Peak(s):  Mt. Lindsey  -  14,042 feet
Date Posted:  08/10/2021
Date Climbed:   08/06/2021
Author:  Paul M
 Mt. Lindsey NW ridge   

On this trip to Colorado, I had planned to climb Blanca/Ellingwood and Little Bear by camping at Lake Como. However, the road to Lake Como was washed out by a creek running too fast and deep to cross without getting soaked. So instead, I went around to the other side of those peaks and climbed Mt. Lindsey. This is a really fun, scenic climb, especially if you take the NW ridge route. It's also a long, tiring, steep hike to get from the trailhead up to the saddle and the start of the scrambling route.

Because I was staying more than two hours away, I simply drove to the Lily Lake trailhead the evening before and camped there. As of 8/6/21, the road was an easy 4WD road. I was driving a Nissan Rogue with AWD, and had no difficulty, even over the last 2 miles to the trailhead which is the worst section. I don't think an ordinary 2WD car would make it up, but I'd think any 4WD vehicle would be fine. Compared to some of the 4WD roads I've driven in CO - the road to the Nellie Creek trailhead, the road to Crystal and the Lead King Basin trailhead, the Lake Como Road - this one's in better shape.

I hit the trail a little before 6:00. The path is deceptively calm at its start:

Near the start of the path. Can't see Lindsey itself yet.

After an easy mile of hiking, you'll come to a fork: stay left, then at another small fork very soon after the first, stay left again. Here's where you'll have to cross a creek: You may want a pair of sandals handy so you don't soak your shoes / socks. I was able to carefully balance my way across on fallen logs and branches.

After the crossing, the trail becomes much more difficult: It begins to ramp steeply uphill and remain steep for quite a while. You'll in and out of a forest, and ascending by a boulder field and stream.

Caption Here

Note that while you're in and around the forest, the path can be a little vague. There are even a few places where the path seems to fork in two and then rejoins. Pay attention, and you'll be fine.

The path follows this lovely stream for a while.
Here's an opening that looks like it would be fun to explore. I'm not sure if it's a natural cave or an old mine, but given how rectangular the opening is, I'd bet on a mine. I wonder what was mined here?

The path wanders into an expansive, scenic basin, and for a while becomes much easier crossing the gentle grade of the basin.

Lindsey's summit is just barely visible now!
Looking across the basin
Ran into this little guy too! There were plenty of marmots on this climb.

From the basin, you'll begin to see the path ahead: it turns slightly left and climbs a long, steep grass ramp that leads to a short boulderfield crossing and the saddle.

The boulderfleid, with the saddle right ahead.

The boulderfield is similar to the one on Longs Peak but much shorter to cross. The path vanishes here, but cairns lead you through. And if there aren't cairns, just ascend to the saddle.

On the saddle, looking up Lindsey. Both routes are visible.

Once you at last reach the saddle, quite honestly most of the hard work is done. You've ascended nearly 3000 feet in two steep grinds, and the remaining part is the fun part. Once you reach the saddle, Lindsey is the peak to your right, and unranked 13er Iron Nipple is the peak to your left. Iron Nipple can also be climbed - it's supposed to be class 2 - should that interest you as well.

Now, it's time to decide how you're going to climb Lindsey. From here on the saddle you can climb up the big gully on the north face. This climb is class 2+ or 3 with very little exposure and a pretty well cairned route. The gully route emerges on the far side of the false summit, leaving you a short, clear, easy walk to the summit. The gully, though, is steep and full of loose dirt, pebbles, and bigger rocks.

Your other option is the scramble right up the ridge in front of you. The ridge has more difficult scrambling, though it can be kept at 3+, more exposure, and no cairns or trail to mark the route (until the two routes join right before the summit). But, the views are always better on a ridge, and the ridge is very, very solid. I chose the ridge for the ascent and am very glad I did! If you stay mostly just left of the ridge crest, you're good to go.

It's hard to see in the glare, but here I'm looking up at the crux wall.

The big, flat headwall that is easily visible from the saddle is the crux of the NW ridge route. Right before you reach the base of the wall, there is a low point in the ridge and a narrow knife-edge to cross. I'd recommend dropping off to the right for an easy scramble around it. Then at the crux wall itself, you have several choices. There's an easier, class 3 path around to the left of the wall, and there's a more direct class 4 route straight up / just to the left of the big crack. I tried the class 4 route, since I hadn't climbed class 4 before, and found it no trouble. Hopefully this means I can handle the class 4 climbs on other 14ers OK.

Once you're over the crux wall, the toughest scrambling is behind you. BUT be aware that Lindsey has a false summit and the ridge route takes you right over it. Don't get your hopes up too soon! Once you're on the false summit, the true summit is just a few hundred yards of easy hiking ahead.

On the false summit, looking at the summit.

Between the false summit and true summit, a trail appears as the gully route arrives from below on your left. In no time at all, you'll be on top!

View from the summit

Another view from the summit

Another view from the summit, this time with me in it. I had the summit to myself, even though it was still well before noon. I had seen only a few other groups, the last of which were descending the crux as I was approaching it.

The gully route is pretty well cairned, and for the sake of comparison I decided to descend that way. If you do this too, watch for the path to split off to the right just before you reach the false summit on the descent. Now, I didn't ascend the gully, I only descended it. But I would submit that the gully route would be quite a bit more difficult and time consuming to climb than the ridge. The gully is loose and steep. Some of the loose rocks/dirt can be avoided by climbing along the gully's side, but that's tougher class 3 scrambling similar to what you have on the ridge anyway. Unless you are terrified of exposure, the ridge is, in my opinion, the way to go.

High in the gully on the descent.

Looking up the gully from its bottom.

Some general thoughts on Lindsey:

- Though I think the ridge is quicker and easier, the scrambling is a little tougher and more exposed than some of the other other class 3 routes I've done like Longs' Keyhole Route and Quandary's West Ridge.

- Having said that, the toughest part of this climb, in my opinion, is the long, steep, tiring ascent from the trailhead up to the saddle. Both the long climb through the trees and the long climb up the grassy ramp are serious ascents. Leave earlier than the distance and elevation gain would make you think you have to, since that elevation is mostly gained in two very steep spurts!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Hello again!
08/12/2021 10:46
I thought about adding a trip report but I'll just show up in the comments. This was my first summit attempt of any mountain. As a Hoosier, I knew I would underestimate. I underestimated way more than I expected to. I drove an oddysey so I parked well before TH. It was 6.6 miles to the summit for me, and took me 4:40 to summit. Almost 8 to return to TH. I thumbed it from Trailhead back to my car. I was completely wore out by the time I hit the valley coming out of the woods. I prayed for strength and God answered. I was solo, but I joined a hiker from Virginia first mile of trail. And followed group of 3 coloradans part way down. Everyone was very kind. By my count you were the 8th summit of the day (a friday.) We passed just before you hit the crux wall if memory serves. I went up and down the crack on the crux wall. I dont know how climbing is rated. What level is that route scored? Anyways, it was an awesome and surreal experience. I hope to get in more peaks over the coming years. In the future I will do hill training for months before I come, as i did no training on this one.

Paul M
08/14/2021 21:56
Hi, good to hear from you! Yes, I remember running into four folks who had just descended the crux wall when I was approaching it from below. I didn't see a single other person after you guys until I was back well below the saddle much later! I must have been the last one up there that day, even though I was off the summit around 11:15. I live way down near sea level, and even after 3 days at 8000 feet to adjust, I still find it much more difficult to hike uphill at 10,000 - 14,000 feet than to do so down here. I have to give myself plenty of time.

According to the route description, the crack climb up the wall is class 4. I had climbed plenty of class 3 but no class 4 previously, but didn't find the class 4 route much harder.

I'll probably be out there next year to get a few more 14ers, let me know if you want to try one!

08/16/2021 18:02
Great TR! I just did the NW Ridge a few weeks ago and loved it! We also descended the gully and really regretted it! Your TR is spot on! Great job!

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