Peak(s):  PT 13,555  -  13,555 feet
"Huerfano Pk"  -  13,828 feet
Iron Nipple  -  13,500 feet
Mt. Lindsey  -  14,042 feet
"Northwest Lindsey" - 14,020 feet
"Huerfanito"  -  13,081 feet
Date Posted:  12/10/2020
Date Climbed:   07/06/2020
Author:  supranihilest
 Choss? In the Sangre? Say It Ain't So!   

After climbing the Spring Mountain group, I drove down to the Sierra Blanca's eastern side and parked near the junction of the road to the Huerfano/Lily Lake trailhead and the Raspberry Trail. The latter is probably a fairly unknown trail (I hadn't heard of it until researching these peaks) and runs west-east from a subdivision on the Sierra Blanca's northwest side, over California Peak's north ridge, down and up the Huerfano River drainage, and across the eastern side of the Sierra Blanca where it splits into a wider network of trails. The majority of traffic in this area is for fourteener Mount Lindsey, and there are two Centennial thirteeners, California Peak and "Huerfano Peak", plus several other thirteeners nearby.

I was on the trail a few minutes after 6am. Afternoon thunderstorms were scheduled to make an appearance and I hadn't done any research on the route, so I had to move fast if I wanted to finish all of my peaks by the time the rain arrived.

20871_01
Start of the Raspberry Trail right out of the parking area.

I left the parking area and found the Raspberry Trail just north. It switchbacks up the steep eastern wall of the Huerfano River canyon for approximately one and one-third miles and 1,000 vertical feet before topping out along Point 13,555's lengthy and moderate north ridge. Along the way there are excellent views south and west towards the California Peak group of thirteeners.

20871_02
Looking southwest with Blanca and Ellingwood on the left and California Peak in center.
20871_03
Looking south from on top of 13,555's north ridge. Pretty darn easy to the first peak.

It only took me forty or so minutes to top out on the ridge, which was followed by a lengthy walk across bouldery tundra to the talus-covered slopes below the summit. 13,555 isn't ranked and would make for an easy half-day hike just by itself. The views to the south are very unlike the gentle ascent - rugged, steep rock and layers of rotting ridges on three sides surrounded by valleys.

20871_04
13,155's south ridge, which is nothing like the north ridge. From left to right: "Huerfano Peak", Mount Lindsey, Iron Nipple, and Mount Hamilton
20871_05
Blanca and Ellingwood.

I began making my way towards "Huerfano", and at first the ridge was flat and easy, if narrow. A couple hundred yards into it things started to get steeper, rotten, and scrambly - of course they would, they can't stay good forever.

20871_06
After the initial section of the ridge, taken to the west/climber's right. Easy but loose and exposed traversing below the ridge crest.

To describe the full ridge would be nearly impossible. There were so many small notches, all of which went at Class 3 or Class 4 in and out, while the expanses in between generally went at Class 2 or Class 2+.

20871_07
Iron Nipple in all its glory.

Near the middle of the ridge is where things were at their worst. The rock was all suspect and it was easy to pry much of it apart by hand. Exposure was at its most intense, and a couple of times there was some rather scary down climbing on loose, crumbling junk with a death fall below.

20871_08
Rock quality beginning to deteriorate midway along the ridge.
20871_09
Looking up one of the larger Class 3 notches. Rock quality was atrocious.

All in all the worst of it lasted from about halfway across the ridge to within a third or quarter from the end, or 30ish minutes of intense focus and route finding. The remaining ridge was both easier and more solid than everything prior, returning to the expected Sierra Blanca granite.

20871_10
Reaching the easy, final third of the ridge. The difficulty drops to Class 2+ at this point.

My pace quickened at this point and I was soon on the summit of "Huerfano Peak".

20871_11
Blocky, more solid rock nearing "Huerfano".
20871_12
All difficulties bypassed on the left.
20871_13
Summit of "Huerfano Peak".
20871_14
Looking back towards 13,555. This really shows the stark contrast in rock quality along the ridge.

The weather had held so far, which I was thankful for. The ridge would not have been a nice place in a storm, be it electric or not. I took a good rest on "Huerfano" then began trending west on its vast and easy south slopes. The mighty Iron Nipple was next.

20871_15
Descent down "Huerfano"'s south slopes, which mostly headed east towards Iron Nipple, the small peak barely visible in center.

The crossing to Iron Nipple was a quick and simple one, and the scrambling up to its summit was great - Class 2 boulders and a short (15 foot or so) Class 2+ to Class 3 knife edge with just a touch of exposure to top it off. Overall Iron Nipple was the best peak of the day, even if it was unranked. And who can ignore the name Iron Nipple? It's great!

20871_16
Looking north up Iron Nipple.
20871_17
Fun little knife edge to the summit of the Nipnip.
20871_18
13,555 and "Huerfano" from Iron Nipple.
20871_19
Looking north to Point 12,915.

I also got my first view of "Huerfanito", a low 13er smooshed between Blanca and Lindsey, and boy did it look like it was going to suck bigtime.

20871_20
"Huerfanito" looking like negative a million bucks.

Lindsey barely looked better but at least I knew what to expect on Lindsey. I had only done it with snow on my one previous ascent, so trying it dry would be a fun change of pace.

20871_21
Next up: Mount Lindsey.

I climbed down off Iron Nipple and made my way to the saddle with Lindsey. Along the way I ran into trio of women who said they were also going for "Huerfano" and maybe the Nipnip, to which I urged them to do the latter because it was way more fun. As I began climbing up Lindsey I noticed a veritable traffic jam on the northwest ridge of at least a dozen people going in both directions. I wasn't about to mess with that, so instead I made my way over to the heinous northwest gully instead.

20871_22
Looks pretty innocuous but it's a lot steeper and looser than it appears.

I climbed up to the top of the red gully, then across and up another gully behind it, then up rotten trash to the summit. I met a couple coming down the initial gully and the three of us laughed about how craptastic the route was, but what can you do when there's a horde on the better route? Whatever, we were faster than them anyway.

20871_23
Hamilton Peak on the far left, Little Bear slightly left of center, Blanca and Ellingwood on the right.
20871_24
"Huerfano" on the left with Iron Nipple erect along the ridgeline.

I didn't waste any time on Lindsey, since it was more of a "well, it's close, so I'll just do it" kind of thing, before heading to "Northwest Lindsey" (why is this even a thing?) and then dropping back to the north and down awful, rotting slabs and gullies to the top of the red gully I initially came up. This avoided the second red gully, which was the worse of the two.

20871_25
My descent route off Lindsey. Not a particularly fun mountain.

I retraced my steps to the Lindsey/NippyNip saddle and took stock of the route over to and up "Huerfanito".

20871_26
"Huerfanito" with the northwest ridge extending to the right.

I just didn't like the look of the south slopes, so I decided I could go up the northwest ridge instead. A short section of the Lindsey Trail took me down to tundra, which was also short, and then it dumped into a small rock glacier below the rugged buttress anchoring "Huerfanito"'s east ridge.

20871_27
End of the easy grass and start of the incredible garbage that makes up "Huerfanito".

The moment I stepped onto the rock below "Huerfanito" I knew the remaining climb was going to suck. It was incredibly loose even on the flats! I made it as far as the middle of the north face before deciding that the northwest ridge wouldn't be much better, so I turned straight south and began slugging it out with the next several hundred feet of heinous scree.

20871_28
This is going to suck.

"Huerfanito"'s north face is one of the most frustrating climbs I've done. It's one of the types where you take a step and everything within a 3-foot radius around your foot starts sliding down the hill. Truly amazing rock, let me tell you. I clawed my way up the slope, losing two feet for every three feet of gain, cursing the entire way. Near the summit ridge a couple of crappy outcroppings blocked my way, held together only by wishes and nothing more. I used them to slowly drag myself upwards, ripping off chunks as I went. Though the face was probably only Class 2+, with a short Class 3 scramble up a dihedral to the summit, it was a miserable experience I would not like to repeat.

20871_29
Blanca and Ellingwood behind, with the crappy, steep rock I ascended to "Huerfanito".

I hated "Huerfanito" so much I didn't even bother taking any summit photos, opting to get down off of the damned thing as fast as I could. I returned the way I came up and somehow it was even worse! I thought I could scree ski down, but nay, I may have spent more time on my ass on this one than upright. It's surprising the entire mountain didn't just collapse on top of me. OK, a bit dramatic, but you know what, this is easily in my top five worst routes ever. Rubbish from bottom to top and back again.

20871_30
The megachoss slope I took in both directions.

After tumbling down the slope I walked over to the grass, found a boulder to catch my breath on, and just sat for a minute. After catching up I once again found the standard Lindsey trail, then began running down it. I briefly thought about doing Point 12,915 but decided against it due to darkening skies, then passed the trio from earlier in the day. They had only done "Huerfano", it being a Centennial and all. They missed out on the fun of Iron Nipple! It began sprinkling, so I ran even faster to get back before getting soaked. I reached the upper trailhead before the trail got too muddy and slippery, then finished the run back to the lower trailhead, changed out of my muddy clothes, and hit the road before it turned into a mudhole.

20871_31
Up the valley from the upper trailhead. Iron Nipple and Point 12,915 on the left, Blanca Peak on the right.

With the exception of "Huerfanito", which deserves to be nuked, this was overall a pretty nice day full of fun scrambling and high peaks. Though the scramble up Iron Nipple was the best of the day it was also very short and wouldn't make sense to do just for its own sake. Combining it with the lengthy 13,555/"Huerfano" ridge turns it into a winning combo, but that ridge is not to be underestimated! It's quite the endeavor and definitely earned my admiration. Either way, a trip into this remote and beautiful area of Colorado is always worth it.


Statistics

Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself)
Trailhead: Lower Huerfano Trailhead (Junction of FS-580 (to Upper Huerfano/Lily Lake Trailhead) and Raspberry Trail, 37.6387, -105.4705)
Total distance: 14.66 miles
Total elevation gain: 7,064 feet
Total time: 9:59:42
Peaks: One fourteener, one fourteener sub-summit, two ranked thirteeners, two unranked thirteeners

  • Point 13,555 (unranked)
  • "Huerfano Peak", 13,828'
  • Iron Nipple, 13,500' (unranked)
  • Mount Lindsey, 14,042'
  • "Northwest Lindsey", 14,020' (unranked)
  • "Huerfanito", 13,081'

Splits:

Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
Trailhead Point 13,555 2:21:56 2:21:56 11:18
Point 13,555 "Huerfano Peak" 1:32:56 4:06:10 13:12
"Huerfano Peak" Iron Nipple 0:31:39 4:51:01 5:14
Iron Nipple Mount Lindsey 1:21:20 6:17:35 1:06
Mount Lindsey "Northwest Lindsey" 6:14 6:24:55 0:00
"Northwest Lindsey" "Huerfanito" 1:53:39 8:18:34 0:00
"Huerfanito" Trailhead 1:41:08 9:59:42 Trip End

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31


Comments or Questions
PaulVee

Nice!!
12/10/2020 17:00
Enjoyed your report... thanks for posting!!


VeraUndertow

Huferanito sucks
12/10/2020 17:53
I did most of this route in reverse order earlier this year, climbing huferanito by the northwest ridge and cursing as I slid downward the same distance as I stepped upwards, while my 4 legged counterpart made it look easy. The slide down the south slope was just as bad as the climb up. I personally thought the views from the summit was the best all day and almost almost made it worthwhile since everything else around it is huge in comparison. Also iron nipple rules, definitely the best scrambles on the day


supranihilest

Pepper
12/10/2020 18:28
@Paul: Thank you, glad you enjoyed it!

@Vera: I'll bet Pepper made it look like nothin'. I think my irritation with "Huerfanito" was likely because I did it at the end of the day. If I had done it first it probably wouldn't have seemed as bad. The downside to that is the "Huerfano"/13,555 ridge would have felt harder. I think what pretty much everyone can agree on is that "Huerfanito" is a massive choss pile, independent of its other qualities. The views were solid though for sure, unlike the peak!


coopereitel

Cool beans
12/10/2020 20:13
I'll have to take note of this for when I head down there. Thanks for the well written report!


supranihilest

The coolest beans
12/10/2020 22:06
@Cooper: You're welcome, may these peaks treat you right!


Jay521

Decision made...
12/11/2020 09:00
And to think I was considering Huerfanito on my last trip down to Lindsey... I think you made my decision for me...


Trotter

Similar in reverse
12/12/2020 14:44
We did basically your route but reversed, and minus Lindsay back in May. You should have used Huerfanitos North/NW ridge. Its solid class 2 and 3. We went up it and it was nice. Then we were lucky enough to have snow on the south side, so we glissaded down to the Huerfanito/Lindsay saddle.

I agree on the ridge difficulty between Huerfano and 13,555. One of the tougher ridge routes I've done. Of course, this was after 5000 ft of gain for the day, so we were pretty tired by then.


supranihilest

Poorfanito
12/12/2020 18:51
@Jay: By all means, don't let my crappy route stop you from trying another, which may be better - as Trotter says, the northwest ridge is apparently somewhat OK, though Vera didn't like it. There's got to be at least one OK route on this thing, right? The views really are good from its summit, even if the climb is not.

@Trotter: If only I had continued another 100 yards to the ridge! Alas. I did some research after the climb and apparently people go up the south face as well. I don't know if it's better or not, but I can't believe it would be worse. As for the Huerfano/13,555 ridge, it's definitely sustained, both in the scrambling and route finding. Rarely have I done a ridge that takes anywhere near that long. Definitely a highlight of the trip!



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