| Lynx On Lindsey
"Lynx On Lindsey"
Mount Lindsey via the Northwest Ridge Route
Date Climbed: July 22, 2012
Partner: I Man (Matt)
Have you ever looked at a mountain and felt your stomach become a knot? That’s what Lindsey did to me when I first laid eyes on her. This was to be my first Class 4 experience on a 14er, and I was legitimately scared. I didn’t know if I was going to make this one. My fear of heights is sometimes hard to suppress.
Matt and I had planned for a weekend together doing Snowmass via the S-Ridge, but the weather wasn’t cooperating with us. I did not want to risk getting caught in a storm on a loose, exposed ridge. Intent on doing something challenging this weekend rather than another Class 2 Sawatch, I opted for another venture to the Sangres, where the forecast looked somewhat more pleasant than the Elks. Showers were predicted for both days, but not until the afternoons, when we would be below treeline.
So began the tedious process of going over all our options and weighing the pros and cons of each. Should we do Kit Carson and Challenger? Blanca and Ellingwood? We finally agreed to climb Mount Lindsey. I was terrified when Matt said we should do the Class 4 Northwest Ridge, but in retrospect I concur that this was a wise decision and proved to be within my ability.
On Saturday morning, we drove down to the Sangres, and after what seemed like an eternity on the long, bumpy, winding dirt road to Lily Lake TH, we arrived around 2:00pm.
The sky was beginning to get cloudy, and it was only a matter of time before the rain and thunder started.
I have a healthy respect for storms, so we took our time getting up to the campsite. We spent a long time timidly (I was the timid one, not Matt) wandering through the forest and taking photos along the absolutely beautiful stream. There is something irresistibly charming about water and mountain brooks.
After a lot of steep trail hiking through the rain and mud while we recited quotations from Family Guy back and forth, we arrived at a flat spot in the very last stand of trees and Krummholz before the alpine. Blanca and Ellingwood were in plain view.
The tippy top of Mount Lindsey could be seen from our campsite.
We set up our camp and ate some candy, crackers, salty noodle soup and Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai before bedding down.
I had some ginger tea to help settle my stomach while I tried not to get anxiety about what challenges Lindsey might pose. Matt read part of his book about K2 while I pondered what supplies to put in my pack for the summit the following day. It wasn’t long before we were sleeping.
Like our overnight stay before climbing Crestone Needle, the winds were fierce all night. They were gusty and powerful, slamming into the tent and waking Matt and I up periodically. I remember having dreams about bears attacking our tent. Luckily I was so drowsy I managed to get a decent rest.
In the morning, the wind had finally died down. We heard the sound of a large pack of coyotes yipping and howling shortly after we woke up. They sounded so playful and wild and free – why some people fear these creatures I do not know. I was enthralled by their happy, free-spirited calls echoing through the valley.
Once we were ready for the hike, we set out for Lindsey. The magical orange glow of the morning sun was visible on Blanca and Ellingwood.
We were about to leave the dirt trail and start walking on the talus slope to the saddle between Iron Nipple and Lindsey when we heard the coyotes howling again. This time we could tell where the sounds were coming from – a basin just south of Lindsey. We paused and took this opportunity to take some photos with our destination in the background.
As we drew closer to Lindsey, the crux headwall became more apparent, and it wasn’t reassuring me. I wondered if Matt had picked a route that was too difficult for me. I’m pretty sure I kept moaning and groaning about the sight of the ridge. Matt said, “I know you can do this!”
Once we hit the saddle, we headed up the ridge. The view of the route ahead is quite clear. A well-defined trail stays just below the crest of the ridge on the left side. What was initially Class 2 difficulty began to get harder, and the steepness of Lindsey’s north face was messing with my head and causing my legs to shake. I had to stop periodically to keep it together on this terrain. Good handholds were becoming increasingly important as we tended to stay to the left side of the ridge crest.
There was steep, loose talus to our left, with short stents of decently exposed ledges which I skirted along with great care. At one point there was a 10-foot long, 1-foot wide ledge with an attention-getting amount of exposure next to it that I wasn’t sure if I could pass. I thought about it, watched a few people do it, and then carefully made my way across without overthinking the air behind me. One of the other hikers mentioned that “The ledge we just crossed was basically the most difficult part of Pyramid,” which made me smile.
The nice thing about ascending the ridge was that it was solid for the most part, and there were places I could stop and catch my breath before continuing onward. Looking down at the steep, loose gully of the standard route, I was more and more satisfied with our route choice. I felt better about scrambling along on the ridge than fighting my way up a loose gully. Matt and I both knew we needed to bail off the ridge before getting to the wall in order to avoid an exposed and difficult down-climb. Some of the people before us attempted to go up the headwall on the right side which seemed to be the more difficult way. I saw a handful of people disappear over the jagged-looking right side and I'm not totally sure what they encountered on the other side over there, but we met up with them later on the summit.
Two of the other climbers approached the right side of the headwall, took one look at it and decided to backtrack down the wall and come up on the left side behind Matt and I, and another couple. We must have been half way up the headwall when Matt pointed out where we were. I was confused, because I could have sworn we hadn’t reached it yet. Was this it? I could have sworn it looked vertical from the saddle, but in truth it is actually a concave shape with plenty of blocky boulders to hoist myself up with.
When I was about halfway up this wall, I saw about three possible options. Option #1: Go to the left, sit next to a very exposed, sheer ledge, and shimmy through a crack in a large boulder to get around the wall. Option #2: Go up the big crack in the middle, which may have required Class 5 moves but was protected from the exposure on either side of the ridge. Option #3: Go up on the left side, which would mean up-climbing and down-climbing Class 4, and we had already seen people back away from this option.
Like the people who went before me, I went with Option #1. It wasn’t easy for me to sit right on top of that ledge with exposure on both sides, but it was the safest way to go. I was terrified. Once Matt moved out of the way, I maneuvered my way up the rock and found myself in a very awkward place. My fear was beginning to get the better of me, and I remember saying “Matt, why the %@#& did you take me on this?!” I put my head down. I cussed. I took some deep breaths. I cussed. I had to keep moving. Lindsey was giving me a run for my money.
Slowly and carefully, I placed my hands onto a large boulder cracked in two and wiggled my way between the two halves. We were almost out of the tough part. I would like to mention that the NW ridge felt to me like a lot of Class 3 with maybe two or three Class 4 moves around that headwall. Just take your time through this section and remember Three Points of Contact.
It wasn’t long after the crux that we gained the summit ridge. There is a false summit – I believe it is Northwest Lindsey – but the true summit isn’t far from there. We walked a few hundred feet along the ridge and I was relieved to be done with the difficulties of the route. Almost there!
I was happy to reach the summit and the view was great! Little Bear, Blanca and Ellingwood were just off to the west…
The silhouettes of the Crestone Group could be seen to the north…
The San Luis Valley was visible to the south.
The sun was shining and spirits were high on the summit of Lindsey.
In case you were wondering, the dress is from Stuttgart, Germany.
After lots of laughter and fun on the summit, Matt and I decided to make our way back down so he could bag Iron Nipple, a 13er, and Huerfano, a Centennial. The clouds were beginning to form, and Matt knew we had to stay ahead of the weather.
We returned back to Northwest Lindsey and looked for cairns leading down the standard route. I did not really want to down-climb the headwall, so we took the gully.
The gully is riddled with rockfall, so we put on our cat feet and worked our way down. This is not what I would call easy, but it is do-able. I tested everything before trusting my weight on it. There were people ahead of us and behind us, and someone shouted “Rock!” about every two minutes for a good portion of the descent. Some of the large rocks were loose and took me by surprise, but there were enough solid holds to grab onto. I felt myself turning around and around, orienting myself in different positions to keep my balance. Sometimes it’s better to face in, sometimes better to face out. I felt myself searching for secure footholds and using my handholds for balance.
We reached what appeared to be a steep chute.
I’m not sure if this chute was part of the standard route or not. In order to avoid sending rocks down on each other, everyone took turns going through the chute. I approached this from the top by scooting on my butt, then I placed my left foot on the left side and right foot on the right side. Slowly I eased my way down through the shoot until I reached the bottom, then I let the next person know it was okay to go.
At this point, the remaining trail is obvious. We made our way back to the saddle and Matt set out for Iron Nipple and Huerfano. I had a fairly annoying altitude headache, so I opted to return to camp and chill for a bit.
It was a beautiful day. I felt accomplished and lucky as I reflected on Lindsey. This mountain tested me mentally more than anything. Some of the moves were harder than any of the moves on Longs, the Sawtooth or Crestone Needle. Somehow I had made it, and I felt like I had exceeded a new boundary for myself.
About an hour later, Matt returned from Huerfano. We packed up camp and hiked back down to the car, making frequent photo stops along the way to admire the scenery.
As always, I can’t wait for our next adventure!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):