Oh Brother, Huerfano Art Thou?
(Does it ever stop blowing here?!?!?)

26-29 May 2006 - by T Colorado

Memorial Day weekend always brings the opportunity for trips that may take a bit more time to get to and complete. Such was the case this year. With Ron still working on completing his 14'ers (he's gettin' there) and us wanting to cross off more 13'ers, we decided to head to the Huerfano River Trailhead. We left Denver after work on Thursday, arriving at a nice flat camping area just before the entrance to the private property (which houses Singing River Ranch, Aspen River Ranch, et.al.) The stars were abundant and we were bedded down by 10:30 p.m. After a great night's sleep, we put everything into Ron's truck (thanks Ron) and drove to the trailhead. The road was snow free all the way to the trailhead and we were treated to sightings of elk, deer, big horn sheep and cottontail rabbits before we even parked.

Based on the conditions, we unanimously decided to leave the snowshoes in the truck ... a decision we did not regret. After loading down our packs, we made our way down the trail and quickly came to the Lily Lake Trail turnoff. Hanging to the left, we continued on and quickly came to the river crossing. Michael and Ron did an excellent balancing act across the partially submerged and mobile log crossing, while I opted to don the teva's and take a quick wade to the other side. The climber's trail was easy to follow for the most part, though we did have some issues with snow covering the trail in spots. As we got further up the valley, we elected to stay in the bottom of the basin and follow snow up into the "small, but beautiful basin" that was to be our home for the next few days. We found a wonderful camp near water and had awesome views of the Iron Nipple and Unnamed 13,100 from our tents. FYI: Unnamed 13,100 is referenced everywhere as that; however, the topo shows Unnamed 13,081. We'll go with the majority and call it Unnamed 13,100.

After a great sleep, we arose early and were on the trail by 6:30 a.m. on Saturday. We followed the trail to the top of the ridge, noting the consistent and strong winds that were to be with us the entire day. Soon, we had fantastic views of Blanca and Ellingwood. Once we hit the ridge, the wind really hit us. It was amazing, and practically knocked us down. We slowly made our way to the saddle between Mt. Lindsey and the Iron Nipple, taking shelter where we could from the unending gusts. It was an interesting experience trying to brace yourself against the gusts from one direction, thinking you had it under control, when all of a sudden, the gusts would come from another direction swirling around and trying to force you to your knees. The day was clear and bright, but the wind was biting and cold so we took the opportunity to put on more layers. Then, off we went up the ridge to the Iron Nipple. From the top, we could see our camp below, but we did not daly. Our friend, the wind, made sure to remind us to "get going". So, we descended the north ridge and made our way over to Unnamed 13,828 (Huerfano Peak) being assisted, somewhat, by the wind at our back. There was a register on top and we could see people going up and down Mt. Lindsey (particularly when they were on the summit). After a brief stop, we were on our way again back down the ridge, back over the Iron Nipple and down to the saddle between Mt. Lindsey and the Iron Nipple. We continued down that ridge (past our intersection point of the morning) and to the low point of the ridge between the Iron Nipple and Unnamed 13,100. After a nice break out of the wind (for food and a filtered fill of our water bottles from some melting snow), we continued up to the summit of Unnamed 13,100 (gaining access to the summit from the back side). The view of the ridge connecting to Blanca was awesome! There was no register on top. We opted to continue southwest down Unnamed 13,100's ridge until we could go a bit right to a small saddle and got a couple of great glissades in back down to the "small, but beautiful basin" and a quick hike to our camp. We had the unmentionable thought that maybe the wind would die down once we were in the "small, but beautiful basin", but that was not to be and it continued throughout the night.

On Sunday, since we were only doing Mt. Lindsey, we decided to not leave camp until 9:00 a.m. Come on now ... it's just right there. Off we went ... up the trail, following the same route to the ridge and then taking the little cut-off trail to the start of Mt. Lindsey's northwest ridge route. The ridge was clean and we started up, noting 4 climbers taking a break to put their crampons on and head up the standard route of the peak. The ridge was fun, solid and basically out of the wind most of the time. We soon came to the Class 4 crux and negotiated with no difficulty (with my husband gaining ownership of an abandoned water bottle on the way). Ahhh ... climbing swag! Soon we were on the summit (alone, as the 4 taking the standard route had already been there and were descending when we arrived). It had taken 3 hours from camp. The views were beautiful and there was a great stone windbreak that had been built ... go figure. heheh. We sat up there for an hour, soaking in the views, having a brew and reading the register. As soon as we saw people on the subpeak, we headed down the northeast ridge and descended scree into the basin between Unnamed 13,828 and Mt. Lindsey. You see, our thought process here was to get out of the wind. NOT! The entire basin acted as a wind tunnel, whipping us about and eliminating any possible attempt at taking a break and enjoying the lush green landscape dotted with colorful little flowers. My husband was buzzed by a bumble bee that must have had the strength of ten men in order to be able to fly in conditions like that! Eventually, we made our way back up to the saddle between Mt. Lindsey and the Iron Nipple. One last gust to knock me down to my knees (you know ... for good measure) and, then down to the trail to head back down to our camp in the "small, but beautiful basin".

We kidded around in camp about how funny it would be to have no wind the next day during our pack up and backpack back down to the truck. The winds that night were the strongest they had been in camp and Ron reported that his poles were flexed back and forth many times. On Monday, we awoke to beautiful skies and ... you guessed it ... NO WIND! WHATEVER! God does have a good sense of humor, doesn't he?!??! Oh well, it was nice to be able to pack up without weighting down everything in the process. We hiked out, drove out, stopped for burgers and fries and avoided any indication of Memorial Day traffic on our drive north on I-25. Overall, a great experience, yummy food, cherished companionship, multiple summits ... what more could you ask for! Happy Trails!

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