Peak(s):  Mt. Lindsey  -  14,042 feet
Date Posted:  08/15/2020
Modified:  05/01/2021
Date Climbed:   08/15/2020
Author:  anjelidoty
 More adventure than anticipated!   

More Than We Bargained For

It was a clear & starry 5:15am when the four of us set off to summit Mt. Lindsey along the NW ridge route. One of our crew had never climbed a 14er, & the other two wanted more experience with exposure, hoping to eventually conquer the Little Bear/Blanca traverse.

The first part of the hike cruised by. The trail threading through the trees below the boulder field split off into multiple routes, but they all reconnected eventually. Although the trek began mellow, we were soon shedding layers as we hiked the steep gully. We opted not to explore the abandoned mine tunnel at the time (later explorations revealed it to be as spooky as we guessed) & with each step up the trail were rewarded with increasingly gorgeous views as the basin and its surrounding ridges came into sight. All along the treeline trail there are spots to camp. If you wanted to hike in a day before to shave time off your summit, it's definitely possible. Camping in the basin would probably be an option too, although we didn't see anyone there.

We reached the saddle between Mt. Lindsey & Iron Nipple after ~2.5 hours. Now the real adventure began. An established trail extends from the saddle point towards the peak. Ridge-goers are supposed to follow this trail at first, but where it turns East they stay right & continue directly alongside the ridge. There's a nice, large cairn marking where the ridge route begins & where hikers should depart the trail & begin trekking alongside the ridge.

Well, we missed that cairn.

I kept waiting for a clear sign indicating we should leave the SE trail & get on the ridge (for e.g., a clear sign like the cairn we strolled right past), but soon the base of the gully was in sight & I knew we'd missed something. I cross-referenced the GPX route & realized that although this trail was only off the ridge route by a small amount as the crow flies, we had quickly lost a considerable amount of elevation. The guys didn't want to backtrack or risk the loose rocks of the Gully, so we bee-lined from the SE trail straight up to the ridge. It was mostly class 3-4 scrambling with a few class 5 maneuvers. This popped us right out at the base of the Crux wall. The guys said that after the trail-to-ridge-scramble, the Crux wall felt easy. It honestly wasn't that difficult, but the rock fall potential is no joke— it's often other climbers that present a greater risk than the climbing itself. The summit wasn't far & the stable ridge route was much preferred. We summited right after 9am; just under 4 hours.

On the way back down, I noticed another group scrambling from the SE trail up to regain the ridge before the Crux. Seems like we weren't the only ones who missed the cairn, although coming back down, the impressive rock stack seemed obvious. In any case, I added a few stones & built a second cairn to draw more attention to the branching-off point.

All in all, we got more than bargained for & I was reminded how short an amount of time it takes to get very off-route.


As the only female on yet another guys' trip, I want to encourage more women to summit these peaks. I am 5'2" & 122 lbs— and scramble up ridges nimbly & often faster than most guys in my groups. I am often dismayed by how few females I see on these trails. For Lindsey, I'd estimate that 1 in 10 hikers were women. We need to change the rhetoric around 14ers— yes, these treks have risk factors & require endurance. They can be grueling & should be done with confidence in one's physical capabilities. Courage, awareness, & preparation are crucial.

But there's nothing inherently male about any of that.

You don't need to be able to bench 150lbs to hike 14 miles. You don't need calves of steel or a rock-solid core to assess risks along a ridgeline & pick a smart route. You don't need testosterone to make clear decisions & do your research before setting out. You need confidence, bravery, endurance, awareness, preparation, & the ability to make clear decisions & assess risk. Let's un-gender these attributes. Here's to seeing more women conquer these peaks.

A note about getting there: Google Maps was not the most knowledgeable about the area. To get to the Huerfano/Lilly Lake Trailhead, we took Colorado Hwy 69 West from Walsenburg & turned left on County Rd 550 (37.783048, -105.177846). After driving about 7 miles on County Rd 550, it turns into County Rd 580 (there's a T-junction w/ CR-570 here). Stay on CR-580 & it'll take you all the way to the Trailhead.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Rollie Free
Same Here
11/17/2020 08:17
We were determined to climb the ridge also but before we knew what was going on we were staring up the gulley. We decided to go with it and while it had its own fun lament we didn't take the effort to go back. Seems to me there was this fainter trail heading off and I was thinking that certainly couldn't be it, evidently it was.
I really want to go back and try it again sometime (doing the ridge) as the entire experience was pretty memorable. Isolated, awesome views etc. Definitely one of my favorites. That section after the initial flat area is hands down the steepest forest I've ever hiked. You could feel the gravity dragging you back down.

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