Rising to an elevation of 14,042 feet above sea level, Mount Lindsey of the Sangre de Cristo range offers Colorado peak baggers the chance to climb exposed class three terrain with the option of a class four variation. Climbers seeking good views, thrills, and variety will find all three on this route.
Author's Note: Some report issues with GPS units and finding this trail. Find detailed information about where the trailhead is located here.
Though two class three summit-reaching routes are both 8.25 miles long and gain 3,500-feet of elevation, one travels up a loose gully, while the other travels a more exposed ridge on sturdier rock. Both routes ascend up the same trail for a majority of the way as the path winds across meadows, through forests, and along a babbling brook. The scene is picturesque Colorado.
Author's Note: Given that it's recommended that hikers avoid the gully in the absence of snow, we opted to hike the ridgeline route prior to the start of our summer ascent.
Eventually, the single path for both routes starts a steeper climb up looser terrain toward treeline before opening into an alpine meadow. This is where hikers get their first view of Mount Lindsey's summit. As the trail winds through a basin, towering peaks set a stunning scene.
A gentle climb leads to a loose rock field at about 13,000 feet. This is where the technical climbing starts. Hikers must make their way over boulders to another ridge. Be warned of unsettled rock in this section.
Once at the ridge, hikers have a great view of the route toward the summit, including a first good look at the various routes up the crux wall.
Easy to recognize thanks to the class four chimney route that goes up the middle of the rock-face, the crux wall must be passed to summit the mountain via the northwest ridge route. At this point, hikers must decide if they're heading up the loose gully on the left or the exposed ridge for the remaining 900 feet of vertical gain.
Author's Note: A helmet is strongly recommended on either route option. Use extreme caution when navigating rockfields for the safety of other hikers and yourself. It's also important to prevent moving and shifting rocks to protect the route.
During the summer, it is recommended that hikers opt for the ridge route. The lack of snow in the very loose and steep gully makes it more susceptible to dangerous rockslides.
The ridge route can be found by keeping right at this 13,150-foot saddle, moving toward the obvious crux wall. Routes up the crux wall can be seen on approach, with a class four route up the middle chimney and another class four route on the right side. A class three route seemingly wraps around the wall on the left – steep and exposed, but not vertical.
The approach toward the crux is ideal for those seeking to gain some experience with class three holds. While a number of exposed moves require the use of hands and feet, the rock along the ridge is relatively sturdy and good for confidence building.
Author's Note: Navigating loose, rocky terrain requires a lot of practice. Do so with extreme caution and only if your experience level matches the task. Remember, it's not just you that's at risk. Other climbers on the mountain can be killed or injured by falling rocks.
Eventually, the crux wall is reached. Climbers are able to use a knife edge or a short down-climb to access the base of the formation.
At this point, climbers must select a route to reach the top of the wall.
I chose to ascend via the middle route up the chimney. Though more technical as a class four option, it seemed to be within my skillset as someone that rock climbs on a regular basis.
The chimney climb has great hand holds and foot holds along the way. I'd also say that it seems to appear more vertical from a distance than up-close. Near the end, this route does get more technical, requiring climbers to cram their bodies into a tight gap while tossing their pack onto an above ledge. In my opinion, holds were ample during this portion of the climb. I was able to complete the route with confidence in my Altra trail runners – though I did pack climbing shoes, in case.
Once climbers have navigated the crux wall, the easier scrambling returns. Trailgoers continue over a false summit and reach the actual summit within minutes.
On the summit, several other fourteeners can be seen. The most obvious peak is Blanca Peak, flanked with Ellingwood Point on its right and Little Bear Peak on its left.
The descent of Mount Lindsey takes caution, but the portion that consists of dangerous scrambling is relatively short. On the way down, many opt to use the class three route on the crux wall opposed to a more technical down-climb.
Overall, I found the Mount Lindsey northwest ridge route to be quite enjoyable. While brief moments presented their challenges, most of the route consists of safer and more relaxed terrain.
As always, spend time researching a route prior to starting it and don't assume that a single online article is enough. Find more information about climbing Mount Lindsey here.