July 25, 2003
Kelly, Amy and I departed Boulder for the Huerfano Trailhead around 2 p.m. It was a fairly long drive down to exit 52 off I-25 partially due to traffic in Colorado Springs. As we left the interstate and heading towards the mountains, the Sangre de Cristos rose dramatically from the valley. We wondered if one of the summits we could see was Mt. Lindsey, or if it was hidden behind the other peaks. Taking the turn to Redwing outside of Gardner, Colorado the road turns to dirt after about 5 miles. It began to rain and we witnessed several lightning bolts strike the lower foothills. As we proceeded up the road, the rain continued and soon we were splashing through mud puddle after mud puddle. After 20.4 miles we reached the boundary of the San Isabel National Forest. The road became rougher again but the scenary was absolutely incredible, some of the thickest aspen groves I had seen. We continued on the deteriorating road until we reached a nice campsite about .10 miles from the trailhead. Below is a view of Blanca Peak from just above our campsite.
It had quit raining at this point so we set up the tent and had some dinner. We decided to start a campfire which turned out to be quite an endeavor since everything was soaking wet. After failing miserably to start a fire, I resorted to asking a nearby camper for a small amount of gasoline. This got the fire going but it was a chore to keep it burning. We finally decided to call it a night around 10 p.m. The rest of the gang consisting of Lana, Jeanne, Jon, Eva and Dong Mai arrived around 11:30 p.m. and quickly set up their tents and hit the sack.
July 26, 2003
The alarm sounded at 5:15 a.m. and the skies looked clear. We had some breakfast, got our gear ready, and began hiking around 7 a.m. Below from left to right is Jeanne, myself, Lana, Jon, Eva, Kelly and Dong Mai.
It was a warm, beautiful morning as we made our way down the very gentle trail as Blanca Peak towered over the Huerfano Valley.
The first 1.3 miles of the trail is completely flat, actually, you lose a little elevation until you reach the Huerfano River. We had some discrepencies with the guidebook, the trail we were on ran right into the Huerfano River, so there was no question on where to cross the stream.
We all made it across the stream without incident, the water was really low so it wasn't much of an issue. Once on the other side the trail began to meander through the forest and then began to skirt the edge of a talus field. The trail was still very mild at this point and we knew that we had to start climbing the 3,400 feet to the summit eventually. It didn't take long for the trail to steepen and take off straight up through the forest. Our spirits were high as we made our way up the slopes, excited to be in such a beautiful place. The trail broke out of the trees and followed a small stream up into the basin.
We topped out on a hillside on the right side of the basin with an absolutely incredible view of Blanca and Ellingwood to the west. Looking towards the east, we could finally see Mt. Lindsey's summit pyramid rising over the ridge between Mt. Lindsey and the Iron Nipple.
The trail flattened out as it crossed the basin but we could see it wouldn't remain that way for long. Sure enough, the trail steepened again as it headed for the ridge below Mt. Lindsey's upper slopes. We were making pretty good time and the gang was staying together very well. The weather was absolutely beautiful as we gained the ridge. The view of Blanca and Ellingwood to the west was striking.
Lindsey's upper slopes look pretty intimidating from this point. The route to the summit is marked in the photo below.
We made our way towards Mt. Lindsey's north face, and as we got closer, we realized the route wasn't as bad as it appeared from the ridge. The route leads up the chute below filled with loose rock and scree. Kelly, Amy and Dong Mai are circled in yellow.
We decided it would be safest to proceed as two groups of 4 through the upper portion of the route. I would lead the first group and Jon would lead the second group up after we were out of the way. We carefully made our way up the chute, trying very hard not to send any rocks flying down the slopes. We topped out on the chute and the photo below shows the rest of the route to the summit.
The rock remained loose so we weren't allowed to take a mental break from the climbing. One of our junior high teachers called Lindsey the "Quiet Giant" in school, and Mt. Lindsey was turning out to be just that. We commented, that it wouldn't be a fitting climb if it was a cakewalk. Proceeding cautiously up the slopes we gained a false summit on the ridge and were pleased to see the summit wasn't very far away.
Nearing the summit, we all decided to hold hands and reach summit together. We reached the top standing at 14,042 feet at 11 a.m., taking us 4 hours to reach the summit. We were estatic to be on the summit, taking in the views, and realizing the we had acheived what we set out to do. The second group showed up at the summit about 20 minutes later and it was very satisfying that everyone made the summit safely. The summit was a special place, we could feel Lindsey's presence and she was touched by our effort.
We all took turns signing the register and took a much deserved break. Soaking in the views and eating for about 20 minutes, we decided it was time to do what we had been planning for months. We realized that spreading Lindsey's ashes might not be as dramatic as we had hoped since there was not a breath of wind on the summit. But in one of those strange and unexplained phonomena's, as Kelly began to release Lindsey's ashes, a strong gust of wind came up and gave them flight. It was Lindsey's way of letting us know she was with us.
After several tears and group hugs, we realized it was time to depart from the summit. We took our time descending through the loose rock and we were relieved to reach the ridge again. We dropped elevation very quickly and were back to the basin in no time. Crossing the basin we came across a bighorn sheep sitting by the trail. He was reluctant to move and allow us to pass, but eventually he realized he was outnumbered and gave up his post. Making our way down the steep trail through the forest we arrived back at the Huerfano River. We crossed the stream and knew it was only 1.3 miles back to the trailhead. We arrived back at our campsite around 3 p.m. bringing our roundtrip hiking time to about 8 hours. We spent the afternoon and evening eating and telling stories around the campfire, many about Lindsey. As we retired for the evening, we were treated to a spectacular light show as the lightning made the valley come alive.
July 27, 2003
Sunday morning we were allowed to sleep in a little bit. We were treated to a breakfast of pancakes and bacon courtesy of Eva and Dong Mai with Lana helping cook. We broke up camp and departed the Huerfano Valley at 11 a.m. As we left the Sangre de Cristos, we turned and said goodbye to Mt. Lindsey, knowing our friend would be guarding over us from the summit. We left the Huerfano Valley with mixed emotions, but at the same time I was very happy, because now and forever, this will always be her mountain.