Peak(s):  Mt. Lindsey  -  14,042 feet
Date Posted:  11/12/2017
Modified:  11/14/2017
Date Climbed:   11/11/2017
Author:  globreal
 Northwest Ridge vs Northface Gully?   


...with a warning!

Mt. Lindsey-14,042 feet
Climb Date: 11 Nov, 2017
Crew: globreal (Britt), brai2587 (Aaron), nquesnel (Nick)
Mileage: 8 miles give or take
Vertical Feet: 3,500
Trailhead: Lily Lake, 10,700
Start time: 5:00am
Summit time: 9:43am
Return time: 1:15pm
Mt Lindey's Northwest Ridge

Does need another trip report on Mt. Lindsey. No, not necessarily. However, I had several people ask me for a conditions report. So this will serve to give that, but I also intend to give a bit of a warning. So read on...

A thread had been started here on by brai2587 called: Mt. Lindsey 11/11 or 11/12. Aaron was looking to climb Mt Lindsey. And I was looking for someone to climb Mt Lindsey with. I am repeating the 14ers and so the timing was perfect. We had an awesome weather weekend coming even though it showed steady winds at 20mph. PM's were sent, plans were made, and we were off on a Friday night to camp at the Lily Lake trailhead. We even picked up a 3rd partner via phone conversations during our drive down. Nick was going to drive down later than night to meet us make us a threesome.

Car camping on steroids!
Aaron has this way-cool truck bed pop up camper. Set's up in 5 minutes and even a has comfy mattress as part of the system. I didn't even have to blow up my Exped mat. Nice!
Photo taken the next day as we went to bed in dark and left camp in the dark at 5:00am, a full hour and a half before sunrise.
by Odin Designs

Our trek through the dark forest with the ground partially covered in snow meant, we spent as much time off of the trail, as we spent on it. Thankfully, I had been up there a couple times before and basically new where I was going. So, being off-trail and bushwhacking didn't bother me. And by the time it was to make our turn away from the Huerfano River, there was just enough skylight to see the rock wall we had to get past in order to make our turn to get into correct gully.

By the time we had climbed the 700 vertical feet from the River up though the trees and into the upper basin, it was getting just light enough to take photos.
entering the basin at first light

I was looking forward to making it up to the Iron Nipple/Mt Lindsey saddle. However, just when I thought we were there....nope! I didn't remember the false saddle BEFORE the true saddle. That was a let down.

In spite of some unexpected cloud cover, it was a beautiful morning with a temperature of only 28 degrees. The view looking back at the Crestones off in the distance was superb.
A look back

We made it to the saddle in about 2 1/2 hours, so not to bad. With the windy weather, I was so anticipating cresting that saddlel and getting into the warm sunshine. Darn....I didn't think of this but this time of year the saddle is in the shadow of Mt Lindsey. So with no warmth from the sun and with the wind scouring us, we didn't even stop.
Iron Nipple-Mt Lindsey saddle

Before we started we were planning to take the Northwest Ridge route. As we approached the Mt Lindsey face, we sort of changed our minds and thought we would head for the Northface gully instead of the ridge.
the often seen saddle shot

As we made it over to the ramp of the gully I was expecting wind loaded snow, but not much since we had only really had a couple of snow storms so far this fall. And I didn't expect the wind blown, concrete slab to be set up already. It was crampon material and we only brought our micro-spikes. So, we decided to make a hard right turn and head straight up using the protruding rock to get up towards the ridge.
Nick making his way up using the rock to his advantage.

Our thought was to avoid the more dangerous snow slabs by climbing above them, and then traverse back over to the gully where we were going to climb up the less steep rock on the west (right) side of the gully. To my surprise, this climbing on rock up to the ridge felt much safer and was actually quite an adrenaline rush!

This ridge route certainly is no walk up. It has some exposure, and a mini-knife edge or two. Nick and Aaron handled it like a couple of champs!
Nick and Aaron enjoying some air time!

I am glad I've taken up rock climbing the last several years. I believe that has really helped me in this sort of scrambling and moved me from apprehension to confidence. And as it turned out, the westerly wind was blocked as we were climbing on the east side.
Nick on the east side and Aaron still on the knife edge move.


However, our wind shadow was lost as we crested back up on the ridge proper. Thankfully, the 20mph forecasted winds weren't any greater.

We were successful in our goal of reaching the summit of Mt Lindsey after 4 hours and 40 minutes. Even though we were now "basking" in the sunshine, it didn't offer a ton of warmth as it was windy on top. So we only spent 20 minutes up there and were heading down at exactly 10:00am

So, by now you might be asking, where is the warning?

Take a look at this picture...
Northface Gully

We had decided not to attempt to down climb the exposed ridge we had come up, and instead decided to come down the less steep gully route.
It looks benign, right? It kinda looks like a nice groomed run at a ski resort doesn't it? It's not! That snow was as hard as concrete. For those of you new to mountaineering, this is a wind blown effect that creates a wind slab and turns the snow into a slope hard like ice. The steepness of the slope and the fact that we weren't wearing crampons, only micro-spikes, made down climbing in the gully quite difficult and even dangerous. We ended up down climbing through the rocks on the right side. However, we had no choice but to cross these aprons at the bottom.

All three of us had brought our ice axes. Not only did we use axes to be able to self-arrest in the event of a fall, but we used them to cut out steps to be able to cross the aprons at the bottom. I know that many people who have recently moved to Colorado are new to mountaineering and don't own a ice axe. Also, many people have them but don't want to carry one to save weight. Here is the warning...take an ice axe! You can and will encounter conditions almost year round where you will be safer if you have one. We passed several people on our way down that didn't have axes and yet, they continued on for the summit.

If you slip on a harden, steep snow slope, once your calves, thighs or butt hit the snow, you are off. In the matter of seconds you can be careening downhill 40, 50, 60, miles per hour. Without a way to arrest or stop that slide, you will very likely slam into rocks below or slide over and off a cliff face. And unfortunately, many people have died in our Colorado mountains because they didn't carry and use an ice axe.

Without our axes, we would have been doomed. I carry mine on probably 90% of my climbs. I would rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

We made it back to the trailhead at 1:15pm for a total round trip time of 8:15.
Lily Lake trailhead

I prayed before we started our climb for safety and success. I am grateful that we received both on this day.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Comments or Questions

Great tips
11/12/2017 23:54
Thanks for the trip report Britt. Brings back some great memories.
Ice axe from now to July or more. I remember last Spring on Democrat thinking it was a easy walk up I would have been very comfortable with crampons on one section. Micro spikes were not enough. Be prepared


Thanks Britt!
11/13/2017 09:23
This is the correct way to keep trip reports fresh - adding in lessons learned. Even on the most innocuous of peaks - I did Horseshoe this weekend, the descent down to the basin crosses several snow fields that on the ascent required nothing but weight to motor through; however as the sun melts that top surface yet again and then refreezes due to wind and air temperature, the resulting "concrete" snow demands at least microspikes and more sure footing on the descent. Several steps in I thought I could do it, but had to accept the fact I was going to go for an unwanted ride unless I protected myself. Congrats on the summit! I'm down for more peaks as I also finish my second lap!

Ice axe
11/13/2017 14:09
I was one of the people on my way to the summit that you passed on your way down. I have to say that there was zero need for an ice axe, at least if you stuck on the ridge the whole way up and down. In planning the day, I hadnât even considered the possibility of taking that gully either up or down. Even while I was there, I was wondering why anyone would go down that gully instead of just downclimbing the ridge.


11/14/2017 06:15
Britt, those rocky points along the NW ridge are a lot of fun!


November summit
11/14/2017 09:23
I can see that mountain and those gullies being pretty frustrating with the loose, shallow fall snow. Nice work to all on a safe summit, and thanks for sharing your insights.


I gotta do that route...
11/14/2017 12:36
It sure looks like fun! Nice one, Britt.


You reminded me
11/14/2017 12:46
how much I love Mt. Lindsey. Thanks for sharing.


Fun route
11/15/2017 16:16
That little knife edge is a trip huh?! I did Lindsey this time of year and was glad I did.

Thanks for the write up.

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