A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lindsey Peak, Iron Nipple and Huerfano Peak

In an act of reverse migration, in the face of birds headed north along the Rocky Mountain flyway, Alan and I headed due south, lured by the airy heights of Mt Lindsey. The drive saw the sun slipping behind the foothills, casting long golden rays across agricultural fields, with the rolling hills a patchwork of light and shadow. Even with something as mundane as interstate driving, Colorado rarely disappoints.


The bumpy approach road led to a trailhead where level ground was a premium. It was a truckbed bivy with Alan sliding into the side of the truck and compliments of gravity, me slowly moving towards Alan. Between the two of us we may have picked up four hours of sleep, but were excitedly walking by 5:20 AM.

The trails drops (uphill finish!) into a broad valley carved by the Huerfano River. It is gladed terrain with the high peaks hidden by the conifers.


Almost full moon

We crossed the Huerfano River, which had been described as ominous, so Alan and I expected the worst. We even carried sandals, but to save weight we each carried one, with the intention of tossing them to one another across the river. Alas, we rock-hopped, but joined the lightly membered club of “those who carry a single sandal to three summits”.

The trail through the trees is thin, braided and sometimes hard to follow. Of course, if I had been looking down instead of at the wall of peaks in front of me it may have been easier. The two tall points in the middle are Blanca Peak (left) and Ellingwood Point (right), summits for another day.

blanca pano

We hugged the edge of a talus field and continued uphill. After some joyful boulder hopping and occasional near slip we realized we were off route, sort of. The word lost is not appropriate as we knew uphill took us where we needed, we just did not know where the trail was in relation to us. Taking heed from the tagline of the Mountain Gazette, “when in doubt, go higher”, we ascended through boulders of increasing size.


Up there?


Over here?


I’ll check here

Was there an energy cost? Sure, but it was filled with a bit more adventure so worth it.

Upon finding the standard route we quickly hit the saddle between the Iron Nipple and Mt Lindsey. There are a few options on Lindsey, but the crux of the decision was a Class 2+ gully chock full of loose rock or scrambling on solid Class 4. There was no decision to be made, only holds to pull as we climbed upward. This section is a bit of choose your own adventure, with no clear route, and the pictures make it look steeper than it is, but the focus associated with exposure in high and beautiful places is delicious. With the methodical test hold, weight, move and repeat, there was significant gain in both elevation and elation.


Straight up that!


A downclimbing traverse. I avoided this section on a wider ledge below.


It is hard to see what is happening here, but I am pulling over a very small roof at the top of a “chimney”.

This section was too short and the windblown run along the ridge had us sheltered behind the summit windbreak in short time. Once again, dignity was safely stowed in the truck at the trailhead, so the flexshots, which have evolved into shirtless entertainment, began in short order.


Alan throwing down a heel tap


Me and the cartwheel

The descent down the standard route is a mix of ledges, rock hopping and loose dirt. It felt more likely to end in injury than the solid ridge we had ascended 30 minutes prior. Back at the saddle we kept our backs to Lindsey and headed up the Iron Nipple, along the connecting ridge.

The ascent of the Iron Nipple and the following climb to Huerfano Peak took approximately one hour. There were a few Class 3 moves, but the terrain mostly gentle, allowing for speed.


Alan on the ridge to the Iron Nipple


Atop Huerfano Peak

There was another peak on the docket, Unnamed Point 13,555. The connecting ridge was sinuous and our legs were jello, so we bailed on it. In fact, at this point a nap was in order.


Actually, Alan is searching for marmots.

The descent to the trailhead was uneventful, but since we had missed a portion of the trail on the way up it was new to us. Crossing the basin at 12,000 it was perfectly calm, no one around and our moods expanded to match the grandeur of the setting. It is these moments, maybe equivalent to the runners high (?), that every labored breath working our way upward is worth it. Fully immersed in the moment and not wishing you were anywhere else.


I have begun carrying a cooler on weekend trips again. It is a bit of a bother when packing, but after hours on the trail the taste of bread, pesto, pasta and cold beers stacks up well against the effort of an James Beard awarded chefs.


A few parting shots…


Hanging out in high places




Nice peaks, get the hairy guy out of the way.

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