| A Stutter on the Ridge, and up the Couloir: Lindsey
Participants: trishapajean, cftbq
RT: approx 8 mi.
Vertical: approx. 3,890 ft.
This was supposed to be a simple climb up one of the standard peakbaggers' routes for Lindsey, but ended up being a bit more complicated. We hit the road from Colorado Springs about 3:15 am MDT, and started hiking from the Lily Lake TH at 6:30. Not the earliest start possible, but still before the early fall sunrise.
Unlike our unsuccessful attempt four months earlier, we found the continuation of the trail after crossing the Huerfano River. It's a bit difficult to see in a few places, but without snow on the ground, a little determined poking around will keep you on the trail as it climbs south along east side of the river. This picture looks back down along the trail.
Somewhere near (but still below) timberline, the trail re-crosses the river, and from this point there is no problem following it. Eight o'clock or so brought us to the last of the trees and our first good views of Blanca and Ellingwood:
From here, the trail takes a distinct turn to the left (east), and drops 100 feet or so before beginning the climb to the Lindsey/Iron Nipple saddle. We watched the sun illuminate the trail not far behind us, as we annoyingly hiked away from its warmth, still climbing in shadow. Our first good views of Lindsey were mostly silhouetted against the morning light:
Finally, though, we made the ridge and basked in sunlight. Trishapajean caught me looking up at Iron Nipple before we turned right (south) and started up the NW ridge.
This is where things started to get non-standard. We picked our way up the ridge, taking in the views of huge drop-offs on either side.
Just before reaching the crux headwall, however, we decided that the combination of breeziness and exposure was just too much. For good or ill, we had seen absolutely no one else on the route, so there was no other help available in case of any accident. We decided to retreat a ways down the ridge, and seek the easiest descent/traverse that would lead us into the reputedly easier north face couloir route.
It wasn't hard to see below us, as a clearly visible trail leads from the saddle to the base of the couloir. Clambering down to it, however, did take a bit of time. Nevertheless, by 11 am or so, we were busily making our way up this route, which still held some snow (or maybe it was all new snow…). Here's what it looked like:
About two-thirds of the way up the couloir, there's a small—very small—saddle. I incorrectly read this as the upper end of the couloir, and decided to climb our, climber's right, on what I thought would be a short, mostly snow-free, direct shot at the summit. I was wrong on two points.
First, there was more snow than I thought, making some of the exposed scrambling and mantling moves somewhat riskier than planned. Second, when we finally emerged back on the ridge crest, I found that we were still some distance northwest of the summit.
As a matter of fact, we were still below and northwest of the false summit, but we didn't verify that fact until about seven minutes later, when we topped out on said false summit, and, finally, saw the true summit farther on:
The really good news what that it wasn't far, and there was a decent climber's trail virtually the whole way. Also, on the traverse, we could clearly see footprints in the snow of the upper part of the couloir, which showed us our mistake. We determined right then to take the full length of the couloir down. We finally made it to the top about 12:45 pm, which was not bad, considering the nearly two hours we had eaten up in changing our minds and abandoning the ridge route.
Of course, the views were amazing. We were especially thankful that the weather was holding clear and sunny, allowing us to savor this delayed summit. It was still a bit too windy and cool to enjoy lunch, however, so, after taking pictures, we headed back down the ridge to find the upper entrance to the descent couloir.
The upper part of it was even snowier than the lower part, which made for some dicey going in places, but we were able to kick useable steps where we needed to. We made good progress, only dislodged a few rocks, and didn't do any dangerous sliding. As on the ascent, we stuck mainly to the east side, where the sun had melted away more of the snow, and a rock wall afforded decent handholds. Here's trishapajean making her way down:
The saddle presented itself below us:
and I decided that I would have time to make a quick dash up Iron Nipple. It's an enjoyable little scramble, with a cool, short knife-edge leading to the actual summit:
After a delayed lunch on the saddle, it was just a straightforward re-tracing of our steps down the trail to the trailhead. Including my 36-minute side trip to the Nipple, we made it back all the way from the summit in just under four-and-a-half hours. At the trailhead, we finally saw some other people: a couple who had hiked up to Lily Lake and congratulated us on our climb ("Are you the Lindsey people?")
More pictures are at:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):