| some sweet Lindsey Lovin‘ on the Northwest Ridge
This was one of those climbs were you leave the trailhead figuring you have a 50/50 chance of making the summit. Jeff and I were unsure of what conditions on Lindsey were going to look like, so were opted to pack for winter conditions. We got a bit of a late start, and hit the trail at 730am. The hike through the valley was amazing.
The colors were spectacular, and even crossing the river was simplified due to the lower river levels. It's hard for me to describe, as usual, the beauty of the area. Once we hit treeline, we could see most of the remainder of the route up to the saddle between the nipple and Lindsey, and headed across, anxious to get a look at the gully we had planned to ascend.
Once we could see Lindsey we started talking about alternative route options. It was clear even from there that there was a good amount of snow on the North face of the peak
When we reached the saddle, I was a bit frustrated by what I saw. It looked like the gullies were holding a good amount of snow, and this worried me since I knew from trip reports that the rock underneath was loose. I started talking with Jeff about changing plans, and climbing the ridge, which looked like it had minimal snow.
Unsure we decided to sit down and review the route description. As we looked that over, two other climbers made their way to the saddle. They reported they were planning on taking the Ridge Route. Jeff and I quickly decided to follow them up. We started up, but Jeff decided early in the route that he was not comfortable, and turned around, agreeing to hang out at the saddle. The two other climbers, D_baker and Ozone, said they would be cool with me climbing with them, so I hurried to catch up. The ridge was solid, and was a blast. The tricky parts were the brief downclimb prior to the wall, and the wall itself. The simplest route seemed to be staying left, and sticking to the ridge that runs up the left side of the wall. Due to some snow patches, it required some interesting and exposed stemming, but was a ton of fun.
This is a photo D_Baker took of me climbing up the ridge to the top of the wall:
Once we reached the top of the false summit, it was an easy ridge walk to the summit, with views that are tough to beat. You could see Blanca perfectly from the summit... and clouds... darkening clouds...
We spent about 15 minuets on the summit, and then headed down… this was when the difficulties began. Because we came up the ridge, we had not been able to see where the North Face route joined the ridge. We started down the wring gully, which was unspeakably loose, before we climbed back up to the ridge. We decided at this point to walk the ridge until we saw exactly where the route met up with the ridge. It was clear why we did not see where the routes merged once we reached it. When you are hiking along the ridge, if no one is coming up from the north face route, you would not notice the trail that fairly gradually merges, aside from that, unless you looked off of the false summit, you would not be able to see the gully's. As a result, when we were hiking back the way we came, the route became obvious. We started down, and ran into 3 climbers that were heading up that had climbed to the saddle with D_baker and Ozone. All 3 had their axes out, and reported there were some snow fields to cross on the way down. Once they were above us, we started down. To say the gully was loose is a gross understatement. There was at least one slide that occurred while no one was standing on it, otherwise it reminded me of the gully up Challenger.
The gully had fairly constant snow in it, but rarely was it all the way across the gully. There was an approximately 100ft section where the snow was unavoidable, and if I had not had an ice ax, I would have been very uncomfortable. We made it down to the bottom of the gully after nearly 2 hours after leaving the summit. At this point, D_baker and Ozone decided to wait to make sure their friends made it down safely.
This is a photo of d_baker and ozone heading down the gully
and another photo of the gully from the bottom:
I could clearly see my buddy so I booked it over to him at the saddle. As I approached him, he pointed out the clouds. As I descended, I had been so focused on every step, that I had not noticed how much the weather had deteriorated.
This is what it looked like from the bottom of the gully looking towards the saddle:
As I stuffed my crampons in my pack (I had left them with Jeff when I headed up the ridge) I heard the first crack of thunder. Jeff and I started a rapid descent. The entire time, we were hounded by the echoing thunder of the nearing storms. The hail started lightly as we crossed the bowl to get to treeline, and it intensified ¼ of the way across. By the time we reached the trees, we could no longer see the trail at all due to the fact it was covered by sleet and hail. With regular thunder cracking overhead, we made fairly quick work of the trail down to the trailhead. We only took one break on the way down to take a couple of photos of the valley from where we took them on the way in.
Here is a photo of Jeff on the way out:
I really have to thank d_baker and ozone for letting me climb with them, as I would not have gone up this route solo.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):