Mount Lindsey Winter Summit 2.7.09Group: Stuart Clark, Ben Conners
Route: Northwest Ridge from Singing River Ranch
Stats: 21 Miles, 5,500 Feet, 15.5 hours
Well with only 13 peaks left on his list, Stu has the rest of them planned out to be completed by the end of May, after which he will be leaving Colorado for good (I feel very sorry for him but he's gotta do what he's gotta do). I've committed to see his goal to finish them all through with him, as he was there for me when I was hell bent on the same feat. I was originally planning to head for Longs this weekend to join the Trough group but bailed at the last minute when I saw the weather forecast was much better down south, and Stu was all over the idea of getting Lindsey out of the way earlier than planned. We left Denver and headed towards Walsenberg Friday night around 11, the drive to Gardner was short and sweet. We pulled in to the Singing River Ranch at 3am and were abysmally disappointed to find that the road was impassable past the ranch, 6 miles below the Lily Lakes TH. In truth we had no idea what to expect for this road, and I could not find a single trip report online for a winter ascent of Lindsey. Well, at least we knew we were in for a rare one!
Snow drifts and ice sheets:
We got a nice alpine start at a quarter to four and tried to set a decent pace knowing we had a 20+ mile day ahead. We blazed it to the summer TH over numerous snow drifts and ice sheets, I completely ate sh*t on a patch of black ice and had to take a moment and roll on the ground in pain while Stu laughed his head off, OWEE! By the time we hit the wide-open meadow just past the summer TH the sun was lighting up Blanca quite nicely.
The snow started to get deeper in this valley:
After postholing through the woods for an hour, we were able to locate the Nipple and head in the general direction of the gully I remembered taking when I climbed Lindsey in the summer. We found it quickly and began gaining elevation, at which point the snow pack began to firm up and shoeing up the slope became a breeze.
Good Morning Blanca:
I was continuously pushing my ski pole through to get an idea of the pack, most of what we found all day was a hard crust over a fairly solid base, near treeline in the shade however we found some faceted sugar underneath bullet-proof crust. There were a few slopes we tried to avoid but they were few and far between. On the whole I was very happy with the conditions.
What great weather we had:
Stu making good time up the gully:
Within 30 minutes of gaining the gully it opened up into the broad basin below the Nipple, this is one of my favorite places in the whole state.
The Iron Nip shows itself:
. . . and Lindsey's summit cone appears over the ridge:
We had really burned it to this point, we decided with the weather conditions holding fine and the summit in sight, a long break was in order. We hung out on some rocks in the basin and snacked on fruit roll-ups and lemonade, I also had some SPF 65 left over from Aconcagua that Stu promptly rejected after it made his face feel like he "smeared it with peanut butter".
Lindsey in her winter . . . bikini?
We were happy to see the lack of cover on Lindsey, instead of hitting the couloir we thought it better to take advantage of the NW Ridge, a much more concise route which appeared to be dry. We dropped our snowshoes on the saddle and headed for the ridge.
Looking down over the bottom half of the NW Ridge:
Although still the best option in my opinion, I was surprised at the difficulty of a few of the moves I had to make on the ridge. The snowline required us to stay almost on the exact ridge crest which forced another degree of exposure. Overall it wasn't too bad though, we made it up and over the class 4 stretch and scrambled to the false summit fairly effortlessly.
Stu climbing near the crux:
The bottom of the crux wall:
Above the crux wall:
. . . and nearing the false summit:
The weather continued to hold just fine, I was feeling pretty spent at this point and was happy that I could get away with zombie walking across to the true summit:
We summited at exactly noon, making the ascent from the ranch in a little over 8 hours. The wind picked up on the summit so we spent only a few minutes at the top before turning back, I was ready to begin the descent as I was concerned that the weather was going to deteriorate, it never did.
Stu arriving at the summit:
Blanca, Gash Ridge, and Ellingwood:
We descended the NW Ridge and decided on a descending traverse to the west of the ridge line which effectively bypassed the enormous fall potential to the east. Within an hour of leaving the summit we were on solid ground again and descending below the Lindsey/Nipple saddle.
Picking our way through the basin, 2:00pm:
The weather started to cool down a bit:
We slogged through the deep powder in the valley to the summer TH and took another long break. It was 4pm and we had another 6 miles ahead of us, so the headlamps came out. It ended up not being as bad as I expected, we were able to keep a pretty good conversation going which alleviated the lengthy road walk. We arrived at the car a bit past 7pm and found ourselves eating buffalo burgers and downing beers in Walsenberg an hour and a half later. Another great day in the mountains with a tough winter summit to boot! Thanks for reading.
A parting sunset: