| Decision Time on Lindsey
It’s funny how sometimes your plan can get completely turned on its head, and yet still work out in the end.
That was certainly the case with this climbing trip. As my climbing partner Jason and I discussed Mt. Lindsey, it sounded like ascending the northwest ridge would be preferable to the scree-fest of the north face route. While the ridge is class 3-4 instead of 2+ and is much more exposed, it’s on solid rock.
Mt. Lindsey as seen from the summit of Blanca Peak on a 2009 trip. The northwest ridge is on the left. The right side of the peak is on private land.
We drove to the Huerfano trailhead from Denver the night before and set up camp. Hitting the trail at 5:15 am, we were under a lovely canopy of stars—that is until it started raining about 6:00 a.m.!
6 a.m.? The point forecast for the area said a 30 percent chance of showers after noon. Thankfully, it was over in 20-25 minutes, as we worked our way along the Huerfano River and up the valley. The route along the river isn't always obvious, but when we got off it we soon found it again.
Routefinding by the stream in the early morning darkness.
Early light dances across Blanca Peak.
The cloud cover stuck around, though, as we worked our way up to the saddle between Iron Nipple and Mt. Lindsey. We could see the Crestones getting hit up north.
Looking 26 miles north to the Crestones, with the Great Sand Dunes coming into view on the left.
Lindsey comes into full view at the 13,150-ft. saddle.
Looking back toward Blanca and Ellingwood a bit later, we could see it would soon be our turn.
We're gonna get it...
Donning the rain gear
The icy rain hit us like an unwelcome house guest, just as we were about to start the part where things get serious.
So we had a decision to make. Stick with the original plan of the NW ridge? Would the class 4 slabs become a bobsled run in the rain??
Yes, quite likely. So we opted for the north face ascent.
Ascending the north face gulley
We stayed to the rock on the right side, which actually offers quite a bit of enjoyable class 3 scrambling.
Staying to the right avoids much of the scree.
We arrived at the chilly summit at 9:30, after 4 ¼ hours, and soaked in the dramatic views of Little Bear Peak and the soaring Blanca-Ellingwood massif, the Spanish Peaks, and the textures and patterns of the San Luis Valley far below.
Little Bear (in the clouds), Blanca and Ellingwood
For nearly an hour, we had the summit to ourselves—a far cry from Mt. Bierstadt, where I took my 11-year-old son on his first 14er climb last month—which was a virtual conga line all the way up. Five others arrived, and after some mountain camaraderie with a fun group from Woodland Park, we headed down.
The group from Woodland Park kept the mood jovial at the summit.
Breaking into song...
One of them even brought brownies to share, and yes, a plastic Cookie Monster! You just gotta love climbers...
Decision time again—which route down? With the day clearing up and the sun now out, weather wasn’t an issue. The north face was now familiar, but the rock had dried and the northwest ridge beckoned. And that way, we could experience both routes on a tour-de-Lindsey. So we forged our way down the northwest ridge, thinking we could always traverse over to the north face if the class 4 downclimb looked too intense.
When we reached it, and I peered down the precipitous drop, I thought, “This is really something I’d rather climb up than down…” Heading to the right (east), it’s possible to keep it at class 3, and I debated the options. Jason, who isn’t bothered in the least by exposure, thought the crack running down the center looked just fine, so off he went.
Pearing down the northwest ridge from the top of the crux section
Jason has a go at it.
It was at that point I had a realization—at times I have to stop worrying about what I’m looking at before me, and place my trust in God. I thought of a verse from Psalm 91, and felt strengthened by it: “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him…” Holding to that hope, I proceeded down behind Jason. Focusing on the rock instead of the drop below me also helped. The rock was stable and as long as one makes good use of the hand and foot holds that are fairly abundant most of the way, the route offers no serious difficulties. Definitely not something to try in the rain, though…
Interesting terrain below the crux
The view seems to get even better descending the ridge.
The route down from there was not always obvious, but it’s an airy and enjoyable ridge which makes a good counterpoint to the north face. Soon we were down on the saddle just as our Woodland Park friends came down the north face.
Back in the saddle again: our ascent is in blue, rough descent route is in purple.
The day just got warmer as we proceeded down, passing a few others who waited out the rain and were now on their way up. So we took our time and enjoyed the scenic descent.
An old mining cave near the trail
From reading other reports we new this one was safe, so we checked it out. It winds about 110 ft. into the mountain.
Iron Nipple, on the left, from the valley below.
Thinking back on it now, and how we had our route all planned out, it’s startling how true the Bible is in saying that man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his steps...
Heading east and out of the scenic Huerfano Valley.
"The whole earth is full of His glory."
- Isaiah 6:3
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