| North Couloir Ski Descent
Ascent of Lindsey N Ridge from Summer TH
Direct Summit Ski Descent of N Couloir to 12,300'
Climb back to Iron Nipple, Lindsey Saddle and Out
5 hours RT
I tried to ski this peak in early May this year but was unsuccessful for several reasons. The road was impassable 4 miles below the trailhead, we were carrying full glacier gear for practice and a crazy spring storm dropped 4 inches of grapple during the night. In the morning, a very turbulent atmosphere proceeded to blow the pellets about with sporadic 50 mph gusts from random directions. Upon reaching the 13,000' saddle we turned back to go practice crevasse field travel and rescue lower in the basin. I did get to see and hear my first turkeys in Colorado that day. A gobbler was making a ruckus right outside our tent at dawn and then we saw a male and female run across an open field right in front of us.
Anyway, this day couldn't have been more different from that one. I brought two saws to clear trees off the road but there was no need as someone else beat me to it. The trailhead was easily accessible. After some good sleep I woke around 7:30 am, ate a hot breakfast and hit the trail by 8. Familiar view of Blanca from the first meadow:
I have done this route several times previously so I knew it well. The snow was firm and continuous beyond the creek crossing. There isn't a bridge as far as I know, but there is a logjam which is fairly straight forward to cross especially with hiking poles and ski boots which are waterproof 3 inches up. The log jam:
I booted snow between talus and a tree line until I could hear water, and then headed over into the small drainage leading to the upper basin.
Small drainage below upper basin:
Hikers meeting the sun:
In less than an hour I was in the basin staring up at Lindsey's summit dome.
I don't get to hike solo often so I often experiment with new break/pace strategies. This day I took 10 minute breaks on the hours for food and water. It worked great. I never used the skins, axe or crampons which just chilled in the pack. This was going to be easy!
The snow was firm and heavily sun-cupped:
Looking back down the basin:
First sight of the standard route convinced me to use the ridgeline. The snow looks pretty worthless for climbing up this couloir right now.
But I have always thought the ridge should be the standard route anyway, it's definitely the easiest and fastest route. Looking up at the crux:
The ridge direct after some delightful knife ridge points goes mid 5th class ( I would guess 5.6 for two or three moves). Last summer I climbed this short pitch and enjoyed the brief air to the west, but with ski boots and skis I elected to take the 3rd class chicken shit route which stays below the difficulties on the left. The rock is amazingly solid through here with wonderful jugs and flakes.
After some 2+ scrambling I experienced the moment us direct from the summit ski mountaineers relish, a snow capped high point.
And a few steps later it was clear it would go from the top into the North Couloir:
Thanks a bunch to thatguy here on 14ers.com for sharing beta that this was the case from his climb of Huerfano a few days prior. I hung out alone on the summit for a bit:
Moonnugs showed up after a bit and offered to take some pics of me skiing off the top. Thanks man! Here are the fruits of his labor:
The skiing really couldn't have been any better on the upper 1000' for spring conditions. I felt compelled to ski this section continuously. It's nice to get on a more moderate slope every once and a while and just enjoy the hell out of this sport rather than worrying about cratering off some cliff below you. Which brings to mind, why the heck does Dawson rate this as extreme? Should be moderate, maybe advanced. Looking back up:
Moonnugs also got this sweet shot of the line from Huerfano later in the day after a glissaider drew their own line down the route:
I was able to ski to 12,300' before throwing the skis back on the pack and hiking up the suncups back to the saddle.
Another look at the north face couloirs:
This crew looked to be heading for the North Couloir:
Back at the saddle with a view of Blanca and Ellingwood:
I was able to get some fun double fall line turns down to the low point in the ridge to Blanca:
Back in the basin, I skied straight down the huge sun cups to avoid falling on my face:
Snow made for a quick descent all the way back to the flat terrain along the creek. This barb wire required a ducking under on May 10th which means roughly 4 feet of snowpack was still in the area at that date. Quite a year for the Sangres.
It was really nice to get a peak in 5 hours round trip, quite a change from the last bazillion days out.