Mt. Lindsey - 14,042 feet
Mt. Lindsey - 14,042 feet
|Lindsey for the Lily-Livered|
(Note: I'm sure I will eventually run out of easily alliterated peaks, but for now, I'm making the most of my English degree, dangnabit!)
Prior to this year, Longs was my only Class 3 fourteener. I wanted to climb more, in no small part to erase the shame of having wound up hospitalized for two days after my first summit of it, but I was a little reluctant, in no small part due to the shame of having wound up hospitalized for two days after my first summit of it.
Earlier this season, I finally ran through all the Class 1 and regular Class 2 routes up fourteeners in Colorado, so I had no choice but to move on. With a solid-looking weather forecast as encouragement, I took on Wetterhorn Peak last week, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had on it! Thus encouraged by the apparent breaking of the Longs Peak Curse, I made plans with Justin, a Texas A&M student in Colorado for the summer, to take on Lindsey...and to do it via the Northwest Ridge route.
Which, if nothing else, does give you nicer views of Lindsey's outstanding neighbors, though I grabbed this particular shot from the summit.
The first challenge to be approached consisted of the road. At a rating of 3/6 on this site's ranking system - Easy 4WD - I felt pretty good about my Subaru Outback's ability to handle it; Justin's car could not. Unlike most of the other AWD-necessitating roads I've driven, however, this one lacks a suitable pull-off still in walking distance of the trail itself - there are very few places to pull off, period, after Gardner, and I would not have wanted to take anything less than my 8.7" of ground clearance even to the so-called hard 2WD portion of the road 2 miles from the TH, so if you do have something lighter than a small SUV, I'd make plans to park in Gardner and meet your more gas-guzzling hiking buddy there. Also be aware that Google Maps will try to drop you several miles and fifteen minutes short of the actual trailhead, so just keep going until you reach at least the alleged 2WD trailhead.
The second challenge is the flattish first mile. Hikers unaccustomed to fourteeners will likely find this section amazing; those of us who have a few under our belts spend it reflecting on the stats we read about the mileage and overall elevation gain and understand that when said elevation gain hits, it's going to hit harder than the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. And sure enough, that ascent out of the forest is a strain on the lungs, though one punctuated by views of the waterfall and wildflowers! Still, Justin said nothing about my probable powers of exaggeration when I informed him that, according to my calculations, the climb through the forest was liable to take only slightly less than forever.
As you marvel at the eons it took for that water to shape the valley in that particular way, you may find yourself wondering why that stream was in such a hurry to get down that it couldn't have been more considerate of your spasming thighs.
The sharp climb breaks for a while just above treeline, smoothing out into gentle, grassy hills with spectacular views of the surrounding Sangres as well as the ridge connecting Lindsey and Iron Nipple. Another steep, this time looser spike is the only route up to the ridge, however.
Enjoy this view once you reach it, because it only goes uphill from here...and in varying degrees of sharpness, at that!
Once we reached the ridge, Justin and I took a break to hydrate, put on our helmets, swap out clothing layers (him), and gasp for air (me). Then the adventure began. We cut up to the ridge as soon as possible, and for the most part, this did not exceed our expectations of Class 2+ with some exposure on climber's (or is that faller's?) right. When we reached the last point before the crux, however, we realized that we'd made an error somewhere in our calculations. Justin examined the drop between him and the base of the crux wall and declared, "This is definitely Class 4, at least." He then followed up with, "This is more like the Knife Edge on Torreys than the actual Knife Edge on Torreys!"
He elected to try and eventually succeed at navigating a path from his vantage point directly to the crux wall while I decided to tuck my tail between my legs and backtrack, perhaps all the way down to the gully. Happily, before I got too far down, a climber already making his descent who looked like he could free solo The Diamond before breakfast told me there was totally a Class 3 way to stay on the Ridge. When I asked him how he'd dealt with the scary, exposed segment my hiking buddy had just been straddling, the downclimber frowned and said, "I didn't see anything like that. There were good handholds and grass where I was."
Fortified by this exchange, I went back up a few feet, where, wonder of wonders, I looked to climber's left and saw a clear, easy, direct line of grass and good handholds across to the crux wall exit. Some of the footholds were narrower than I was used to, but thanks in part to the solid-as-promised handholds, I never felt sketched out by the thought of the drop below me.
I had to wait at the crux exit for another group of downclimbers as they, out of necessity, let more rocks than good times roll. After a few feet of easy Class 3 scrambling, I then waited again for a duo navigating the top of the crux, one of whom descended directly via the crack. Watching them was enough to convince me that I'd likely need to run through all the Class 3s before I developed the nerve for Class 4 climbing, and while I'd like to think there was at least a smidgen of Class 4 in the route I took up to the left of the crack, I'm pretty sure I followed the straight-up Merely Class 3 option.
I was too hell-bent on routefinding and combating my occasional surges of vertigo to take pictures between splitting off from the standard route and reaching the summit, so in lieu of any visual imagery that might actually be useful for slightly anxious Lindsey trip-planners, have some pretty flowers instead!
The rest of the route up to the summit was a fairly straightforward talus hop along the ridge, most of which I spent thinking, "Okay, this next bump HAS to be the real summit. Okay, this NEXT bump has to be the real summit. Okay, THIS next bump..." When it seemed like I was running out of possible false summits, I pulled myself up...and let out an inarticulate wail of despair - a Great Barbaric Yawp, as a climber who elected to let me lead the way put it - as I saw the real summit a short downclimb and longer upclimb away.
I talked to Justin only briefly on the actual summit, just long enough for us to congratulate each other and grab each other's summit victory pics. I then bid him good-bye and wished him luck with the rest of his studies, as he had to be back in Denver shortly enough that he was better off catching a ride with one of the faster climbers already heading down who had offered him a seat.
But what a victory pic it was!
My remaining summitmates and I agreed not only that Lindsey was our mutual top pick for Least Favorite Fourteener Ever and also that the ridge route was sufficient fun going up that we did not need to repeat it on the way down. We thus decided to join forces to take on the gully for our return. The pros of this: not as steep or, well, crux-y as the ridge! The downside: much, MUCH looser than the ridge, and since it is still rated Class 3, albeit the Easy side of it, there are still a couple moves that will have you questioning every life choice you made that led you to that point.
Further cementing Lindsey's status as my current Least Favorite Fourteener is the summit register tube...which was empty. If anyone sees a short-ish, bespectacled person of indeterminate gender wandering around Cap Hill, cursing Lindsey with every other breath, it's not because of a bad breakup with a newly-ex-girlfriend.
Fortunately, these brief steep sections where facing in may be preferable are indeed brief, and since I was near the back, I had the distinct advantage of being able to watch as well as be talked through those maneuvers. The exit from the gully back to the saddle is loose but no biggie compared to what came before - there are sections of the upper gully where it is necessary to go one at a time, as there is no way to avoid knocking at least a few smaller rocks loose.
Group sweeper Johnny's fingers serve as a reference point for one of the steepest sections of the downclimb, one which I did not descend facing in; I instead mostly used a position that will have the gynecologist-visiting members of this forum cringing when I refer it to as "Feet in the Stirrups."
J.J. Abrams approves of this shot of the final tricky section on the descent. I came down near the crack in the darkest section at center of the photo, and that time, I was facing in.
The rest of my group pulled ahead of me once we were all back at the saddle, which was fine, since I knew the rest would be tedious for me but not dangerous. I did find myself mincing down both the steep sections, however; while I generally prefer not to carry trekking poles on Class 3s as I find them more of a hindrance than a help, I would've benefited from carrying mine up to the saddle and retrieving them on the way down - the extra balance points would've been nice!
Still, aside from missing the logs my hiking buddy used to get across the creek on the way up and thus making some of my ascent in wet socks, then forgetting about them on the way down and thus returning to my car with wet socks (fortunately, I had my sandals to change into anyway!), the forest side of the ridge was nothing unmanageable. Nevertheless, I was glad Justin had caught a more efficient ride down...he’d needed to be off the mountain by noon, and despite our 6 a.m. start, I did not return to my car until 3:30!
This one did knock more out of me than I had anticipated; I was hoping I'd be able to stay in the Sangres to climb Kit Carson and Challenger the day after (I'd originally planned to do them the day before Lindsey, but those plans got scrapped by a low-oil light on my car that I worried meant the undercarriage had had a too-close encounter of the rocky kind on the Matterhorn Creek road - it happily turned out to be much ado about nothing, but better safe than sorry!), but after sagging into my driver's seat, I decided to wait until I was less wiped to take on a twofer that requires a re-ascent of the first half.
A dinner of solidly mediocre Arby's at the Monument Flying J and a quick shower before bed capped my day, and while I am disappointed that I felt it necessary to sit at home and let such a gorgeous day slip past, the fresh bruise on my right butt cheek is reminding me that I don't need any more rocks jabbed into it just yet. And if I need any laurels to rest it on, there is the fact that I successfully summited Lindsey, which means that I can safely tuck that peak in my One and Done file...though there will be the matters of Iron Nipple and Huerfano when I start focusing more on thirteeners.
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