Peak(s):  Mt. Lindsey  -  14,042 feet
Date Posted:  09/15/2009
Date Climbed:   09/13/2009
Author:  bergsteigen
 Lindsey S&M: NW Ridge = Terror; North Face = Fun  

Mt Lindsey
Glad to have survived verglace: Darrin (kansas) & me
Ascent Route: NW Ridge & STD (North Face)
Descent Route: STD
Overall Mileage: 8.4
Elevation Gain: 3,900'

With Darrin having been given a pass to escape Kansas for another weekend, all other plans on hiking random 13ers was put on hold. Looking at our peak lists and weather forecasts for the weekend was disconcerting. The entire state was predicted to have rain and snow at high percentage. We decided on Mt Lindsey over Mt Harvard, based mostly on mileage.

Driving up the road, many of the pull-offs were filled with trucks and campsites. How many people would be at the trailhead? Or were previous TR's relating the annoyances and disrespect at the TH enough to make people camp lower down? Finally arriving at the TH after midnight, we found only 1 other vehicle. We hunker down in the back of my truck and nap for a couple hours to the sound of rain hitting my topper.

Snow, verglace and exposed terror:
With the raindrops hitting the topper, motivation to get up and moving was minimal. But, by the time we hit the trail, very very late, the rain had ceased. We didn't even need headlamps to start the slightly wet trail. With the anastomosing trails in the woods, getting such a late start may have helped with not getting off in the wrong direction.

Snow was encountered on the trail before we left the woods, probably at ~11K. It became more continuous as we got higher and closer to the open area out of the woods above 11.8K. It was rather slushy, so it didn't hinder progress all that much.

First light on snow on ridge:

The snow did leave some rather beautiful traces on the peaks and slopes around us. I was glad to be able to see it all in the early morning light, versus having passed by it in the dark. Hurray for late starts!

First views of Mt Lindsey:


An interesting rocky ridge ahead of us:


Hiking further up the trail up valley, we are presented with an amazing view of Blanca and Ellingwood Point glazed in snow:


And as always, turn around and see what the view is. You never know what you may see

I've heard about the nasty scree slope up to the high ridge, but today with the snow, it wasn't all that bad. Only trick was finding the correct layering scheme to stay comfortable from the wind, but not too hot from the sun.

View of the Blanca group from top of ridge:


A look over to what we "planned" to do after Lindsey; Iron Nipple (looks more like a slippery nipple ) and Huerfano Peak:


Since the first view of Lindsey down in the valley, we both had been looking at our chosen ascent route, the NW ridge. The far right path, that follows the ridge, looked the most free from snow. It probably gets the most sun during the day, and therefore the least amount of ice and snow, or so we thought.

Ridge looks doable...

So as we approached the divergent routes, we were still confident that we could avoid the nasty standard route up the gully. We chose a route along an exposed rock rib up to the ridge before the crux. The regular route was covered in slippery snow, so we wanted to avoid that. The rock rib was rather solid and snow free, probably from being slightly frozen together in the morning.

Going up the rock rib to the ridge:


We followed the ridge until we got to the 'mini knife edge' and other pointy obstructions. With some minor ice on the sun shadow side, we traversed around to the SW, where there was mostly snow&ice free rock, but lots of exposure.

It was time for me to put away my bulky camera for this next section, as I didn't want it getting in the way. Concentration of the route ahead was needed. So much of what was to be experienced will just have to be imagined. Darrin's camera was more accessible, so thankfully there are some photos of the impossible task ahead of us.

Darrin contemplating the way up (my last photo for a while):

After having skirted the ridge obstructions, we were faced with the imposing crux wall. The center of the crux looked like a glazed donut, so those options were out. The ridge ascent looked like our best option, and least glazed in verglace. We slowly made our way up and around the right side. The verglace on the rocks has become more evident and thicker, but still manageable. Holds were good, and plentiful. The exposure was high. The blood flow was pumping and the concentration was ever present. Despite being in the shade, my hands were warm, even gripping icy cold rock. The higher we went up the ridge crux area, the more the ice got thicker, and the smaller and more difficult the holds and moves became, with more exposure added in as spice.

Me making the first crux moves (note: I am still smiling):

We were near the end, we could see the top of the wall crack and final crux section. Then it would be just a Class 2 jaunt up the ridge to the false summit and beyond. I made a series of boot jam moves to get up to where Darrin was spying the moves beyond. Nothing too bad, the jams were solid, and there were good enough hand holds. The next move wasn't what I would have liked. The only hand holds were on ice glazed smooth rocks, I was too short to reach where Darrin had found holds. My mind set was concentrating on up, no real thoughts of having to down climb this. So I made a slightly dyno-move up with only one solid foot hold to where Darrin was searching for the final move(s).

This is where, very very calmly, Darrin turns around and says, "F*#! it, we're done. Turn around." Half an inch of ice covering the Class 4 moves with hundreds of feet of air below, were enough to call this ascent. Darrin was at ease since the decision was made for us, no more scary moves up the face. For him, knowing it was over, instantly put him at ease. For me, it was a different story. I'm ok with scary up. Not so good with terror down.

Now the real work begins for me, down-climbing this nasty section. Up to this point, I had been able to keep calm and relaxed. Just about everything, except that last move, was manageable. Holds were adequate enough to cancel out the reality of the exposure and the ice covering the rocks. Now, I have to redo that crazy last move in reverse. The move, that in retrospect I never should have done in the first place. I am glad that Darrin doesn't have the camera out now, the abject terror in my eyes is not something I want to remember. I am as close to frozen in place and catatonic as I have ever been on a climb before. The Wilson-El Diente trip has nothing on this short 30' section of horror. I go over every zen meditation exercise I can remember to stop the shaking and thoughts that I may just slip and fall down a thousand feet or more of icy, rocky cliffs. No denying the consequences of failure of this first down move. I have one nubbin of a foot hold. No real handholds. I have to get my left foot way over left and down to the next step, while somehow keeping my one solid foothold secure. It's all about body weight transfer in balance around an icy rock face in a fluid dyno motion. It's a one chance move. Can't stop midway and redo. No pause. Just confidently do. Confidently do. Do...

Not sure how I did the move, but once it was over, it was instant relief. At that point, I knew the double boot jam in the crack move would be cake, and the remaining moves could be done, if just slowly and carefully.

Darrin didn't mind the down climb. In fact, he was smiling. It was for my benefit, he saw the look on my face at the turn around point. The look in my eyes over my glasses told him my feelings exactly, without any masking. The lower and safer we got down the ridge, the larger the smile on my face became, till it matched Darrins'. The super exposed traverse didn't scare me in the least, I had just been through worse.

Me with an almost smile, with our route in orange:

When we were out of the danger zone, down climbing the rock rib back to the standard trail, I felt so incredibly calm and relaxed. We had survived. We had experienced something terrifying together and got through it.

Now, we just had an annoying gully climb and short ridge section to the summit to go. The rocky edge gully sections were iced over, but the exposure was so much lower, it was almost fun in a perverse way.

Still verglace on rocks in gully, but not bad!

Up we quickly went. There were now some clouds in the sky, but nothing was building. Just moisture rising from the evaporating melting snow causing the clouds. We were the first on the trail in the morning, and we would be the last on the summit and down to the trail head.


Most of our climb had been dedicated to the NW Ridge, that the couple of groups that were on the trail this day, had passed up and down before we were done. At least the fall weather was cooperating after our ordeal. Some good views as well.

Blanca group:


The descent down the gully was not bad at all. The melting snow creating a muddy scree paste, that could be practically skied down. It went quickly.

Descent down gully:



Soon we were looking back up at our morning's adventure, amazed that it still looked as glazed as it was. We could see how close we were to completing the crux. So close, but yet so far. I doubt this route can be climbed again till next spring, unless there is a major warming trend.

A look back...


Looking down the last steep descent, the snow has all melted, but is wet enough to be pleasant. Yes, pleasant muddy scree. If only all scree slopes could be wet like this one. They would be so much easier.

One last look back before descent down the ridge:

Down near the trees, I can finally eat my yummy lunch of BBQ chicken pizza. My stomach was finally ready for food. We only experienced a few rain drops on the descent and walk in the woods. Amazed at how late in the day it was. Thinking back on all that we had just done. Wow, what a day!



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
Jon Frohlich

I can relate...
09/15/2009 20:15
My first attempt on Lindsey I was a relatively inexperienced Class 3 climber. It snowed a little the night before our attempt. Not only did I get stuck on the mini knife edge and have to do an unpleasant downclimb but the crux was covered in melting snow. I told my partner I wouldn‘t do it and we backed off. The second time (in dry conditions) went much better...

Awesome you got it done anyway!

Kevin Baker

09/16/2009 03:52
If you can catch some good conditions, that ridge was easier for me in winter than what you guys experienced. That ridge typically gets blasted clean in the winter, and there wasn‘t much ice to deal with. Glad you guys safely made it down! Here‘s what the crux gully and knife edge looked like in early March this year. Much less snow to deal with, but still spooky!


09/16/2009 17:36
I guess our timing on the NW Ridge was off. Without the ice, the route would have been lots of fun and much preferable to the gully.


anastomosing :)
09/17/2009 21:31
There‘s a word I haven‘t heard since I got my geology degree

Colorado State ‘85

Nice trip and awesome pics.

Thanks for sharing.


03/14/2010 20:51
I‘ve been looking at doing this peak this spring but after reading your TR I am really thinking I‘ll wait until the dead of summer!

Thanks for posting.

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