Mountains: Mt. Lindsey (14,047’)
Route / Distance: Started ~3.5 to 4 miles short of the Huerfano / Lily Lake summer TH (roughly 2 miles short of the Huerfano / Zapata trail junction) and packed in to the TH on Friday (elevation gain unknown – I’m guessing ~900’?). Climbed the North Face route to summit and back on Saturday (~3500’ and 8.25 miles).
We left WallE on the side of the road roughly 4 miles before the TH wondering if that was on ranch property enough to get us in trouble… We began our travels up the road at approx 530PM. Continuous skinning was possible from that point. We had originally planned on the NW ridge and ended up bringing crampons and a tool / axe in addition to the whippet just in case. We also both resonated on the idea that skis were needed.
We hiked up the road looking at and pondering avy signs on easterly faces, witnessing some whumfing and crowns along the way. We decided to set up camp right at the summer trailhead rather than make the descent towards the creek to find running water. Joe set up his tent and I began sculpting the kitchen and melting snow for dinner and the next day’s hiking water. I’d brought my jetboil so setup / snow melting was painless. We “feasted” on chicken / broccoli and lasagna, both of which tasted equally like fermented night-soil. We attempted to ease the pain with spinach and artichoke boulder chips, sausage, cookies, spicy Cajun fire trailmix and other more humane foods.
I broke myself a trench to a bathroom area and hit the sack with the alarm for 5:30PM. We slept very comfortably and while I woke up once at 4AM to laboriously follow my trench to the bathroom, Joe long-range-fired pee out into the pristine woods directly from the tent. As is standard we woke up 1.5 hours after the alarm went off and I slowly lit the jetboil for breakfast at around 715AM.
By the time our sluggardly butts got ready to hit the trail it was a leisurely 845AM. Our attitudes toward life that morning were not unlike those of tart, overweight tourists turning their noses at how brisk the breeze from the bay was this morning and how it had indeed ruined the palatability of their hot tea and cream buns.
We headed off down the trail into the marshy meadow now draped in white
We followed the summer trail to the gully and then skinned switchbacks up the trees to climber’s left of the gully just to stay out of the main body of the gully in case an avalanche were to come a-visiting down the mountain his favorite pair of tart tourists. At roughly 1030AM we topped out at the gully.
We skinned up the basin towards the saddle between Lindsey and the Iron Nipple delighted at the continuous snow which might hasten the descent when the storm blew us off the peak. We cached skis at the last stretch of continuous snow and stopped there for a few bars, trailmix and Gatorade. At about noon the flotation-free grunt up grass began…
We made okay time up to the saddle and by 1230 were looking at Lindsey…
And the valley below…
We then began traversing across the northern slopes to the base of our target couloir
The stair-master routine began in earnest – the snow was fantastic though knee deep and deeper at spots but it felt like a nice solid spring couloir climb for the most part. Our ski boots were perfect and crampons were not needed.
The couloir had dried up at a couple spots and basic class 3-ish moves were needed to overcome them. Once we topped out at the couloir the rest of the journey along the face to the ridge crest looked spicy with the snow cover and loaded slopes. A couple interesting rock moves resulted in trying to avoid loaded slopes.
With a few more interesting moves behind us we made it to the false summit and made our way up the ridge with the storm picking up its britches all around us.
We made summit as the first snowflakes fell.
We quickly ate a couple trail-bars and high-tailed it down the ridge as the wind blew in furiously from WSW loading up our descent route with more snow. Rocks on the face with a nice coating of loaded snow made for an interesting descent. I initially thought I might want crampons for the descent but having the tool out was adequate.
The sun peeked out for just a second and I basked in it for a moment…
But it went back behind clouds within seconds and we were returned to the reality of getting off the mountain at the earliest.
Taking a slightly different route to avoid a low 5th rock move we ended up hugging cliff bands that crowned slopes with some slide potential. The second tool came in handy for me here, personally.
We were soon at the top of the couloir and mostly descended face out except for a couple spots where I faced in.
As we traversed back across the north slopes to the saddle the storm picked up. As we stopped for food and to text news of our safety to friends and family (who were getting wasted for St. Patty’s day), cold farts from hell blew us out of our comfort zone. We hurried down to our ski cache and were geared up to go by 4PM. With skis attached to our feet we looked back and decided that the summit was not the place right now for a happy little bluebird to be found…
Skiing off in flat light on trap crust I opened out the customary yardsale before toning it down a notch. We traversed back to the head of our ascent gully.
We began skiing down the trap-crusted trees that we had ascended, keeping out of the main body of the gully to avoid slidable terrain. We had no issues skiing the rest of the gully and over the snow covered creek (there were gaping holes where the snow bridges are beginning to open out but it was a cold enough day that the bridges felt solid). At about 515PM we stopped over the creek to get some water for the pack out.
The rest of the trail went quickly as the snow picked up. I stopped to put a jacket and my skins on for the ascent back to the trailhead – five minutes were enough for the following to deposit on top of my pack.
Let it snow! Here’s hoping for a spring ski season that lasts until next fall. We were back at the TH at around 545PM for a 9 hour round-trip from the TH.
We broke camp and began the ski down the road at around 630PM as the storm really picked up. I was astonished at how much uphill there was on the return. It had not seemed that way when we had skinned up the previous evening. We saw one other lifted Jeep with chains parked maybe a mile beyond where we had parked. We were back at the Jeep at 8PM and found ~4” deposited on top of it. After a careful drive down the snowed ranch road we took off for the nearest taco hell and then back home.