How have I spent this many years in Colorado and never climbed Twin Sisters Peak? Well, actually, I suppose it’s perfectly understandable. It’s a “small” mountain at only 11,000′ with a six mile round trip, yet it lies in the shadow of the bigger game right next door which is what I’m usually driving the 60+ minutes to get to. However, it’s neither so easy or so next door that it falls into the family-hike category. Anyway, it’s a real shame it took this long and better late than never. Twin Sisters was a great shoulder-season destination with stupendous views and, it turns out, a little more adventure than we’d anticipated.
It was also a great opportunity to reconnect with the simple joys of hiking up a new peak with an old friend. Just hiking, nothing fancy or extreme. Brian and I have done a lot of trail runs, backcountry skiing, and mountaineering over the years, but just hiking up an established trail hasn’t happened in a while. It also let me reconnect with the bi-annual confusion of season-switch and the accompanying angst and chaos concerning gear choices and logistics.
The hike went reasonably well. We followed the trail for a full half mile making tracks through the fresh, ankle-deep snow before getting lost. Some bushwhacking lead us eventually to a snowshoed trail, but then this ended in another half mile at a rather dramatic vertical scar through down the mountainside. Apparently a huge landslide cut loose during the biblical September floods leaving a thousand-foot-long, hundred-foot-wide path of well-mixed logs, rocks, and mud, all covered now with trackless snow.
We picked our way across the desolation and found the continuation of the trail on the other side… only to find that the trail commenced a series of tight switchbacks up the steep slope. Within a hundred yards, we found ourselves aimed back into the landslide path and blocked by a pick-up-sticks of downed timber and rocks. Fine, we’d bushwacked already, we could do it again. A few hundred feet of travel directly up the fall line, crossing several more bisected switchbacks in the process, got us to the trail above the slide.
From there on, it was an easy, steady climb through snow and trees to treeline at 11,000′. Wind-drifted snow on the east side amongst the rocks made going a little heavy, but the weather was still reasonably good and the views great. Al the way up, we’d been greeted with a steadily-improving view of Longs Peak and its attendant summits and as we finally gained the ridgeline, we were greeted with the full knock-your-socks off view of the Diamond and everything else.
No really, everything else! Twin Sisters may only be 11,400′ tall and fully half a mile shorter than a lot of other peaks in the area, but the view from the western summit is trully astonishing! There is the Longs Massif, of course, but also the Mummy Range north all the way to about Dunraven or so, the big peaks along the Divide from Trail Ridge all the way south to about Taylor Peak, the Indian Peaks, a bird’s-eye view of the Estes Park valley, and all the smaller peaks along the foothills. Perhaps climbing Twin Sisters so late in my Colorado climbing career wasn’t such a bad thing because the view provided a nice reminder of many of my previous conquests and a tick-list of the peaks in the area I have yet to climb.
Our reverie was cut a little short by the dawning realization that we were cold and the cloud deck was dropping. Already the summit of Longs was immersed in clouds and we could see weather rolling in from the west. Time to descend… which went just fine. We managed to take a more direct bushwhack down the north side of the slide path this time and not have to cross through the devastation again. We also managed to find the trail we’d missed on the way up (which, as per usual, was quite obvious in retrospect). Back to the trailhead after seven miles, 2800′ of gain, and six hours of hiking. A good, mellow, adventurous, back-to-basics sort of hike.
Bring on the winter!