| Windy Day on Lindsey
Mt Lindsey Trip Report
May 29th, 2011
5:00am: The Drive In
The road into Huerfano basin is littered with nice dispersed camping once you pass the ranch properties. A mile or two from the trailhead are the best spots down by the river, while the spots closer to the trailhead are on the slope high above any water sources. After the standard predawn wakeup we drove the last few miles down the Huerfano Rd from our campsite to the trailhead. The road is in pretty good shape, there was one 3-4 inches deep puddle of water a few miles from the trailhead and several patches of icy/slushy snow about .25miles from the trailhead. We parked below the snow in our Subaru, but probably could have made it through if we really wanted to. 4-wheel drives should have no problem making the trailhead now. Temperatures were mild (40s), but a strong wind had been ripping down the valley all night long and would occasionally blast us, giving us concern for the higher elevations.
5:30am: Trail Approach
The three of us were off on the trail cruising down the valley as first light illuminated Blanca's massive North face. The valley ahead was entirely encrusted in snow, providing the promise of lots of crampon action and the possibility of much postholing on the hike out. After passing the Lily Lake junction we reached the river crossing, which has swollen with all the snow melt coming down the hill. Your boots will get wet, as there is currently no dry way across so don't bother searching. After crossing the stream we hit fairly solid snow coverage, intermittently broken up by patches of grass or soggy meadows. The trail is hard to follow through this zone, so just pick your way up river as best you can.
6:30am: Snow and Scree
We turned away from the river up a steep slope following other tracks (way too early as it turned out). This brought us onto the nasty scree and rubble field that climbs up just before the main gulch. DO NOT follow our tracks unless you are looking for extra suffering. We scrambled our way through the talus along an ascending traverse into the main gulley along the base of the cliffs. There wasn't much snow along this line, but due to the looseness of the terrain we moved slowly. The snow that was present was mostly solid, though we did find some soft postholes among the rocks even early in the morning.
As we ascended the wind that had been howling over the tree tops all night long began to hit us full force. In the valley an occasional gust of 30-40mph would send us teetering as we hopped along the talus. The clouds overhead were whizzing on by as if we were moving in slow motion. We continued our high line above the main gulley making a beeline for the Iron Nipple/Lindsey saddle. This is the first place you'll find the climbers trail, just below the steep climb up to the saddle (covered in snow otherwise).
9:15am: Are We There Yet?
The ascent up the steep rib was straight forward on the climbers trail, and soon we were at the saddle contemplating what to do next. When we hit the ridge the wind was raging out of the Southwest, throwing us around and threatening to knock us down, 40-50mph gusts? We hunkered down on the East side of the ridge and discussed our plan of attack. Ben and Amanda decided that the threat of the wind, combined with the semi-imposing snow slope ahead was not their style that day, so I forged on solo to see how the wind was on the North face, hoping the NW ridge would provide a good wind block.
10:30am: I'll Take the Escalator Please
I scampered across the talus along the NE side of the ridge in ordered to stay out of the wind. As I crossed the first two small snow slopes the wind had already let up, giving me hope that a summit attempt would be possible. I reached the base of the main coulier on the North face and to my delight found a staircase kicked up the snow by the previous weekend's ski group (thanks Bill, Scott, et al). So I strapped on crampons and began the ascent on fairly solid snow. I made quick work of the first section, soon reaching the first constriction point (all on snow). After the constriction came a series of unconsolidated traverses, broken up by the occasional scramble or vertical snow line. The snow on the upper North face was still soft and had not fully settled yet, less than ideal, but no problem at the time.
I kicked steps straight up the snow, staying off the ridge for fear of exposing myself to the wind. As I neared the false summit the wind again began to blast me from the SW, though not as strong this time (30-40mph gusts). I moved along carefully to ensure that the wind would not send my toppling over and down one side of the ridge. With Lindsey in sight and the winds not too bad I finally had high hopes for a summit. I scrambled the last few feet and settled into the summit shelter at 11:30pm, relishing in the spectacular views ranging from the Wet Mts and Pikes Peak to the NE, the Crestone group to the North, the Culebra range to the South, and San Juans to the West,
11:35am: The Descent
After a short stay on the summit, just long enough to sign my name and take a few photos, I began the windy traverse back to the false summit. On the way down I opted to drop a little earlier onto the North face to get out of the wind and to follow some of the scree covered benches, avoiding the unconsolidated snow up high. I regained the snow just above the main coulier, and followed my steps back down to the ridge below. After stowing my crampons I began the windy traverse back to saddle and the Huerfano River basin. As I crested the ridge I was hammered by a 50mph wind gust, nearly knocking me backwards. I crawled back down to the switchbacks, finally getting a little reprieve from the wind. The snow next to the rib was in perfect shape for a glissade, speeding up the descent and making it much more enjoyable.
12:20pm: Slogging on Home
I met up with Ben and Amanda at around 12600ft, where the trail disappeared into the snow. The snow was getting soft between all the talus up high, and visions of endless postholing brought us much dread. This time we opted for the more direct line, glissading our way down into the main snow filled gulley hoping for some consolidation, we got it. The line right down the middle of the gulley was fairly consolidated, and we only postholed one in every 20 steps, not bad. The gulley was too wet and too low angle to do much other than trudge (now I really wanted my skis). Around 11500ft the river underneath us began to break through the ice, and us through the snow into it. The gulley is quickly becoming filled with water ice, so be careful climbing/skiing the lower portions of it. Here we traversed right into the trees making our way to an open snow slope in the scree. A few more short glissades and we were down in the valley. A much more painless descent than expected. Now for the fun slog out.
2:15pm: Sun Tanning and Strolling
By now the sun was shining, temps were warming, and we were down just a single layer. The snow in the valley was soft and wouldn't hold much of any weight, so we weaved our way through the brush and meadows to expedite travel. Soon we hit the river crossing, swollen with an additional 3 inches of water from the warm day's snow melt. Oh well, splashing on through we went, damp boots and all. Arriving back at the trailhead at 3pm to not a single car. We had made it the 8miles RT without seeing another soul on the trail, just a few rabbits and fat black marmots. Twas a good day in the mountains, a windy day, but a good one none the less.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):