This weekend we climbed Mt. Lindsey, our latest Colorado fourteener. If you checked the resource list I provided for fourteener climbers, you’d note that Mt. Lindsey is in the Sangre de Cristo range and it’s 14,042′. This trail is about 8 miles round trip and has an elevation gain of 3,500′.
We started out the night before, using our typical best-practice method of camping at the trail head. The trail head is just next to the Huerfano River. It was pouring rain all night long, which is usually helpful for sleeping but completely nerve-wracking in this situation because we didn’t know if it would ever stop. Mt. Lindsey is not a climb that can be done in wet weather. It’s a lot of rock and wet rock is slippery rock. The rain finally stopped, and we got our start at 6 a.m.
Almost immediately upon starting on the trail, we encountered this lovely meadow. You can see the well defined trail running through it.
We took our water shoes but ended up ditching them a little too early. The trail notes indicate crossing the deep creek several times, then taking a hard left to put the creek squarely on your right as you start up the trail. We misread it or got impatient, and hung our shoes in a tree on the trail too soon. With all the rain, the creek was pretty darned deep already and we thought we’d made the final crossing, but we hadn’t. So, instead of running back down and picking up our shoes, we crossed the final crossing using our own individual methods:
– Steve jumped rock to rock and made it across, but he was only a little soaked.
– I pulled a yoga move and stood on one foot, removed my socks, and replaced my shoes. Then I rolled up my pants and crossed in my boots. On the other side, I had dry socks and wet shoes. I dumped out the water, squeezed my boots (again, standing like a stork) and put my warm, dry socks back on and shoved them into damp boots.
I don’t know which was the ‘better’ method, but the creek you cross on the way up has to be crossed on the way back down … more on that later.
So we climbed through this lovely forest with a rushing creek beside us.
I have to say folks, if you are looking to visit the deep, dark forests of your childhood dreams or fantasies, this is the trail for you. Of course, after a nearly all-night rain, this was a deep, dark, and dripping forest, but it was magical nonetheless.
Later, we climbed into the sun. The rain and the summer sun combined efforts to get a lot of flowers into full bloom – just for our visit, of course. I saw my first columbines of the season:
As we got closer to treeline, we had a little more sun and the water kept rushing by:
Then, we topped out at tree line and saw this glacier valley. The glaciers had chewed up these rocks and left them in piles. You can see the trail just to the right in the picture:
The trail turns and head up through the last of the trees:
… and you come to this lovely wide valley that was dotted with sometimes huge boulders:
We hiked on through the valley:
… and started our ascent on the other side. Now, I have to say that even the climb along the rushing creek was steep. I was often leaning way forward and my calves were taking a severe beating, so the hike through the valley was a nice break. The ascent on the other side was again unexpectedly steep. I was very surprised at the angles I was fighting.
We topped out on the ascent on the other side of the valley. Here’s a quick look back:
As a quick note, we took the standard route and at this point, the trail starts to get much tougher. Up to now, the trail was well-defined and while steep, it wasn’t uncomfortably rocky or plagued with scree. The trail here becomes rocky and broken.
We stopped at a ridge and looked out across the valley to the other side and noticed the moisture forming into clouds. As the ground was heated up from the sun, the rain from the day before was heated into moisture that began to rise.
The ridge we are going to cross is just to the right. In minutes … and I do mean minutes (the time it took me to munch 2 slices of apple, 2 celery sticks, and 1 cheese stick) … the ridge we were to cross was engulfed in these freshly made moisture-laden clouds:
So, of course, we hurried on. These clouds were not storm clouds, so the threat of lightning (not lightening, thanks C!) was slim, but they were still heavy with moisture. The route at this point becomes steep, and the rocks are loose and much more difficult. We arrived at the gully, where it’s important to try not to get the rocks under your feet moving … at least not moving too far. This is how people start rock slides that kill other climbers. The recommended way is to climb along the more stable, larger rocks to the right of the gully, so we did quite a lot of rock scrambling here.
Yep, we’re wearing helmets. See that little dip to the left of Steve? That’s the gully and it’s very loose and slippery.
At this point, I’ve ditched my backpack and let Mr. Man act as the water sherpa. We have plenty of water in both packs, and we knew how far we had to go. I had my jacket and what I needed (chocolate, camera) in my pockets, so the pack would simply have slowed me down. We got chided for this by some of the older hikers as we were coming down, but we were being very careful and smart about it. There was nothing in my pack that wasn’t in Mr. Man’s already, so we were safe.
Then, it’s one bloomin’ ridge after another bloomin’ ridge after more ridges – some steep, but all of them shifting beneath your feet. Let me tell you folks, nothing will chill you like a mountain beneath your feet shifting. It’s creepy and it reminds you how treacherous this is.
We topped out around 10 a.m. The clouds continued to build, rising up the slopes of the mountains all around, but behind those new clouds were thunder clouds, so we had some chocolate and very quickly packed up to head back down.
Two notes: Mr. Man is pointing to one of his hand-knit hats, which he says I have to tell everyone he loves. Cute, eh? That chocolate is the last of the OMG bars made by my friend, C, who is a fantastic cook – yummy!
On the return, we took the left side of the gully and managed to get in some shoulder- and lat-building rock climbing. My favorite.
Here is the ridge before you enter the valley – you can see the moisture continues to rise all around:
Here’s the start of the rushing creek:
Can you see where the boulders end and the water starts? All that water is rushing through those boulders before it flows into the creek. It’s interesting to see. Here’s something else that’s interesting to see – black flowers!:
As we stayed along the rushing creek, the rain started (again). It started as a light drizzle, but as we got back to the place where we had to cross the creek, it was full steady rain. We were getting soaked and it was actually refreshing. As we crossed the creek:
… I didn’t even bother with the sock-stripping this time … I just plowed right through. Isn’t it lovely?
Steve tried the rock-hopping method and got only a little less soaked than I did. I was tired and finished and wanted to get home. I get less rational at this point every hike. I’m like the horse who picks up steam a mile from the barn.
I had dry clothes at the car, and I was already wet from head to toe and it was fine. This is OK, of course, in the summer when it stays warm (it doesn’t always you know) and the risk of hypothermia was not a worry. I do not recommend this method unless you know you will be able to stay warm enough. The weather is tricky and you can get very quickly chilled in Colorado.