Mt. Lindsey and the NW ridge
These mountains are located in the Sangre de Cristo range, on the east side of the Blanca group. Mt. Lindsey is ranked as the 43rd highest mountain in Colorado, while Huerfano Peak comes in as #93.
Huerfano Peak is a name I derived from the book "Colorado's Thirteeners" by Gerry Roach, where the name is quoted, indicating that no officical name has been assigned to the peak. On other maps, this mountain may appear as point 13828 or Ute Peak. Iron Nipple is a characteristic rock on the ridge between Huerfano Peak and Mt. Lindsey. Iron Nipple looks different from various angles, and from Huerfano valley, the nipple stands out as a grand mountain. On the way down from Huerfano Peak, the nipple is not much more than a hump. Mt. Lindsey is a pyramid-shaped Colorado fourteener, and is a popular target for hikers coming from the Huerfano trailhead. Mt. Lindsey resides on private property, but hikers are allowed to climb this mountain from the north, primarily from Huerfano valley.
Note: Class ratings are in reference to YDS (Yosemite Decimal System).
The route described below runs up the NW ridge crest of Mt. Lindsey (class 3) and down the north side (class 2+). The route continues up to Huerfano Peak (class 2) and down again via Iron Nipple (class 2+). The trail from the Huerfano valley to the Huerfano Peak - Mt. Lindsey saddle is class 1 on-trail hiking. If you take the north (regular) route up to Mt. Lindsey, class 2+ is the hardest pitch on this route.
All peaks from upper Huerfano trailhead (summer/autumn)
For detailed and accurate description of the trailheads, please refer to the guidebooks listed above. This page will roughly describe how you get to upper Huerfano trailhead.
Exit towards Walsenburg from Interstate 25, follow Colorado 69 for approx. 25 miles to Gardner. Turn west onto a paved road towards Redwing. From this intersection, upper Huerfano trailhead is 22,3 miles away.
When the road Y-forks after 12 miles from the intersection, turn left. From here on, the road quality begins to deteroriate. Pass Singing River Ranch, Aspen River Ranch, enter San Isabel National Forest before you arrive lower Huerfano trailhead, which is identified by a "Zapata trail" sign. Continue for another mile towards upper Huerfano trailhead, where the road ends. Although it is possible for a number of passenger cars to drive all the way to the trailhead, the last miles are typically a 4WD road.
To the Iron Nipple - Mt. Lindsey saddle
From the upper Huerfano trailhead, follow the Lily lake trail southbound. Pass the sign-in register and continue for a few minutes until you reach a large, open meadow. Cross the meadow and follow the trail into the forest. Approx. 1 mile from the trailhead, cross the stream where the trail meets the stream (another trail continues up to the right).
The trail starts climbing slowly upwards, and follows the outskirts of a boulder section. The trail eventually meets a ridge which it follows upwards on the left hand side. A stream is running further to your right, but you won't see it for a while. The climb up along the stream is strenuous. Higher up, the trail crosses the stream, and you are climbing steeply up to the timberline with Iron Nipple in view up to your left.
As you enter a large basin, you see the summit of Mt. Lindsey straight ahead, in the SE direction. The trail climbs gradually across the basin, before it turns significantly steeper and tops out on the Iron Nipple - Mt. Lindsey saddle.
Up the Mt. Lindsey NW ridge
The hike on the ridge crest from the saddle to the summit is class 2 hiking except for an obvious section where the ridgeline is broken by a steep face. Hike up to the part when things look complicated. Find a good place to descend from the ridge and traverse across below the face, and aim for a distinct notch on a ridge further to your left. This ridge becomes your horizon when you're below the face, and the notch should be easy to identify. From the notch, an exposed move, possibly class 4, is required to get back onto the ridge crest. A broken cairn is located above this notch, but is only seen from above. Then follow the ridge across the "false summit" (14020') and over to the summit of Mt. Lindsey.
A comment on where things start to get complicated on the ridge: You arrive at a jagged series of high rocks with the steep face immediately behind. It might be possible to safely cross these obstacles and arrive a notch between the lower ridge and the steep face. From the notch, it also might be possible to descend to the left and traverse below the face as described above. This route will be a more true ridge approach, but the difficulties probably exceed class 3.
Down the Mt. Lindsey north side
From the summit, walk back towards the 14020' summit and pick up the normal trail going down on your right (before you reach the 14020' summit). The class 2+ trail runs steep down the mountain side on talus and scree, but should be easy to follow. After a downclimb of the upper section, the trail traverses the mountain side before another steep downclimb begins. Some caution is advised here. Make pretty good sure you don't kick loose rock when people are below you on this trail. The trail eventually takes you towards the saddle where you came up on the hiking trail.
Huerfano Peak, aka. point 13828, aka. Ute Peak
From the saddle, head NE along the saddle towards Iron Nipple. Enter the nipple area between two large rock features (looks like a gate from above) descend down to the right and round Iron Nipple on the east side. Then maintain a northern direction across boulder until you're back on the ridge and follow this ridge all the way to Huerfano Peak.
On your way down from Huerfano Peak, follow the ridge all the way to the top of the nipple. To get to the Iron Nipple high point, a short, but very exposed ridge must be passed. Handholds are required here, but the ridge is not difficult. Descend from Iron Nipple towards the "gate" you entered on your way up and rejoin the saddle where you left the main hiking trail.
Petter Bjørstad and I left our campsite near upper Huerfano trailhead 06:10AM. Like the previous days, it was quite chilly in the morning, but a cloud-free sky suggested it would be a perfect day in the mountains. The day didn't turn out to be quite so perfect, as I got the headache *way* too early. Well below 4000m. After I got the Mt. Lindsey NW face in sight, I had other things to worry about...
The ridgeline up to the face was easy and enjoyable. When we got to the sharkteeth (my expression), concentration became essential. Petter did some investigation, but we decided to backtrack a little, descend below the face, traverse it and see if we could find a way on the other side. Even if we had climbed the "sharkteeth", there would be no way we could ascend up the vertical face from the ridgeline. The climbing below the face was quite easy thanks to very solid rock. Although exposed, I never felt uncomfortable as we traversed. We aimed for a notch on the ridge on the other side of the face. I suggested we should climb up a distinct gully close by, but Petter wanted to look above the notch. From the notch, he saw no further obstacles, so the decision was made. The climb from the notch back onto the ridge crest involves a short, exposed move. But thanks to solid rock and good handholds, the move turned out quite easy. Very satisifed, we joined the ridge crest and reached the summit 3 hours, 45 minutes after leaving camp.
After enjoying excellent views towards the Blanca group, we headed down the regular trail. There was nothing particular enjoyable with this trail. Talus and scree all the way. Steep it was in places, too. We chose to climb on rock in a few places, where the scree was obnoxious. Back in the saddle, there were not much more to focus hard on, so the headache became once more the centre of attention. And we still had Huerfano Peak to do. Laying down in the tent was all I really wanted for myself, but I knew I would never forgive myself for passing up a high peak this close. I cursed myself for this evil spell. The hike up to Huerfano seemed to never end. I started to fall behind, and when I finally reached the summit, I immediately turned around. On the way down, I simply had to do Iron Nipple, even if the damned rock wasn't ranked. The spell only got worse! To my surpsise, there was a neat, little exposed ridge leading out the summit. At least, something new to focus on. On the way back to camp I entertained myself with "59 minutes to aspirin", "58 minutes to aspirin", and so on. We arrived the camp 8 hours after we started. Thanks to aspirin and lower altitude, total recovery time was only a couple of hours.
Next hike: California Peak, 4221m
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Iron Nipple/Huerfano Peak/Campsite pictures