Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Twin Sisters Peaks

Eastern Sister on Left and South Sister on Right
The weather forecast for Monday was less than desirable over most of Colorado.  Originally I wanted to get a climb up La Plata back in the Sawatch Range, but with 50% chance of thunderstorms and another 2am wakeup call it was time to look for something a bit more close to home.  Rocky Mountain National Park has a lot of mountains to choose from, all the way from class 1 trail hikes up to rock climbing the North Face of Longs Peak.   Last week Mount Massive destroyed my knees and ankles, so I was looking for an easier hike with great views of Longs Peak.  Twin Sisters Peaks automatically came up on the radar.  There is a nice trail all the way to the summit with about a 2,000ft gain; this was my kind of hike.

For once Brian and I got the chance to sleep in.  I met him in Broomfield at 6am and it was just over an hour’s drive from there to the trailhead.  The trailhead parking is along the road which was surprising to me since I think this is a very popular hike being in RMNP.  There were two cars and one mini van parked when we arrived just after 7am.  After a quick change into our hiking shoes we were off on the trail.  I let Brian lead the way which could have been a mistake since he is so fast out of the gate usually.  Today I was willing to keep the pace at a higher rate since our elevation was lower and the mileage and elevation gains were less than what we have become accustomed to.  It was nice being able to breathe normally at the lower elevations!

The first 100yards of the trail heads up an old dirt road till meeting with the TH sign.  For the most part the trail stays at a mellow grade with stone steps every now and then.  I like the way it was done because there would be a good gaining section then a section of near flat for recovery.  We had caught up with the first family of hikers from New York within the first half hour.  They were out enjoying the views not in a march up the mountain like us.  There was a great traverse that brings you around the Crags then the switchbacks start.  The switchbacks lengths were short and the gain was quickly and not too difficult.  Before we knew it we made our way to the upper saddle between the Crags and the Twin Sisters.  

We were moving very well, never breaking the entire way up and keeping a pace that was comfortable for conversation.  Soon we found ourselves on the upper switchbacks passing another group of two men.  From here on up Brian was leading the way.  Not long after these switchbacks start we cleared tree line and made our way onto the rocky road.  Boulder fields have become typical for us during our recent climbs, but the trail here was nice and still comfortable on my feet wearing hiking shoes.  After a few tight switchbacks we were at the point in-between the Twin Sisters.  Our ascent time was only about an hour and a half, which made me feel good being able to keep my pace up.

I don’t know of names differentiating the sisters so I simply referred to the one on the East as the Eastern Sister and the one to the West as the Western Sister.  If you keep following the ridge to the South there is another peak that people refer to as the South Sister.  We decided to hike over to the Eastern Sister first since I think it is the true high point of the twins.  From here to route turns to an easy class 2 climb up to the summit.  I would say a 5-10minute climb from where the trail ends to get you over and up to the summit.  There was a benchmark, but no elevation or mountain name information was stamped on it, which is something I have never seen.  With a staff stuck into the rock we knew we were on the true summit.  We just needed a flag to place on our newly found flag pole.

Our Route up the Western Sister
The views over to Mount Meeker and Longs Peak were amazing.  Both of us brought up our binoculars but we couldn’t make out anyone on the summits.  The wind had picked up on the summit, but we found a nice block to hide behind for a snack.  The weather was not ideal, staying overcast most of the day.  It would have been nice to have a clearer look at the big mountains but we were not complaining.  We thought about hiking over to the South Sister then decided against.  It was nice to have a relaxing hike rather than our grueling 8-10hr days.

We gathered our gear and made our way to the Western Sister.  I spotted a much more exiting route down, still a class 2 but we took some fun shots playing on the rocks.  When we got back down to the saddle between the summits we scouted out a short class 3 route to take up to the Western Sister.  This was a very short section, but it was a lot of fun to get a bit of scrambling in.  Brian took my camera and got a picture of me making my way up the rock.  A few minutes later we were on top.  There were two people up there and apparently the summit was there’s because they had no intention of letting us up to the true high point.  We enjoyed the views of Longs again and started on our way down.

Meeker and Longs
Just as we were starting down the New Yorkers were making their way up the last section to the summit.  The trail was busy heading down; the ants were making their way up the mountain.  I would say we saw at least 30 people along the trail all in all.  The hike down was nice unlike how it usually goes.  We both had stashed our trekking poles when we were scrambling on the rock earlier, so that allowed for increased mobility on the way down.  My knees and ankles weren’t hurting and for the most part I was able to keep up with Brian.

In no time at all we were down the trail.  We reached the car at 11:45am, not even lunch time yet.  This is a great hike that anyone could do.  We were able to do it in about 4hrs round trip and we were by no means running up the trail.  The views are worth the effort since you can see all of RMNP from the summits.  Instead of summit beers we decided to drive to Lyons and stop at the Oskar Blues Brew and Grill for lunch.  I highly recommend it, great food and great beer.  I hope to get up to the park for one or two more trips this fall.  With any luck Brian and I will make a trip up Longs for our September birthday celebrations.

GPS Track
Date: 8/13/2012
Starting Elevation:  9,148ft
Twin Sisters Summit: 11,428ft
Total Gained Elevation: 2,280ft
Distance: 7.51miles
Time: moving 3:38,  stopped 0:40
Climbing Partner: Brian

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