Peak(s):  Mt. Lindsey  -  14,042 feet
Date Posted:  08/20/2011
Date Climbed:   08/17/2011
Author:  P Why
 Madness Gene Lands 3 on Summit  


On the plane ride to Colorado, I read an article about an evolutionary biologist who believes that somewhere along the way, humans acquired a "madness gene" which allowed us to evolve past Neanderthals and apes. Only humans were mad enough to build boats and sail into vast oceans for new territory, or to paint walls and create stuff that had no immediate survival benefit. Fast forward 50,000 years, and you have the reason that only humans climb high peaks for fun. Mountain goats live there year round, unaware of how special (and dangerous) it is. Oh yea, the article also noted that we all have 4% Neanderthal DNA, which may may be another clue to explain how we muscle up these hills.

This year's climbing trip seemed like a particularly acute form of madness. The 3 of us are in our mid 40's, and have recently faced various injuries and family crises. Two of us were limping until 3 days before the trip. Then, my 9 year old daughter developed a high fever and delirium at midnight a few hours before my plane. So I cancelled, arrived a day late, and had no time to acclimate. (Diamox worked wonders for me.) But in the end, we were all healthy and present. And my daughter was fine. It seemed like a miracle.

After climbing Quandary on Monday the 16th, we drove down to the Lindsey trailhead, arriving around 7 PM. That is one beautiful drive. We camped about half a mile from the trailhead. There are plenty of great sites along the last 2 miles of the road.

View from the Westcliff Inn, where we showered before heading up to Lindsey

On the way to the trailhead

We woke at 5 AM, and were on the trail by 6. The hike up to the basin is gorgeous and far more easy on the body than Quandary. The basin is stunning, surrounded by various 13ers and Blanca/Ellingwood's prettier side. We made it to the ridge below Lindsey proper by 8:30 AM. A young Coloradan was basically running down the trail from above, having summited his 1st 14er @ 7:30 AM. He had mountain biked the last mile of the dirt road at 4 AM. Oh to be young. (Not that I could have pulled that off at any age.)

The upper basin (picture taken on the way down)

First view of Lindsey

Getting closer

From the ridge, Lindsey looks unclimbable. Fighting off the fear, we traversed to the base of the North Gully. True to our research, it looks better close up. We found it comparable to Broken Hand Pass and the Red Gully on Crestone, just a little easier and much shorter. The class 2+ designation may apply to the center of the gully, but it's so steep and loose it seems downright unclimbable. We stayed right in the lower half, and left up the second half, on fairly solid class 3 rock. Every trip report seems to bear this out. My theory is that Roach or some old guidebook called it class 2+ and it stuck. Clearly a harder climb than Wetterhorn, for example.

At the top of the gully

The next surprise was above the North Face Gully. We thought we'd be pretty close to the summit ridge, but there's a lot of steep and loose terrain left to cover. And routefinding became an issue. The 1st of the upper gullies is obvious, but the second or third was poorly cairned and had to be ascended a ways before climbing out of it to the left. It was also quite steep.

Scrambling up the upper gullies

Getting close to the summit ridge. This area was steeper and looser than we expected.

We finally made the summit ridge. Walking the ridge was sheer joy. The job was done and the views could be enjoyed. After all the adversity we've surmounted this past year, the summit was quite an emotional experience.

Madmen on the summit

We then retraced our steps and headed down. The same upper gully that seemed too long on the way up briefly frayed our nerves going down. If you miss the left turn and descend too far you'd be cliffed out pretty quickly. We descended the last of the upper gullies through a narrow loose dirt chute, which required sliding on our butts for 10 or 20 feet. We wondered if there's a way around this. Finally, the main gully seemed a whole lot looser descending than ascending. We stayed right up high, then switched left for the lower half.

Descending the summit ridge

Descending the upper gullies

Getting ready to descend the chute on his arse

The hard stuff is done

Heading into the basin

We got back to our car around 2 PM, for an 8 hour round trip. Another great day in the mountains.

The first person to summit from this position, with no cairns or guidebooks, had to be a little mad.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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