20am, and snooze buttons were immediately hit. It had dropped below freezing overnight, and once again I found myself not wanting to exit the comfort of my sleeping bag. Once we heard Jeff stirring, Greg and I were up and ready. A 6:30am departure saw us at the trailhead maybe 30 minutes later.
Blanca in the morning, it's very impressive from this area
Greg in the meadow, with a sun-washed Blanca looking on
The trail began to disappear under snowdrifts, and we were able to walk over the snow until the river crossing with minimal post-holing. After this point, however, we began plunging to our waists and opted to strap on the snowshoes. We quickly proceeded through the forest, following a faint track that had been left by prior climbers, and reached the gully described in the route description. The elevation gain began in ernest here, and we pushed for treeline on fantastic, frozen snow.
Looking up from where we gained the gully
Greg ascending the gully to treeline
After the top of the gully, Lindsey shows her face
We reached the top of the gully, and continued into the basin as Lindsey began to show herself. Opting to stash our snowshoes, we took a break to hydrate, down some calories and slap on the sunscreen. We followed the gradual snowslopes under a gorgeous Sangre de Christo sky.
Greg and Jeff ascending into the basin
Blanca and Ellingwood dominating the view to the west
Jeff contemplates a free-solo of Gash Ridge
The snow was frozen and allowed us to move quickly, and before we knew it we were staring up at the Lindsey / Iron Nipple saddle. Picking our own lines, we ascended scree and loose talus, and after grinding upward toward the sun we reached the saddle. Views of the Sangres, the San Luis Valley, Iron Nipple and Huerfano surrounded us.
Greg grinding toward the Lindsey / Iron Nipple saddle, with Jeff at upper right
Snow coverage in the basin
Climbing toward the sun
Nearing the saddle, Lindsey looms tall
Jeff charges toward our goal
With the other peaks surrounding us, we stared up at our main goal. We had planned on making our route decision upon gaining the saddle, and opted to proceed closer to the mountain before electing an option. The class 4 section on the ridge appeared to have some snow, and the idea of descending over to the North Couloir only to regain that elevation wasn't the most appealing thing. As we continued beneath the ridge, we noticed a boot ladder ascending the standard gully, which sealed it for us. Crampons, helmets, and axes were donned at the base of the gully, and we began climbing the standard couloir.
Peering up the route from our crampon point
Greg leading the charge
Greg nearing the constriction
Jeff approaches the notch
An idea of the conditions on the upper mountain
The final stroll to the summit
Perfect snow and an existing boot ladder lead to a fast ascent, and before we knew it we had reached the notch at the top of the gully. It was at this point that Conor (mainiac24) caught up to us, and joined in for the final ascent. The upper slopes held a mix of rock and snow, and we stayed off the rock when possible, reaching the false summit shortly after leaving the notch. Crampons came off, and a few minutes later we reached the summit of Lindsey just under five hours from camp.
Jeff, Greg and myself on top of Lindsey
Conor on top
My best Crestones zoom
Little Bear, Blanca, Ellingwood
We ate, took photos, admired the spring Sangres, and discussed our descent route. Jeff walked over to the top of the North Couloir, and noticed that it was completely filled with snow. Rather than descend mix class 3, we figured a plunge-step / glissade down this couloir, followed by minimal elevation gain back to the saddle sounded pleasant.
We descended 100 feet of the North Couloir before coming to a realization - the snow was bullet proof, and failure to arrest a fall could lead to an unpleasant outcome. At this point we turned upward and regained the Lindsey summit, traversed to the false summit, and descended the class 3 rock and snow to the notch at the top of the gully.
Upon reaching the gully, it was a quick plunge-step back to the saddle, where we de-layered and admired our work.
Looking down the gully
A look back at Lindsey
Several glissades and pleasant snow walking had us back to the snowshoe stash before long.
Strapping these to our packs, we glissaded the gully. The snow eventually became too soft to glissade, and at the bottom we donned our floatation and descended to the river. This section wasn't without postholing however, as I went stomach deep several times. Eventually we reached the river, and crossed a log with our snowshoes on. There were no casualties during this crossing.
Ending the day with some fun
A look back from near the trailhead
From here, we put it in cruise control and reached the meadow before long. A quick descent to camp, the shouldering of heavy packs, and an easy 30 minute road hike had us back at the car around 4:45pm.
We picked up some chocolate milk (required for post-climb) in Walsenburg, and stopped for burgers in Pueblo before chasing the silhouette of Pikes Peak north, back to Colorado Springs and eventually Denver.
In short, it was nice to unwind from our Little Bear adventure with something a bit more traditional. A beautiful basin, a fun snow climb, and a new Sangre summit put smiles on our faces as we discussed future plans.
See you at the Spring Gathering!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):