Mount Lindsay is a fun and challenging climb, by fourteener standards. It has enough challenge and exposure to get your blood flowing, but doesn't scare you away. Of the 37 fourteeners I've completed so far, this one ranks in the top 5 for enjoyment and challenge. In a nutshell, it is a notch above Wetterhorn, but a notch below Pyramid Peak in its challenge and climbing difficulty.
First off, I would have to say that the trailhead at the end of the road in the Huerfano River Valley has to be one of the most beautiful places in all of Colorado. What a spectacular place camp and start a climb! The view from there spans the north slope of the Blanca range from Ellingwood over to Blanca Pk and on to the Iron Nipple. You can not see Mt. Lindsay from the trailhead as it is located more or less behind the Iron Nipple to the southeast. There are several good campsites near the end of the road within 200 yards of the trailhead.
The first part of the hike is a pleasant one mile warm up stroll along the valley bottom to a forested drainage beyond the pointed rock formation below the Iron Nipple. You then angle southwest up the trail through this forested area along a cascading creek, arriving in a nice alpine basin at about 12,000. Although pretty, this climb is steep and the least pleasant part of the climb.
Crossing the basin, you climb up to the Iron Nipple-Lindsey connecting ridge on an excellent trail. The view of Blanca Peak and Ellingwood Point is breathtaking from this vantagepoint.
With only a few patchy clouds in sight, my friend Tom and I embarked on the climb up Mt. Lindsey. We decided to ascend via the Northwest Ridge route, which proved to be a great choice. The rock on this route is excellent, with lots of sturdy hand and footholds the entire way. I didn't dislodge a single rock and none of my holds let loose when tested. The route was mostly fun Class III scrambling and modest, but challenging Class IV climbing. The crux is a small cliff face about half way up that requires a few solid class IV moves with exposure of about 30 feet (see Attm's photos) - no big deal but potentially scary for climbers who don't like exposure. Again, with bomber hand and footholds (similar to Crestone Needle), this climb is a joy. After crossing a few "falsies", you stroll to the summit.
For the descent we made the mistake of going down the couloir (see Be Warned-North Face Couloir). In short, this route sucks. It is full of loose rock and gravel and is a nightmare. There was very little snow to worry about, but the rockfall is a real hazard here. Anyone who takes this route should be very careful of climbers above you and the risks you pose to the climbers below. We did better to descend the left side of the couloir to avoid the typical fourteener shuffle down through the loose rock and scree. If I were to do this peak again, I would climb and descend the ridge route, despite the need to downclimb the Class IV parts. At least you'll take each step with confidence knowing that it won't roll out from under you and potentially kill someone below!
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