| Lindsey NW ridge in the rain
This morning, I set out at 6am with a plan to do Lindsey's NW ridge, Heurfano Peak, and possibly pick up Iron Nipple if mood/weather/fitness/time were all in favor. As it turned out, I only had time for Lindsey, and was happy to have finished it. The weather was ugly and a couple routing errors added unnecessary time and peril.
Note - this trip report isn't intended to be a supplemental route guide. If that's what you're looking for, please see USAKeller's excellent TR, or the 14ers.com route guide for this route, both of which were quite useful to me in this solo endeavor.
Preparations had begun earlier in the week, when my wife made a commitment for herself for Saturday that freed me up to slip away and up for a 14er and a centennial peak. To build up the appropriate scruff for such a serious route, I last shaved on Wednesday. As you will see from the pictures, this wasn't enough of a headstart
After leaving my friend's place outside of Walsenburg at 4:30, I put foot to trail at 6:08 am.
I figured if USAKeller and coming2getcha could put up this route in 3:45 to the summit, I could certainly break four hours, maybe 3:30, then do a quick descent and add Heurfano too - back at the car in 8 hours if all went well, right?
Hmmm... as it lightened up, the clouds didn't appear to be lifting. In fact, they appeared to be settling in. Precip varied from a light mist to a medium drizzle, more or less constant. As I crossed into the upper meadow and looked up at the nearest peaks, it was apparent that today was not going to go as planned.
At 13k, I stopped to put on all the clothes in my pack.
When hefting my bag into the car a few hours earlier, I had wondered if I was packing too much. Did I really need all that stuff? Wouldn't I have a better chance at a fast ascent - and completing all three peaks - if I slimmed down a bit? Fortunately, I had decided to keep the pack as it was, and let's put it this way... it got *considerably* lighter on the way up. In fact, had it been much colder, I would likely have had to turn back. At this point, I was wearing mid-weight Capilene top/bottoms, thin synthetic pants, rain pants, a mid-weight pullover top, a thin button-up overshirt, and my ski shell. I was plenty warm, though I did chill up at the summit (just to skip ahead).
My first look at the NW ridge disappeared into clouds.
Obviously, the rock was wet. However, I figured that the class 3 stuff wouldn't rely on friction, and the class 4 crux of the route didn't look that bad in the pictures. I elected to press forward up the ridge in spite of the moisture. Again, to skip ahead, in retrospect this was a good decision. As I discovered on the way down, the gully in the rain is even less pleasant than usual.
The weather did add a layer of complexity to the route, as well as increasing the pucker factor, but the worst of it was that the hundred-foot visibility eliminated almost all visual references that could have been used to help me follow the proper route. I still referenced the pictures printed from this site, but ended up getting too high too early and had to do a scary traverse that bordered on class 5.
Here's a look at the crux wall, shrouded in fog and mist. I think I was already too high at this point.
Traversing across the sharp edges, just below the top of the ridge, I briefly considered the consequences of falling here.
Here's a look back at the traverse, and a look up at what was still ahead.
The crux itself was a piece of cake. I took a line just left of the offwidth crack, which linked up very nicely. Additionally, though there was *plenty* of exposure on the rest of the route, the crux itself didn't feel very exposed. There was a clear floor, so while a fall would certainly cause injury, it would be very unlikely to result in death - unlike some of the other stretches I had faced down to get there. Perhaps with clear skies, I would have felt the exposure more on this section, but with such limited visibility, it seemed far less of a head game than the off-route traverse below.
On the summit, I was very disappointed to not be able to enjoy the purported excellent views - but still happy to be there.
I was first on the summit for the day, just about 10am, and had it to myself for five or ten minutes. Then two couples arrived, one of whom had more or less followed me up to the saddle. It was an unusual experience for me to be alone on the top of a 14er, and a highlight of the day. However, the wind was probably 20-30 with gusts of 40+, and the precip was still coming and going. After forcing down a sandwich, I was getting chilly even hunkered into the rocks, so it was time to go.
For the return, I planned to descend the class 2 gully, so I hooked up with the couple that had arrived just after me. Since they had just come up the gully, they could lead me back down into it, right? Wrong. They led us into the wrong gully. Fortunately, they realized it just before it was too late, and we were able to traverse over into the correct one.
On the way back down, there were a few gaps in the clouds, one of which allowed me to see Lindsey.
There were even a few moments of sunshine.
Once below treeline and out of the worst of the wind, the weather seemed downright pleasant. For the last couple miles, a guy from Fort Collins set a stiff pace, and he and I were the first back to the parking lot from the summit. I had been first up and first down, seven hours total - though my friend from CSU-land had left almost two hours after I did!
It seems to me that a valuable use for this route on Lindsey, other than just that it's a solid, accessible route with great exposure and (presumably) awesome views, is as a testpiece for those who think they want to climb all of Colorado's 14ers. There are some peaks for which there is no easier route than this one up Lindsey - if you can't do the route, you need to either improve your skills or set a different goal. Likewise, it seems reasonable to believe that if the NW ridge of Lindsey isn't at the very edge of your limits, you should have the technical skill required to complete the other peaks. I'm not speaking from personal experience on those other routes, but just more generally.
Anyway, despite the weather, it was a great day. And though I started off thinking my pack was a bit heavy, I ended up using everything in it except my essentials kit (first aid etc.), 1 liter of water (drank 3), 0.4 liters of Gatorade (drank 1.6), some snacks and a sandwich, and my spare socks... though on the second-to-last creek crossing, I was hopping the rocks a bit too carelessly and went ankle-deep in the water - not that it made me any wetter.
It was great to be back at the car - I wished my schedule weren't so tight, but being realistic it wasn't a good day for Heurfano anyway. Another day...
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):