Today started with a giant misstep. More accurately about 200 vertical feet of missteps, actually. After parking just a bit below the Twin Sisters Trailhead we continued walking up the road and were very quicklky presented with a difficult choice. Over a wooden bridge there was a sign with lots of safety type information, a warning that the trail was washed out and not recommended (which we were aware of), and a very poorly drawn map. There was also what might have been a trail leading into the forest (or possibly just a trail like dry creek) or an option to continue walking up the road. We spent 5 minutes debating the pros and cons of each option, consulting the crude map, then finally throwing caution to the wind and deciding to walk up the road. In short order we were faced with this climb:
Having never climbed a mountain before the lack of switchbacks didn’t really phase any of us, who were we to say that this wouldn’t be a near vertical climb the entire way? Eventually we did reach the top and discovered what I would describe as a home. It appeared to be a concrete bunker covered with dirt and rock with a clear septic system and firepit near by. It also became very clear that this was a dead end. Although we still weren’t sure about the trail(?) that led into the woods we decided to descend and give it a shot. Within a few hundred horizontal feet we began noticing cairnes and other obvious trail markers. Our only real option was to call our initial missteps a “practice hike” in an effort to avoid a revolt. Fortunately, everyone, myself included, seemed to quickly accept that explanation.
The first mile of trail was a pretty, but uniform, climb through lodgepole pine with just an occasional glimpse of Long’s Peak through the trees. Then, nearly without warning we arrived at this clearing, giving us our first good view of the Front Range.
After a snack and photo op we continued up the trail, reaching the wash out area in short order.
I think Z or E described this area in their post, but briefly a major storm in September 2013 caused a landslide that washed out not only the hiking trail, but most of this section of mountain. Volunteers have established a new trail that crosses over the wash out as well as new switchbacks on the far side. Although they are fairly well marked with carins there are several places where the trail still requires some judgement calls. We did make one wrong turn after following a misplaced carin/pile of rocks that looked like a cairn. It was at that moment though that one of only perhaps a couple dozen other people we saw that day called out to us and got us back on track. After the section of improvised trail we rejoined the original uneventfully until reaching the National Forest marking.
The sign should have read “ice ahead”. At this point we knew we were only about half a mile below treeline, but it was by far the most difficult half mile of the hike. We had run into several hikers earlier in the day who told us that they had turned around there, but like the novices we are we chose to soldier on. While the going was difficult, it wasn’t impossible. We slipped occasionally, but made steady progress. After our way up, we turned a corner and were met with what I can only describe as one of the most amazing sites I have ever seen. The peak of the mountain, there, only a few hundred feet above us. There no way any words I say or picture I’ll share could do justice to the feeling of having slogged through 3.2 miles of trail, 2000 feet of vertical climb to see our destination there, just overhead.
This last section of trail was a relatively easy 0.3 miles to the saddle between the twin peaks. And then.