Peak(s):  "Huerfano Peak"  -  13,828 feet
Iron Nipple  -  13,500 feet
Date Posted:  11/04/2011
Date Climbed:   09/23/2011
Author:  flyingmagpie
 Indian Summer on "Huerfano" - South Slopes Route   

In late September I did a solo climb of "Huerfano" Peak and the Iron Nipple from the Lily Lake trailhead. Most 14er climbers are familiar with the Huerfano River valley approach because it is the same one used for Mt. Lindsey. My primary guidebook was Gerry and Jennifer Roach's Colorado's Thirteeners.

It was a beautiful day for climbing. The sun was shining, the wind was slight, and I didn't need a particularly early start because no storms were in the forecast. The Huerfano River was low and relatively easy to cross. Since my Lindsey climb, I found I had forgotten how sketchy the trail through the trees on the far side of the river was. I was glad to be hiking in daylight instead of by headlamp. The trail got stronger as soon as I reached the unnamed side creek, turned southeast, and began to climb steeply toward the high basin above treeline that is just below the Lindsey/Iron Nipple saddle. Here is a photo of the upper portions of the approach. I snapped the shot across the valley on the eastern slopes of California Peak on a hike to Lost Lake a few weeks before this climb. The Iron Nipple is on the left, with Lindsey just behind. A cloud shadow slants from the base of the Nipple down into treeline.

Upper Route to the Lindsey/Iron Nipple Saddle

Here is a shot of the beginning of the "Huerfano" climb.

Looking Towards the Iron Nipple from the Lindsey/Iron Nipple Saddle

To the right of the saddle, cliffs block easy access to the peak.

Cliffs Blocking the Way to "Huerfano" (Far Right) and its False Summit

The route to "Huerfano" follows the crest of the Lindsey/Iron Nipple saddle toward the Iron Nipple, until, as the Roach book advises, ". . .cliffs block simple passage. . . ."

"When cliffs appear to block simple passage go over a little notch. . ."

At the cliffs, climbers are supposed to ". . .go over a little notch. . . ." My question was "Which notch?" There are two. I chose the easiest and closest one, the v-shaped notch on the left rather than the u-shaped notch on the right. Sure enough, the v-shaped notch turned out to be the correct one. From the notch, the route descends to a "nifty slot" between cliffs. I found some cairns marking the way. Here is a shot from the "nifty slot" looking back down.

Looking Down From Inside Roach's "nifty slot"

Beyond the slot cliffs is another small saddle. Above the saddle is one of the routes up the Iron Nipple.

Saddle Between the Slot Cliffs and the Iron Nipple's Upper Slope

I chose to bypass the Nipple on the ascent, and instead drop down from the saddle past a cliff face onto what Gerry and Jennifer call a "pesky talus slope." Beyond the talus slope was first the false summit and then the actual summit of "Huerfano".

Here is the 0.1 mile descent and the Roachs' "pesky talus field"

It took a lot of rock-hopping to get across the talus slope and reach some some grassy slopes before more talus-hopping and then Class 2 scrambling up toward the summit.

On the "pesky talus field", approaching Grassy Slopes and "Huerfano's" Summit

"Huerfano's" Summit from the South

There was no one else on the summit. For a summit photo, I took a shot of my hiking staff, the register (which contained some tattered scraps of paper) and my Z-30 Gregory backpack.

"Huerfano's" Summit and Register, Lindsey Behind

There were some great views.

Crestone Group from "Huerfano's" Summit

Snowy Lindsey

I ate a snack, finished off my Gatorade, and signed one of the scraps of paper in the register. I enjoyed the day. I looked across at Lindsey and could see and hear other climbers. There was a lot of snow over there. The climbers on Lindsey's North Slope route were climbing in winter conditions, while on the South Slope route of "Huerfano" I was enjoying Indian Summer! Finally, I began the descent back toward the Iron Nipple. I took a photo on the way down.

Blanca, Ellingwood and Lily Lake in the distance

And another.

Descending "Huerfano" on the Grassy Slopes, Heading for a Hogback Ridge and then the Iron Nipple's North Slope

I did some easy Class 2+ scrambling up Iron Nipple's NE slopes, topped a ridgeline, and approached the top.

Ridgeline Just Below the Iron Nipple Summit

From the summit, I took a few more photographs.

Lindsey from Iron Nipple Summit

The Hogback Ridge, "Huerfano's" False Summit and "Huerfano" from the Iron Nipple

California Peak, Summit to Zapata Pass

Then I headed back down toward the slot through the cliffs and the route back out to the trailhead and home.

Descending the Iron Nipple's South Slope Toward the Slot, and Lindsey Saddle

Just for fun, here is a final shot of "Huerfano" Peak on another day. I took the shot from the Zapata trail up California Peak, below Zapata Pass.

"Huerfano" Peak in Clouds

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Very nice
11/08/2011 21:31
I hiked Lindsey last summer, as storm clouds were rapidly building at the summit. Thus, I missed out on all of the great views. So I love looking at pictures like yours. I love the Sangres - California Peak is definitely on my list for next year.

good pics!
11/16/2011 07:29
Thanks for sharing! I had intended to nab the Iron Nipple and Huerfano when I did LIndsey in 2010, but it was an extremely blustery May day, and the wind not only later demolished my tent, but killed my spirit for getting over that way. Thanks for providing inspiration to get back to this special place!

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