| Schralpin' the Pow on Lindsey
Solo climb and summit ski of Mt Lindsey, 5/19/2011
9 miles, 3800' climbed and skied
I am indebted to Schralp the Gnar for instigating this one. (Schralp is one of those 14er members whom I "almost" know, from conversations and comments in this forum, even though I'v still never had the pleasure of meeting him.) On Wednesday afternoon I read Schralp's TR from his solo climb of Lindsey last Sunday, and immediately thought to myself, "self - why not?" I checked the weather - the southern Sangres seemed to be the only reasonable place to go - and made a couple of phone calls, but my usual partners weren't available. (Most of them dwell in that Dantesque circle known as 9 to 5, 5 days a week.) So I finished up what I was doing, loaded the car, and headed south around 4 pm. Being on vacation allows for a wonderful spontaneity!
At around 8 pm I reached 10,440 feet on the Huerfano road, 1/2 mile from the Lily Lake trailhead. It was here that the first mishap occurred: I was trying to punch through a snowdrift that required just a little more clearance than I had... and upon backing off, the rear end of my truck slid a little to the right and struck a stout low-hanging tree branch, shattering my right taillight. Needless to say, I didn't push it any further, and camped on the spot. (The tree was unharmed, by the way.)
I saddled up at and hit the trail at 5:45 Thursday morning, under a beautifully mixed early morning sky...
... passed the Lily Lake trailhead...
... and continued up the valley. The weather was trying hard to clear; I had intermittent views of landmarks such as Point 12,410.
I was following a deeply postholed track which seemed a little over-eager, it took off straight up a steep hill about 1/4 mile too early. After trying to follow it I dropped back down to the valley floor; passing the crag below 12,410 and its attendant boulderfield, I turned uphill again and skinned into Nipple Creek:
On skis, the path of least resistance at this point is to stay in the creekbed. In fact this is a very efficient route, and I gained altitude fast, while my mind started to play the tricks that it usually will when I have nobody to talk to:
"Up on Nipple Creek, she sends me
If I spring a leak, she mends me..."
The Iron Nipple hove into view:
At this point I was enjoying the best weather and visibility that I would see all day. To the south and west it was completely socked in; to the east and north there appeared to be a distant storm but blue sky closer to me.
I attained the 12,520' pass at the top of the Nipple Creek basin and looked back at my skin track in brilliant sunshine...
... and turned up the ridge.
Halfway up to the Lindsey/Iron Nipple saddle I found myself stopping to layer up, as the wind suddenly picked up and clouds began rolling in. The sun had felt warm to this point, but now I was reminded that the air was actually fairly cold. The cloud cover did allow me a rare opportunity, to take a photo directly into the sun, here's the resulting portrait of Lindsey:
Looking up from the saddle at 13,100', I chose the obvious direct couloir for my ascent route. The Sangres had received more than the predicted inch of snow, it was more like 4 - 6", and the wind had redistributed that. Nonetheless, I was satisfied with the stability of the snow on the climb, though I noticed that areas with a little west exposure were best; places that faced due north were deeply wind-loaded and a little slabby. This would determine my choice of descent route.
I reached the summit at 10:45:
Pigozzi-style self-portrait with Lindsey's little brother (13,097') in the background. This peak is not named on my USGS map. In honor of Lindsey Vonn, if it truly has no name, I suggest naming it "Reed" (i.e. Lindsey's little brother)...
In about 10 minutes I was ready to ski.
I have mentioned the questionable quality of the snow on this particular day. Because of this I was acutely aware of being completely on my own, and chose the sissy line down rather than the more deeply wind-loaded couloir to the direct north. I dropped a few turns, then traversed left, dropped a few more, etc., essentially following my boot track down, over snow that I had looked at directly a few minutes before. Unfortunately it was pretty well infested with sharks, i.e. barely concealed rocks - although the turns were nice I left a fair amount of p-tex on the mountain. Call that mishap #2. Oh well, it is an inescapable fact that mountaineering skis get trashed!
At 12,800' I took off my skis and began the battle into the teeth of a 40 mph wind to regain the 13,100' saddle. Being taunted by these critters on the top (elk? bighorns? couldn't tell for sure) didn't help:
Don't get me wrong, however - climbing under full-on winter conditions (even if it is late May) is especially rewarding, as many on this forum can attest. Besides, once I gained the saddle, I got to put my skis back on and high-tail it back into the Huerfano valley on really nice snow surrounded by the spectacular wintry scenery. Meanwhile, one more mishap: my ice axe caught on a tree branch and ripped the attachment point off my pack.
The storm looked pretty solidly settled in as I returned to my truck and left the scene.
"Mishap" tally for the trip:
Ice axe loop: $1.50
Ski tune: $50
New taillight: $230
Skiing a Sangres 14er in this pathetically dry season: priceless!
And by the way, Schralp - just to put your mind at rest - I kept an eye out and didn't see any frightful fiends.
Thanks for reading!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):