Peak(s):  Mt. Lindsey  -  14,042 feet
Date Posted:  07/20/2010
Date Climbed:   07/19/2010
Author:  Dancesatmoonrise
 The Badlands of Badito  

The Badlands of Badito:
Climbing Mt. Lindsey's NW Ridge

Peak: Mt. Lindsey
Route: NW Ridge
Date: July 19, 2010
Length: 8 miles
Vertical: 3500 feet
Ascent time: 2:40
Ascent Party: Dancesatmoonrise

ImageBadito, Colorado

The Area

The actual summit of Mt. Lindsey lies in Costilla County, but most of the approach travels through Huerfano, a Colorado county rich in history and culture, and endowed with a unique natural beauty. At one time, Badito, Colorado was a substantial settlement in Huerfano County, and was the official county seat, before it was subsequently moved to Walsenburg. The area has a rich history, much if which is summarized on the current Huerfano County website:

"The Spanish Peaks were sacred mountains to these people and they performed lots of ceremonies here. As far as they were concerned, this is where Mankind first emerged from the womb of the Earth into their version of the Garden of Eden (only, they weren't thrown out of Paradise until the Europeans arrived)."

It's true that the Spanish Conquest was rough on our ancestral cousins, a fact that has left its mark to the present day in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Regardless of one's feelings about the website's statement, one cannot deny that this area is indeed a paradise. At one point as I traveled the road in, marveling at the huge cottonwoods and lush tall grasses, it struck me that perhaps this is what our state looked like 100, 200, or 500 years ago, when there was more water and less asphalt. It felt like this is what our land was supposed to look like.

Image Historic Log Cabin seen along the Huerfano River Drainage

The Road

I was prepared for a slow, lengthy approach on bad roads. The pleasant surprise is that the roads are not bad at all. On a weekday, there were practically no other cars on the entire drive in. The dirt section is in excellent condition all the way to the Singing River Ranch. After this it gets a little rough, but certainly not 4wd-rough. To compare, the road to Handies Peak is far worse. Getting to the first stream crossing on the Castle Creek road is worse than anything encountered on this pleasant drive. The miles go quickly along this seldom-traveled route.

The Approach

The first section of the approach strolls through the pleasantly idyllic Huerfano River drainage. (Bring the flyrod for the return: fat brookies!) After about 30 minutes, steep climbing through the trees begins on the left side of the drainage, and ends, about an hour from the TH, at a pristine alpine meadow.

ImageGuardian Angels in the Alpine

From here it ascends steeply again to gain the saddle between Iron Nipple and Mt. Lindsey, at about 13,200, about 1:40 from the TH. (I'm usually pretty fast, so depending on your speed you may want to adjust times accordingly.) Here one is presented with stellar views of the climbing ahead on Mt. Lindsey's NW ridge.

ImageMt. Lindsey's NW Ridge

The Climb

ImageClass 3-4 section on Lindsey's NW Ridge

I was a little disappointed in myself. Admonitions to avoid going too far right, to stay left, and to veer left around rock ribs, kept me on what is a clear trail. The only trouble is that this trail leads directly to the base of the Class 2+ loose gully. There is some very loose rock on Lindsey, but the Class 4 route is cake-walk in comparison to the loose stuff on the "standard" route.

ImageGetting Down to the Business at Hand

Like many ridges, Lindsey's NW ridge has a series of rock ribs extending perpendicularly down the slope, which are relatively solid, and between which are relatively loose sub-gullies. One really wants to stay high on the ridge from the get-go. Instead, the admonitions and the trail sucked me into the base of the standard route, the Class 2+ loose gully. This required trading off for a similar, though shorter, Class 2+ nasty loose gully leading up to the base of the solid stuff on the ridge. Just stay high on the ridge, and the climbing is so much less risky. This was clearly verified on the descent. The difficulty is, one must leave a clearly defined trail, and head for the ridge, at some point. That point is best attained sooner than later.

For me, the crux of the climb was the loose Class 2 stuff. The "Class 4" section was sweet, secure, and extremely satisfying. Climb it with confidence.

ImageThe short Class 4 section is seen near top center, left and right of the prominent chimney dividing the upper section at skyline.

ImageThough appearing steep from a distance, the rock is solid, well-featured, and relatively low-angle.


ImageAn example of the low angle and well-featured rock at the Class 4 crux area.

Like Pavlov's dog, I too was salivating, only my delightful visual delicacy was the Gash Ridge to Blanca.

ImageMt. Blanca and Ellingwood Point, east aspect

Had there been less than the 20-30% pops in the forecast, the plan was an ascent of the SE Ridge, with a little side-trip to the Winchell Lakes for some trout-viewing. Just to be completely prepared, 9.5 ounces of flyfishing gear made it to the summit with me, including a 4-weight fly rod (seven-section), reel with line, flies, and rudimentary tackle. I figured I could handle hauling an extra half pound if it was totally clear at the summit and I felt like making a round-trip to the south.

ImageOne of the two pristine and well-guarded Winchell Lakes, below the Blanca-Little Bear Ridge.

Unfortunately, there were a few grey-bottoms hanging around, and while my guess was that the weather would prove better than the forecast, I didn't feel like chancing it, solo, sight unseen, with chances of afternoon thundershowers in the forecast. I think Arnold said it best: "I'll be back."

Image The Whole Banana: Little Bear, Blanca, the Winchell's, Gash Ridge, and Ellingwood Point

ImageI always bring my stuffed teddy to place on the rocks for the summit shot

ImageSo here's the real route I chickened out on – the SE Ridge. Note it drops to treeline; from there it's west and back over to the saddle, thence north to the standard approach.

ImageSome of our favorite Sangres...With dunes to the west...

The descent went well and was uneventful except for re-encountering some mammalian brethren; see photos below. Specifically, for those interested, in the crux section I had ascended directly up the chimney to the top. Minimal chimney moves were required, and liberal use of the left-sided face made short and relatively unexposed work of this Class 4 section. I reversed this on the downclimb, which proved slightly more invigorating, but all the moves were there. Facing in on the 10-20 feet or so of steeper rock, of course.

Below the technical crux, I stayed on the ridge, with no difficulty whatsoever, but eventually, again, found myself sucked down to the obvious trail. This was a mistake. The mistake was made in that I had failed to realize, until later, that the trail is really not the best route for the NE ridge, even though it's only a short distance below. On the descent, I stayed on the ridge until the trail was a tempting 50 yards below, when I descended one of the rock ribs to get there. It was a little rough and loose, and the crux of the descent. Had I stayed on the ridge (or just below it to the east) it would likely have gone even more smoothly. So the lesson for me, for Lindsey's NE ridge is, avoid the trail after the 13,200 saddle, and just take the ridge. It's much more solid rock, and when in doubt one is better off going a little bit left (on the ascent) from the ridge, than trying to go right from the trail. I'm curious to see this route in winter – I'm guessing the ridge is fairly scoured, early season. The south side may present opportunities as well, though further research is needed.

This was a really good trip for me. My ascent time was reasonably quick; the crux was far more relaxed than anticipated, and I got to see a lot of wildlife. I was truly blessed with about half an hour of watching and photographing the fellows in the image below, as they made their way from a high alpine meadow onto the grassy ridge in view the distant Crestones.

ImageFour friends climb through flowers and tundra

I spent a little time at the Huerfano River, long enough to verify what's in it – and why I didn't get out the flyrod I carried all the way to 14,000 feet, is beyond me. Sometimes I just like to watch the trout – kind of like my dearly-departed Tasha (a shy, rescued bobcat kit that lived with me for 16 wonderful years.) She used to really enjoy her bird-watching. Only Tasha never figured out what the flyrod was used for, other than playing with the cat. Bless her heart, and may she RIP.

ImageColumbine in early morning light along the Huerfano River drainage

I enjoyed some time with the camera on the drive back to Gardner, having started way too early given the eventual outcome of the day; hot and dry. Here's a shot of our domestic friends hanging out in the Badito Badlands.

ImageGrazing the PJ

And lastly, from just beyond the TH on the way in.

ImageRich floral bouquet adorns the Huerfano basin

In summary, Mt. Lindsey's NW ridge is solid, pleasant, not terribly exposed, and affords some incredible scenery in a most pristine area, both on the drive, as well as the hike.

Hope you enjoyed the report and the photos.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

road and nipple!
07/21/2010 13:36
Beautiful pics as always and thanks for the history lesson behind the area. If you would have read my report first you would have learned that you can drive a civic backwards up that road... seriously. You are also lucky you didn't encounter thoese crazy mountain men that we did. Anyhow, I'm glad you saved Iron Nipple and Huerfano so we can have something else to climb later when we go back up to fish!


One I'll remember.
07/21/2010 05:11
Fantastic route. love the shots.
We ended up far right of the chimney, but it was all I needed it to be.



Great report!
07/21/2010 11:34
Lindsey is my favorite hike so far. I thought that Huerfano drainage was one of the most rugged and beautiful places I've ever been. Once I get my experience level higher and get more tolerant of exposure, I would like to try the ridges on the ascent. Lindsey is a 14er I would have no problem repeating. Loved the pics too!

Doctor No

Great shots!
07/21/2010 19:11
Looks like you got a lot more animal company on your journey than I was able to find. My looks must scare them off.


07/21/2010 22:41
Doc - Animal company? Yeah, I like to sneak quietly. : ) Wished I'd had the 360mm lens for those guys though.

Micah, we'll hit the 13ers. You really want to go flyfishing? I'd like to see what lurks in those Winchells. They look way deep.

Huffy, you're going to love the ridge. It's really pretty easy and a lot more solid.

Matt, thanks bro.


07/21/2010 22:46
Hi Cutter, it's a Canon 1200 - only weighs about 4 oz. I also have a Canon SX110 that goes to 360mm - or ”10x zoom.” It weighs 9 oz and is bigger but it should be standard issue in my pack for summer, like to get better shots of some of the wildlife this trip.

I also shoot a Canon XSi with an assortment of glass; my favorite is the Tamron 28-75/2.8. No IS, but great fast glass. I've never taken the SLR on a 14er though. Too much to lug and too slow to whip out.

Some of the embellishment you see is not the camera but the Photoshop. I went cheap and bought a used version of 6.0 - ancient by today's standards but it gets the job done.


Nice Pics
07/21/2010 19:35
What kind of camera you using?


So nice ...
07/21/2010 22:52
As always Mr. Dances ... thank you.


07/21/2010 22:58
Solo efforts always seem to be conducive to introspection, which makes for a nice thoughtful TR. Thanks for sharing this journey.


07/21/2010 23:06
What a treat. While I normally don't like solo trips I appreciate the opportunity to have full control of your time and opportunities to really take in your surroundings. Well done.


Nice Jim!
07/22/2010 02:25
Good solo effort, and beautiful photos, thanks for sharing!


07/22/2010 02:46
Some of my favorite 14ers folks! Presto, Randal, thanks you guys! Matt and Ben - You guys are so accomplished... thanks so much for the complements!
Yeah, this trip was a blast, from the drive in to the drive out and everything in between!

Thanks all!


Very Nice
07/22/2010 19:44
Great pics as usual and a great write-up. I especially appreciate it because I'm heading out this weekend to hike Culebra and this route on Lindsey. Thanks for sharing!


Big Help for Saturday
07/22/2010 23:06
I will be there on Saturday the 24th with KC0HEV. This report helps a lot.

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