North Face Alternative and Northwest Ridge

North Face Alternative and Northwest Ridge

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 37.58380°N / 105.4443°W
Additional Information Route Type: Scrambling
Seasons Season: Summer, Fall
Additional Information Time Required: A long day
Additional Information Difficulty: Intermediate
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: Class 3
Sign the Climber's Log


First, thanks much to the page owner's caution about the "standard" gulley route. It was very good advice. On inspection I found this route to be tedious, dangerous, and unnecessary. I avoided it entirely, even though I deviated from the northwest ridge on my descent. This gulley attracts people because it is a "visually obvious" route and gives false comfort for those who are afraid of getting lost on the mountain.

Mt. Lindsey is not a walkup and it is not for beginners. I wanted to provide some detailed description of the alternative routes here, because there are good options that are much safer than the gulley route. However precisely because they follow stable, solid rock, there is no "trail" (or *scarring*) left behind to give an obvious cue of which path to follow. That is why this mountain is not for beginners: The obvious route is unsafe, slick, and filled with falling rock; the safer routes require a routefinding skill level that I would consider intermediate.

The Northwest Ridge


North Face Closeup

This approach is visually intimidating, but its bark is much worse than its bite. From the saddle where the "standard route" traverses over to the north face gulley, instead, head right and gain the northwest ridge on an easy scramble. Continue toward the "bowl face," which is clearly identifiable by a dark, central crevice that goes up the middle.

No matter how intimidating, continue to approach this bowl face on an easy scramble until you are directly at its bottom entrance. You will probably have to downclimb a few feet to avoid some minimal exposure on the last move into the bowl face. After you do this, you will be surprised at how well this route has tricked your eyes.

This intimidating bowl face proves to be an easy class 3 scramble with minimal exposure. It is suitable for anyone who has a moderate level of scrambling and bouldering experience. However, it is definitely not suitable for "beginner hikers." (But neither is the gulley route, which traps people into a false sense of safety. This is why Lindsey is *not* a walkup.)

Scramble halfway up the bowl face by using the dark crevice. There has been no real exposure to this point. In the middle of the bowl face, you can either trend to the right side of the bowl and continue upward, or you can trend left, where you will find a series of ledges that take you out of the bowl entirely. It seemed to me that going right held more exposure. By using the ledges to exit the bowl on the left, I found an easy class 3 route and an exit that had, at most, 20' feet of vertical exposure.

At this point your route around or past the bowl face will narrow, and you will see that there are significant pitches and exposure below you. Simply avoid this by contouring gently upward, around, and out of the bowl. The narrowness of the routes past the upper part of this bowl are the hardest parts to negotiate on the northwest ridge. Move slowly and gain elevation back to the defined northwest ridge that continues to the summit.

North Face Alternative

Picking up with my last comment about the narrow exits from the bowl face: On descent I wasn't entirely pleased with my re-entry into this area. It takes a little skill to know when to leave the northwest ridge, and begin a contour-descent back to the point where you reenter the bowl face. Know your abilities. Move slowly. Don't be a rock jock. On this day while descending Mt. Lindsey, I watched two helicopters airlift people off Blanca Peak.

The rock here is indeed stable and safe, but the pitch, areas of slab, and limited sight distance will -and should- make you think about your route. After spending some time in this area and retracing my route back to the bowl, I also noticed that the north face of Lindsey still held some alternatives to the "standard" gulley route. I left the "northwest ridge" route, and did some of my own routefinding.

North Face Alternative (Descent):

From a point on the northwest ridge not too far above the "bowl face" there is a very good bouldering area that effectively lies between the northwest ridge and the "standard" gulley route. Descending the spine of the northwest ridge, as you approach the limited sight distances near the "northwest ridge bowl face," lose some elevation directly onto the north face, and then begin to contour back along the mountain. A view of the "standard gulley route" lies in front of you. At this point you will probably see people slipping and kicking rocks around inside the "standard" gulley route.

While you contour back and slowly descend, it will seem like you are trying to enter the "standard gulley route." Do not do this. As you approach the gulley, look down and left for a series of connected ledges that zig-zag downward. Following these zig-zags, you will effectively be funneled into a small and lightly-defined bowl area. You should be able to stay on a very solid class 3 scramble with very limited exposure. Continuing downward, you will simply pop out of this funnel, and join the standard route precisely where it starts up the infamous gulley. Now that you have avoided all the dangers of the gulley, simply take the established trail back to the first saddle.

North Face Alternative (Ascent):

To describe this route for an ascent, from the saddle, take the defined trail across the north face and toward the "standard" gulley. When the defined trail gives out and you are inclined to enter the gulley, instead, bail out and to the right. Begin scrambling upward on class 3 material, staying right. The bouldering is fun and solid. After moving away from the gulley, straighten your approach to aim directly for the crest of the northwest ridge above you. You will have to zig-zag between the boulders and contours, but keep heading up. Once on top of the ridge, head left and traverse toward the summit.

Essential Gear

I would recommend a helmet on this route, particularly because of the presence of other people climbing above you. I carried my arrester with me on this mountain, but did not need to use it.



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