Northwest Ridge (Doctor No Accidentally Has His First Class Four)
With my girlfriend out of town for the weekend, I decided that July 10 would be a great day to try something which she wouldn't want to do. Why not Mount Lindsey? And hey, why not solo?
Here's the topography of what I did:
Pretty standard route, starting from the Lily Lake trailhead. No problems getting to the TH in my Ford Ranger, although it's a bouncy, bouncy, bouncy ride, and I got from downtown Denver to the trailhead in a smidge under four hours.
The Huerfano River crossing, maybe a mile into the hike. On the way up, I took off my boots and socks and crossed barefoot. On the way back, I left them on (misremembering that I was almost all the way back to the car. I wasn't almost all the way back to the car.
Shortly after the river crossing, the trail begins to climb sharply out of the valley. Aside from being steep, the valley has beautiful waterfalls and foliage. It's still darned steep (funny how that happens when the trail parallels waterfalls):
Once we get to the plateau at around 12,000 feet, we get our first look at the Lindsey summit:
Our next manoeuvre is to cross this valley, and then ascend the wall on the far side to reach the saddle between Lindsey and the Iron Nipple.
I don't know why it's called the Iron Nipple. Well, obviously, because it looked like a nipple to someone. An iron nipple, no less. But I saw no less than three peaks on the way up which looked more like nipples. Anyhow, looking north, the Crestone group impresses with each step of the journey:
For most of the ascent, the Blanca massif was shrouded in clouds:
Here we are, almost to the saddle:
And now, the saddle, with a great first look at the choice Lindsey offers:
At this point, you can either ascend a class 2+ scree-filled gully (roughly in the middle of the photo), or you can ascend the class 3/4 ridge on the right. Although harder, the ridge is at least solid rock.
Travelling solo, and knowing that I sometimes make bad decisions at altitude, my plan all along was to take the gully. Oh, and I've never done any real climbing (the closest probably being the Haystack on the top of Mount Si, and/or the Keyhole route on Longs). But when I got to the saddle, I heard a large rock avalanche coming down the gully, and that got my feet moving quickly towards the northwest ridge.
The start of the ridge:
I thpought that I had done enough homework to be able to keep this a class 3 climb. Little did I know (both literally and figuratively).
This little marmot essentially tried to lead me up the ridge by himself. He would turn, look at me, wait for me to catch up, and then scamper up the ridge a bit. In hindsight, if I had consistently followed him, the climb would have been class 3.
The crux of the ridge route is at top left in this image - you have to go left, right, or over the top. I chose left, but we'll get to that in a minute.
Obligatory photo to show my mom that I was wearing a helmet:
Note that if you're doing the ridge, the safest route is just left of the crest. If you stay on the crest, you will get to a point where there's a steep exposed downclimb. I'm afraid of heights. There's a part of my brain which wonders what it would feel like to fall through the air, and there's a great majority of my brain which has to keep that piece in check. I considered returning back down the ridge and trying the gully, but I didn't like the looks of what I had already climbed, either. So I actually sat down for a bit and thought things through, and then sucked it up and did it. Yay me.
It was also at this point where my calves started to cramp up, because I hadn't been drinking enough water.
A look back down at the majority of ridge climbed:
Quite honestly, the crux of the route didn't seem all that bad. Maybe I learned something during this whole thing?
And when you get to the top, it's just a false summit ("Northwest Lindsey" - thanks to Bill for giving me credit for an extra peak!). Now it's time to hoof it east to the real summit.
Little Bear Peak says "don't take my picture":
Blanca Peak and Ellingwood Point, however, are looking mighty fine:
Same photo, but with some jackass in the way. Lindsey is my fifteenth fourteener:
Finally, Little Bear comes out to say hello. It's not so surly after all.
After deciding not to reverse my steps while ascending the ridge, I determined that descending via the ridge was right out. So I took the loose rock gully. The steepness and looseness of the gully are not done justice by this photograph:
It felt like class three while descending - although I was spending most of my time (as much as possible) on the more-stable rock on either side of the gully, trying not to kick down gravel on those who were still ascending.
Lindsey bids us a fond farewell. This shot gives you a better idea of the options available. On the ridge, you can see where I had to downclimb (the obvious gap in the ridge), and you can see the crux (just higher than that). I didn't find the crux to be all that difficult compared to the downclimb.
Do you know what there are a lot of on Mount Lindsey?
Culebra Peak and Vermejo Peak:
The Crestone Group! I've always thought that the Crestones look like what mountains would look like if you told an artist: "Hey, draw some mountains!"
One last look at Lindsey. Feminine name, but very aggressive:
The steep trail is just as steep on the descent. At this point (around 12:30 in the afternoon), it's also quite warm. But the accompanying creek is nice.
Almost back to the truck! At this point, people kept passing me, asking if I "made it all the way to the lake". When I told them that I climbed Mount Lindsey, they looked at me like I was nuts. I'm probably nuts.
A look back at the lush Huerfano Valley. Now there's an iron nipple (even if it's not a capital-I capital-N "Iron Nipple"):
And the trailhead, and my truck.
So there we are. My first class four, and I did it accidentally, and I did it solo. But I'll certainly remember this one more than most.
Thanks for reading my blather.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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