Date Climbed: May 19
Elevation: 14,042 Feet
Mount Lindsey; an elusive, secluded peak. Deep in the Wilderness of the Sangre De Cristo mountains, Mount Lindsey has a reputation of playing hard to get after suffering a massive land slide a few years ago and is currently enduring one of the largest wildfires in Colorado’s history. In most years, Lindsey would still be a snow covered slog until June. This year however, luck was on our side as there was not a patch of snow in sight. We had car camped at the upper trailhead the night before, surrounded what felt like a college frat party. Normally this peak would not have many other hikers, but as this was the first 14er to melt out this year, the news had travelled quickly among the climbing community that Lindsey was open for business. Thus, we shared our camp with at least 20 other hikers from all over, attempting to get another peak checked off the list.
Thus, our pre-sunrise departure rewarded us with views of this remote peak in the alpenglow before the crowds arrived. The trek to the ridge below Mount Lindsey was extremely beautiful, albeit a bit of a slog. Once above treeline, the rugged east wall of Ellingwood Point and Blanca Peak came into view. The setting was distinctly alpine in character, and below us the clouds covered the valley floor. All around us were giant rock formations, each more massive and interesting than the last.
This would be my first 14er since the previous summer. Post-Aconcagua, my health (emotional and physical) had not yet recovered fully. After a few feeble attempts at a winter ascent on Mount Columbia and Mount Lindsey, my confidence had been shattered at my lack of strength. Until now, my toes still felt the sting of the cold from Aconcagua. Not only that, but a lingering cough had followed me home as well. Having failed so badly on previous 14er attempts in the winter, I had ultimately decided to take a much-needed break from mountaineering and focused on my new job as well as recovery training. It was not until late April that I was able to ascend above treeline again. Although I only felt about 90%, an “easy” snowshoes trip up Atlantic Peak and into Loch Vale gave me the confidence boost I needed to start focusing on 14ers again. And so here I was, attempting the first snow-free 14er of the season with two good friends.
The last time we had all climbed together, we had summited the windy Humboldt Peak in winter. With a team like this, I knew there would be very little that could stop us on this peak. Once on the ridge we began the steady traverse. Once at the end of the obvious trail, we had to make our own way. We had two options: ascend the loose class 2 gulley, or hop on the Northwest ridge proper with exposed class 4 climbing. We opted for the exposure.
The ridge was epic in its exposure, technical in its moves, and loose at some scary junctures. However, the summit would be all the more rewarding because of this, and we continued up after a short, knife-edge ridge. Up the class 4 chimney we went. This was the finest part of the climb, shimmying up the narrow chimney onto an exposed slope above the Northwest gully. At one point, Matthew attempted to top out the chimney, but was stopped by a large overhang that would require a exposed technical moves. At this point, we opted for the easy exit off to our left.
Once on the open Northwest slopes, we made a traversing ascent back onto the ridge proper. Once on the false-summit, we paused for a moment. Although it was still very early in the day, the clouds were already beginning to thicken as cumulonimbus clouds formed. The forecast called for severe thunderstorms later in the day, but it seemed as though the storms would arrive early. We dashed for the summit, took some mandatory summit selfies, refueled on water and trailmix, and began the perplexing descent.
Hoping to beat the weather, we decided to take the easiest route down. Of course, the easier the terrain became, the looser the rock became. Soon, we decided that the ridge we had ascended would be much safer, although more exposed, than trying to descend the gully. Climbing down the chimney we quickly, and soon we began to meet the other hikers we had seen in camp the night before. Each team that passed the knife edge ridge had the same nervous reaction. Having done it once before, we crossed the ridge quickly without a moments hesitation.
Having done all that work, once on the open saddle, we took a moment to eat a late breakfast and enjoy the views. Of course the weather had cleared for the most part, so our rush off the summit was a little sad as we hadn’t taken time to enjoy the view in our hurry. The views here, however, we still beautiful, and it took us half an hour to finally move on from our comfortable spot.
Once below treeline, the weather changed rapidly, and soon snow was falling all around us. Glad to be off the high ridge now, we made our way through the flooded valley back to the truck. Normally, this would be the end of our journey, but the weather had other plans. Once down the rough road, we began the long drive back to Denver. Small bits of hail pelted the car on our way back to I25. Once on the highway, it should have been a straight shot. However, a large severe thunderstorm above Pueblo impeded our progress and we were forced to pull over at a gas station for a light dinner while we waited out the quarter-sized hail that lay ahead. An hour later, a weather window opened, and we dashed through the storm, making it home just as the sun went down.
Thanks to some help from my friends, I had finally been able to summit another 14er. I was feeling much better now since Aconcagua, and the end of my journey through the Colorado 14ers was in sight. Praise God From whom all blessing flow.