| Living the Life on Lindsey
Mt Lindsey (14,042ft)
December 22-24th, 2012
NW Ridge from Singer Ranch
RT: 21 miles
Climbers: Rob (robco), Jeff (Mickey’s Grenade), Paul (CaptainP) & Matt (I Man)
Our first view of Lindsey (left) and Huerfano (right). The NW ridge is to the right of Lindsey EDIT - This is NOT Lindsey- Thanks Bill
Blanca's "Gash" Ridge
The Peak and The Needle
Winter can be a wonderful thing. For what seemed an eternity leading up to the solstice, I researched and schemed and schemed and researched, counting the seconds until winter. A couple of weeks ago, one of my main partner’s weekend freed up, Rob (robco) was signed up for a multiday effort. We quickly hooked Jeff, whom we had met last March climbing Holy Cross, and Paul rounded out the team last minute, deciding that he could just barely stand 2 days away from his family.
The solstice weekend was to be my only chance to be out for more than a weekend this season and the choices went from infinite to almost nil as the snows fell and green went to red. All dreams of going after something ambitious seemed to fade, but with a little bit of dedication, some world class mentors and awesome partners…anything is possible. A few days before the 21st, we had settled on an attempt of Mt Lindsey, a beautiful peak that rarely sees a winter ascent. Darin Baker (d_baker) messaged me to let me know that he would be going with a group up as well; we had both asked a mutual friend what rope to bring.
Lindsey was an excellent choice. The route promised to be challenging with a major road closure, avy terrain, 4th class climbing and more. Having recently done the route in June, I knew that I was in for a gorgeous ride as well as a challenging trip. Most of all, I was all too aware of the infamous downclimb before the headwall that is optional in summer, but mandatory in winter. Cautiously optimistic, we studied the snowfall and weather as the days wore on and finally were all set to go.
As work ended on Friday, my excitement was soaring. Jeff had already headed down as he wanted to take an extra day on the approach. Paul, Rob and I left from about a half mile below the Singer Ranch around 8am Saturday morning. The summer TH was a short….6.5 miles from the car. Lugging heavy packs and travelling mostly in snow (about 2/3-3/4 of the road was covered in snow) the going was slow, but I didn’t mind…4 days off from work, away in the mountains with friends, I was exactly where I wanted to be. We took our time and enjoyed excellent views of California, Blanca and Ellingwood and Lindsey. The higher we got, the more snow there was, as expected, and eventually we reach a point where snow would dominate the rest of our excursion.
Paul and Rob hiking up the road
Finally at the summer TH!
The last mile of the road was steep and I was really hurting as it had been a while since I carried such a large pack. After almost 6 hours, we finally reached the summer TH (Paul and I, Rob had long since disappeared, hours…perhaps days ahead). From here we descended into the initial meadow and I was discouraged to see Jeff’s Camp 1 a half mile or so in. I remembered that we had agreed to camp at tree line, but that was soooo faaaar awaaaaay. The first mile of the trail is nice and flat, but eventually it climbs steeply up a gully. Paul and I had no interest in this gully, especially with packs. We finally caught sight of Rob and he retraced his steps. We made camp around 4pm, 8 miles and 8 hours after setting out.
Hanging out in the meadow early on the trail
Our campsite was rather cozy and we settled in for a few days. Most of the night was spent melting snow, listening to Paul’s awesome stories (and jokes!) and wondering if Jeff thought we had abandoned him. There isn’t much to do at night in winter, and our warm sleeping bags called our names early as expected.
We woke up at first light on Sunday morning and started preparing for the summit attempt. Paul came over to our tent with some bad news. His knee had been hurting most of the night, and he didn’t think he would be up for the summit and packing out to go home. The decision was easy for him, he knew he wanted to be with his family and he packed up and headed out. Thanks for coming out, Paul! It was wonderful to hike with you again.
Rob crossing a slope...quickly
Views of Blanca and Ellingwood from above the gully on the talus field
Shortly after Darin’s group came marching by. We exchanged a few brief sentences and they were on their way. Rob and I weren’t far behind as we were anxious to catch up with Jeff whom we had abandoned to another solo night. The trench from Jeff went a tad bit out of the way, but it worked and we all made fairly good time in the cold morning hours. Rob and I decided to drop back into the gully as high as possible and started swimming through thigh deep snow along some somewhat sketch slopes. It turned out that this section would be the only real danger we ever felt we were in avy wise, who knew, our research had paid off! We met back up with Jeff’s trench near the top of the gully and quickly came upon his camp. I called his name a few times, but it was evident that he had already started his day. Rob and I stopped for a snack and Darin’s group went ahead. The trench was pretty good and we avoided snowshoes as much as possible and likely more than we should have. We skirted some bumps and approached the slope to gain Lindsey’s ridge from the left instead of following the summer trail.
Nearing the top of the main gully that accesses the basin
IN the basin, following a nice trench
We stashed our snowshoes and made our way up to the saddle. The wind was getting fierce. I was cold, but the sky was clearing and the views of Blanca and Ellingwood were stunning. It had taken us a few hours to get this far, but we were all the way back here and with a few days to spare. If we didn’t top out today, we still had tomorrow, but then again, we still had a shot today! We had a snack and changed layers again. We spotted Jeff in the area of the headwall. What a stellar solo effort…breaking trail, route finding and now at 13,600ft…I was happy to see that he was at the top of his game.
Lindsey shows her face
Rob coming up Lindsey's West slope towards the saddle
Darin and I exchanged some thoughts about the route and we were all very concerned about the wind. Rob and I set out down the summer trail with our eyes set on the NW Ridge. The standard gully looked ugly and was mostly filled in with snow. As expected, the ridge was mostly free of snow, but the slopes had plenty and severely limited our options. After a sketchy snow traverse and some trail hiking, we abruptly turned right and headed up a couple hundred feet of class 3 climbing to the ridge crest. I now knew that I had a date with the knife edge/downclimb/scare-the-crapout-of-me crux. I took a bit of comfort in the fact that the hardest part (climbing down) was on the ascent.
The NW Ridge with the headwall
The skies clear - Blanca and Ellingwood
Rob scrambles towards the ridge crest
Getting closer to the crux sections
Making their way up the ridge
Both groups were together as approached the headwall. I got to the knife edge and stopped. “Wow,” I thought. I had to commit to climbing onto the knife edge to even see the down climb, but the exposure was clear. I crossed the knife edge and turned to face in and climb down. “This is bad” I said to Darin as I tried to find my foot, but eventually found the ground, dropped a bit to the right before climbing up and through a notch to gain the headwall area. This part was without a doubt the crux of the day and in my opinion is harder than any standard 14er summer route. The rest of the climbers briefly discussed rappelling before they turned back to try and traverse in to the headwall area. Being an awesome and loyal partner, Rob followed me and we were soon heading up the wall. After what we had just had to do, this didn't seem too bad, and it was even mostly shielded from the wind. We took the route farthest to the left, the same that I had taken in summer. Within a few minutes we were high on Lindsey’s ridge, above the crux and in some MAJOR winds.
Rob mid crux
A view of the crux area
Looking up from near the bottom of the headwall
While climbing the headwall in only my glove liners, my fingers had gone numb…as bad as I had ever felt. I quickly put on mittens, and it helped, but I was none too pleased to say the least that I would be climbing class 4 in mittens. By now we were both pretty cold and there was no sight of anyone else. We didn’t say much but I motioned upwards “Let’s go for the summit” I yelled, after all, we were already up there and the hardest climbing was below us. I enjoyed the comfort of my Mountain Hardwear spacesuit and made my way on to Northwest Lindsey, where I met Jeff. We had a quick conversation (which neither of us understood apparently) and I eyed the summit. The wind was intense, and scary. It was the absolute limit that I was willing to deal with. I was so close…just a few hundred feet over to the summit and I can get out of here. At 1:30pm Rob and I topped out. The views were glorious and satisfaction filled me. The descent was still ahead though and we were FAR from safety.
Lots of fun Class 3+ climbing
Rob high on the ridge (taken on descent)
Looking down the NW Ridge
The left option on the headwall, the same route I chose in summer
Rob above the headwall (taken on descent)
Rob climbs up the crux on descent
Rob on the summit
Rob and I had a short conversation about descent route, but I was adamant that we retrace our steps. We had a rope in case we needed to rappel, but it was so darn cold that I was willing to downclimb anything to avoid taking it out. Luckily, the down climb of the headwall was very manageable and the climb up the crux was a lot less intimidating than the climb down. Jeff had also successfully made the descent back to the saddle. At 3pm, Rob and I headed back into the basin feeling cold and tired, but accomplished. We had a brief visit with Jeff, made plans to meet in the morning for the hike out and a short while later got into our sleeping bags.
The sun sets in the Sangres
The morning was pleasantly warm and nowhere near the frigid one that we were expecting. I made some hot chocolate and then got up. We were both surprised with how quickly camp was packed and Jeff strolled in right on time at 9am. We got distracted for a bit talking as we were all excited from the day before, then drank some whiskey and set out for the 8 mile trudge out. The trench was deep since a half dozen people had gone ahead of us and the hike to the summer TH was enjoyable.
We had a snack at the TH and started our way down the road. The snowshoes stayed on for a long while. The road had plenty of flats and inclines to make sure that we really earned our 3rd day. We eventually lost the snowshoes and the last few miles went rather fast. At 2pm, a full hour earlier than expected, we stumbled upon the cars. After enjoying a Mickey’s Grenade (courtesy of…Mickey’s Grenade) we headed out.
Rob and Jeff on the hike out
This was an awesome start to this winter and a great time was had by all. Thanks to Paul, Rob and Jeff for coming out and I look forward to more climbs this season!
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