June 29, 2000 - North Face Couloirs
(photos from July 2010)
If you have not yet given Lindsey a shot yet, perhaps it is time. The route in to this Sierra Blanca Peak, thankfully, is not the Como Lake Road but instead a wonderful drive up the Huerfano Valley from the Singing River Ranch. The route is easy to find, if you follow the guidebook’s directions, though the road appears to threaten to go 4WD at any time. When I got to almost the end of the road, I came upon the crux move of the drive. Rather than accepting the challenge, I stopped and parked instead, the end of the road was so close that making “the move” was simply not necessary.
I car camped at the end of the road and left the next morning to find my way up the creek to the proper turn off to Lindsey. I had read that the Nipple Creek cut off could be tough to find due to trail braiding but I had no problem finding the proper route. Not that everyone will, a fellow I met later on the peak did miss the exit and spent an extra couple of hours bushwhacking into the upper basin. The trail climbs up the steep bed of the creek and then mellows when you reach the basin below Iron Nipple. The trail wanders across the alpine basin and climbs to the obvious saddle between Iron Nipple and Point 13,081. I climbed up the scree under the gaze of a half dozen big horns and after reaching the first saddle, continued up the ridge to the saddle between Lindsey and Iron Nipple.
From that point, I could see the trail that cut across the peak’s north face to the couloirs but from the start of the couloirs, the route appeared to be a bit more challenging. I figured I had nothing to lose by going to the start of the couloirs to scope it out but when I reached their base, the route up toward the summit was a clear scramble up the gully. It was one of those climbs where you are not sure of the level of difficulty but you just take another step, scope it out and repeat the process until, if all goes right, you are standing on the summit. The couloir pitches fell into place for me and I scrambled on up the clefts to the summit ridge and then made the short trail walk to the summit.
On the way down, I stopped to chat with the climber who had earlier missed the Nipple Creek cut-off but now was on course for scoring Lindsey. We had the same conversation, I had with myself but a few hours earlier (tacit conversation with myself, I assure you) and I urged him to wander across the obvious trail to scope out the couloir climb for himself. He took the suggestion and later at the parking lot told me that he too, took the couloir route as hard at first but within his skills upon reaching its base. I hiked on down to the creek, spotted some elk in the upper Huerfano Valley and broke camp for the trip back to Cheyenne.
The alternative North Ridge route . . .