I walked down the trail in my flip-flops to the obvious big, beautiful meadow to find my buddy right where we agreed to meet. He was snapping some photos of the scenery (which is mega below the looming wall that is the North Face of Blanca). As we greeted each other the psych began to set in for what I hoped would be a cool 14er hike the next day. We set up camp in the little clearing near the trailhead and stayed up chatting over some nice cervesa.
Five AM came relatively quickly, and we awoke to a brisk but clear morning (the clouds and precip. from the previous day had dissipated). After a quick fuel-up session on various food-like items and energy drinks, we headed out, intent on cruising at a reasonable clip to the slopes below Lindsey. The hike was defined by a difficult stream crossing (made difficult by vowing to jump rocks vs. simply wading) and by blindly following the cairned route up the scree slope, north of the correct trail. This section of the hike was arduous and loose, although heading straight up the scree allowed us to gain elevation fast. Towards the top of this slope we traversed a few hundred yard to the trail, immediately below the rad hanging basin below the saddle of Lindsey and the Iron Nipple. My buddy began to feel pretty sick by this point (a condition that unfortunately defined his day) We made quick time to the saddle, and after a brief rest, took to the NW ridge. The view from this saddle is great; the ridge is obvious, direct, and seems to be around 5.12c. No matter, up we went. The route on this ridge is clean and fairly easy, no harder than solid class 2, until you get to the crux headwall. The illusion of big vertical stone disappeared, and my prediction of a flared left-hand fingerlock with right foot highstep smear' move was not to be. Taking the ridge directly, staying strictly to the crest was the cleanest part of the entire day. Great, exposed Class 3ish movement defined the crux. My friend decided to take a less exposed route, and dodged left off of the ridge, to regain it above the crux section. I was able to make quick time from here, and as I crested the difficulties, spied a party flailing about on the easier' class 2+ face route that Roach's book defines as the standard route. I felt sorry for the two; they obviously got a bit more than they bargained for a feeling I could relate to from many experiences up high. The summit ridge ends in a hilarious false summit. Hilarious only because, following an initial are you kidding me?' devastation, you realize how close the actual summit really is only minutes away. The summit was mellow, with great views to the south. I waited for a bit and greeted the party from the other route, then my buddy within 20 or so minutes.
We all chatted and hung out for a while, then we began the descent. I opted to take the normal face route down, which was very loose, and required a great deal of route finding to avoid the crappiest sections. By this point my friend was reeling from what would be later discovered to be the flu, so his pace was methodical.' Perseverance paid off, and slowly but surely we made our way down the trail. We avoided the scree slope variation, passed a few parties on the way, and made it back to our vehicles around 1p. The weather seemed to be changing and I lamented feeling good about getting off of the peak prior to the storms.
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