With Little Bear in our pockets from last weekend, we were planning on keeping a low profile this weekend but on Thursday I started to get the 14er itch. On Friday, the weather forecast looked just too good to pass up and at 6p we decided why not give Mt. Lindsey another try. By 7p, we had everything packed up and were off for the 3 hour drive down to to the Sangre de Cristos. At 11p, we found a nice place for the truck and set up for a short night’s sleep in the back. At 3:30a alarms went off, and we started our hike in at 3:45a. By 7:30a, we reached the saddle point and the summit at 9:45a. After taking our time on the descent and ~13 miles later, we were back at the truck at 3p. With a few slices of left-over pizza, we were ready for the drive home and made it back at 7p, just in time to enjoy a quick burger and watch the classic car parade through Golden. Whew! what a Saturday. Needless to say Sunday has been a day of rest. Overall, the route proved to be more challenging than both of us expected. Mentally and physically, we are both beat.
For this trip, we didn’t try to set any speed records, and I enjoyed taking many pictures. I was feeling a little under the weather too with a bad headache, but figured getting to the mountains must be the best remedy. We couldn’t get over how beautiful the basin and mountains were, constantly changing as the sun came out and clouds rolled in later. Maddy was intent on trying to tell us she wanted to come along, but this one was just a little bit too much for her, especially with a pesky leg strain/limp that she hasn’t been able to shake off.
After hiking in 3 miles in the dark, the horizon began to lighten up.
The mountains began to light up and we got our first views of Blanca and Ellingwood Point.
We continued the approach through a snow-filled gully.
Near the top, it gave way to some enormous boulders.
Near treeline, the views opened up and we got our first glimpses of the tip of Mt. Lindsey and the Iron Nipple (left).
Blanca and Ellingwood continued to shine in the sun.
From there, we made way up the “ramp.” This was deceivingly long and tiring.
Up higher, an impressive ridge connecting to Blanca became visible.
Another snowfield was all that was left of the approach, before the climb.
Finally, we could see the full peak and the challenges ahead. I think Linnea was just starting to wake up. After a short discussion, we decided to head up the North Face gully, instead of the ridge.
Before climbing the gully, we had to traverse a couple steep snow-fields.
The amount of snow in the gully was more than I had expected and wind-loading had caused certain sections to approach 50 degrees. It was set up quite hard, and I started the arduous task of kicking in steps. Unlike last weekend on Little Bear, this route was barren of previous tracks. Luckily, we had our crampons (and ice axes, of course), which were really handy, especially in a narrow section where the snow was icy.
At the top of the gully, in the notch, we could see that our work was not done. I wasn’t too excited about traversing over a couple wind-loaded, steep gullys, so after some discussion, we decided to ascend directly to the ridge. This mixed rock and snow section was the most challenging part of the climb. Luckily, the rocks were really solid and we were able to find good hand and feet holds. Linnea did great here and led this section.
At the ridge, the anxiety turned into excitement and the summit came into view.
Just kidding! You would think that after studying the topos 3 weeks ago I would remember the false summit. Mentally, I was fatigued and had to chuckle I forgot about this and so did Linnea. After a short walk up the snow packed ridge, the real summit came into view.
We had made our goal. We felt particular content accomplishing this route under the current conditions. Surprisingly, nobody else was up there.
I had fun taking lots of pictures of Linnea and funny poses.
The Crestones in the distance look like they have quite a bit of snow.
I zoomed over to Little Bear and you can just see some small dots which must be some climbers that reached the summit.
After a quick re-hydrate and re-fuel it was time to face the down-climb.
We thought about descending the North Couloir, another route that was filled in nicely with snow and potentially easier. We decided against it though, and slowly made our way back down the ridge, not excited to face the difficult down-climb.
We took it slow and safe, and we made it safely back to the notch and top of the North gully. I’ll admit I got shaky legs about 3/4 of the way down on a slick rock slab. Linnea was great guiding this part.
Looking back up, we were relieved to put his behind us.
Now, just a steep down-climb through the gully, traverse out, and we were home free. The stairs I had kicked in held up great, and we made our way down, just as the sun began to hit the gully.
Near the bottom of the gully, I could see our last traverse.
Linnea was excited to make it down, and all the steep climbing with crampons has taken a toll on her knee.
I had fun looking back at the route and taking more pictures. What a day!
Finally, we gained the ridge and made our way back to the saddle point where we stashed our snow-shoes under a rock-pile.
One last view of Mt. Lindsey.
On the hike out, Blanca and Elllingwood reminded us of their presence.
Surprisingly, we were both content taking our time and enjoying the scenery.
Linnea enjoyed a quick glissade down a small slope.
In the valley, we paralleled a small stream.
As we made our way back, the clouds started rolling in and we were glad we stuck to an early start. It was a long day, challenging at times but very rewarding.