| Lindsey‘s NW ridge-fun fun fun
Since realizing that driving to a trailhead early before a climb is no fun, I decided to plan a hike in advance. After seeing Mt. Lindsey from the summit of Blanca and Ellingwood, I have been eyeing it's class 4 NW ridge. This would be my first official class 4 route on a fourteener and I was pretty psyched. (I think Quandry's west ridge route was a very good warm up for Lindsey for me and I would recommend it for others)
To start, I didn't think that the road to the Lily lake TH in Huerfano valley was very bad at all. For the most part it was not as bad as the road to Gray's + Torreys, but there were maybe three dealbreaker sections that would make it very difficult for a low clearance car. Happy to be there and feeling good after a few good brews, my two friends, both named John, and I camped at the trailhead under a moonless sky. The wind blew all night, and would never let up throughout the next day's hike.
Our morning began at 5:15 and after breaking down the tents and shaking up some powder Gatorade, we hit the trail at 6. Seeing the early morning sun on Blanca, Ellingwood and surrounding peaks was beautiful. The hike along Huerfano Cr. was simple and we were able to keep our feet dry on the nice log stream crossing.
After crossing over Huerfano Cr., the hike SE into the forest was pretty steep and a little burn in my quads sure woke me up. The trail is simple to follow through the woods and soon opened up into a long gully that leads to the upper basin. By this time the sun was rising and hitting surrounding peaks making me wish I could hike with a rear view mirror so I wouldn't miss the views… or I'll just have to master hiking backwards.
The striking cliffs on the north east side of Blanca and Ellingwood greeted us as we reached the upper end of Huerfano Basin. Here we also got our first view of Lindsey peeking over the ridge between it and the nipple.
Making good time we decided to rest here for a quick bite and to put our jackets back on. With the wind whipping, we headed across the flat basin that gives you time to rest before you hit Lindsey's ridge. Our quads were burning again on the steep little hike up to the Iron Nipple – Lindsey saddle. Climbing into the sun sure felt nice on this cold and windy morning. We reached the saddle at only a few minutes past 8.
I took shelter from the oppressive wind on the N side of the ridge and scouted out the NW ridge. The wind was sustained on the ridge and must have been gusting to 70+mph. It turned out that a few other parties were turned back by the wind during the day.
The actual ridge route was surprisingly short, but still very sweet. I would Definitely (note the capital D) say that this is the route to take on Mt. Lindsey. We climbed a worn route up to the ridge crest, but generally shaded onto the left (north) side of the ridge to be somewhat protected from the wind. I was very glad to find that the rock along the ridge was very stable. The good rock made the class 3 scrambling very enjoyable. Instead of battling the wind on the ridge crest, the route towards the crux wall consisted of a simple traverse across a few rock ribs.
This is some of the scrambling to the base of the wall.
I thought the most exposed section of the ridge came right before reaching the crux. We ended up hiking right along a very narrow section of the ridge crest. This section is very short and not particularly difficult, just exposed. This might have seemed worse since we were forced to hold tightly to the ridge to keep from being blown away.
Approaching the crux, we decided that the crack that ran through the center of the wall looked particularly appealing and we too to it like a fat kid to cake. Thankfully, the crux was well protected from the wind and we had no problem finding our way up. The wall was a lot of fun and very exciting. As long as you take your time to find good hand holds, which are definitely there, the chimney is not so difficult. I was again very pleased about the quality of the rock along this portion of the route. These are some photos of us climbing this little class 4 section.
As you can see we were all wearing helmets along the ridge. Despite the fact that the rock is good on the crux, we played it safe.
From the top of the crux, it's a short jaunt up to the false summit. I know, false summits are usually just morality killers, but never fear, you are really almost there.
That day on Mt. Lindsey was the first time I'd ever been alone on a 14er summit, and boy was it nice! My two friends and I quickly took shelter behind the windwall and signed the register. It was only 9:15 when we summitted and it felt good to know what we had accomplished before many other had even gotten out of bed.
We only spent about 20 minutes before beginning our descent. I did not find it hard to work my way into the north face gully. The path is definitely worn and cairned from the false summit down into the gully.
If you decide to ascend or descend the gully as we did, I would absolutely recommend wearing a helmet. As everyone else has mentioned, the center of the gully is horribly loose. We just stayed on the solid rocks on the left side of the gully (right if you are ascending). The climbing here is much much more stable and was actually quite enjoyable. Anybody below you in the gully will owe you thanks for staying on the class 3 rock and out of the loose stuff.
near the bottom of the gully on solid rock
Once you are out of the gully, you've made it out of the tough stuff. By now the sun was warming us up a bit, but the wind was still unrelenting. We had a good hike back to the trailhead and met some nice folks on the way down too.
The climb on Lindsey was great and on another day hitting Iron Nipple and Huerfano Peak on the descent wouldn't be too much trouble. I thought the NW ridge was a great first class 4 route and am definitely glad I made the trip. Plus, you can't beat the views of the San Luis basin to the west below Lindsey and Blanca and Ellingwood across the basin...
As sweet as the Huerfano valley was, I can't imagine what the scenery would be like when the aspens really show their fall color.
total round trip time: 6.5 hrs
NW ridge ascent: 3 hrs 15 minutes
north face descent: ~3 hrs
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):