North & South Twin Cone, Mt Blaine
North and South Twin Cone, Mt Blaine|
Region: Front Range / Lost Creek Wilderness... kinda
Elevations: 12,323 - 12,340 - 12,303
Date: September 18, 2010
Mileage: 10.3 (11.6)
Elevation Gain: 2,647' (2,818)
This weekend didn't have much of an agenda, other than sleeping in, a short hike and see colorful fall leaves. Of course the "short hike" became longer due to my desire to see the leaves.
Fulfilling the sleeping in portion, I arrived at Kenosha pass with all the other hundreds of tourists at around 11am. It was a mad house. I wasn't even sure where FS 126 road was, or where it started from. So after taking a pano of the pass from the road, I go check my Summit post info, and my road map. Ahh, the road is on the other side of the pass. Brilliant. I now have to get my vehicle safely over onto the other side of the road, amongst all the other leaf lookers swarming and those driving past. With the road (126) full of cars and trailers on both sides, I assume I'm not going to be able to park, and all these tourists make me panic, so I stupidly start my hike from 285.
I hike past the Colorado trail, and assume I need to go straight on FS 126A. The leaves are drawing me in, and I take a few photos (some of the best of the trip. Pic 1 Pic 2). But soon I realize that this is a camping area, and instead of wandering around uselessly, I should go back and get my truck, and get closer to this peak (since there is no real trailhead). As I had only gone ~0.5 miles, this was the best decision of the day!
Now in the possession of my mileage shrinker, I now uselessly drive every dead end in the campground area. Duh! It was a right turn on FS 126 NOT FS 126A (after the outhouses). From there I drive past the 2 gates, and start up the tight switchbacks, gaining mucho elevation. I pass by two hikers on their way down, and I start to realize, that if I don't park somewhere, I may just drive past all the colorful trees. So after a few more switchbacks, I find a nice pull off (a bit below the overlook) and restart the hike. It's now after noon.
It's a hot day, and I almost regret the long sleeve and high collar on my base layer. But at least the collar will protect my neck from the sun. A good sweat is good from time to time. Plus I was solo, no need to be picky on the stink. The periodic shade from the trees was nice, and the leaves were worth the added mileage. (That was until I got to the long gentle downhill traverse section...) The overlook was spectacular, with the colorful leaves in the valley below. Past the overlook, I began wondering when, or if I should divert from the road to go up North Twin Cone. The GPS marked roads are way off, and I end up traversing around the valley up to the meadow below both N & S Twin Cone. At this point, the casual 4WD vehicle should pull over, as the road to the summit of North Twin Cone is technical and only improves in the upper meadow below the summit. I divert from the road below the summit, as the road switchbacks way too far east, so I take the class 2 summit pitch.
The views from N Twin Cone are vast, and only pano's do the view justice. The summit is the first major bump south of the Mt Bierstadt / Mt Evans massif south of 285. Not sure I ever looked in that direction, as these are lowly rounded 12ers. Greys, and surrounding 13ers are visible, as well as Silverthorne and the vague bumps of Decalibron. Buffalo Peaks are west, and the hints of the Southern Sawatch as well. Looking due south, Pikes peaks out over the Lost Creek Wilderness bumps.
After some pics and some food, I'm off the the next bump, Mt Blaine. It's an unranked 12er, but with the willows it's the best path to South Twin Cone, so why not? The road from the summit takes me halfway over. But from there I manage to find a mostly willow-free path. The summit is a jumble of giant boulders, so at least the summit is fairly interesting. I stop only long enough for some photos, before heading south to the final objective.
The willows below South Twin Cone to the north are not to be trifled with. I ended up having to put my pant legs back on, as otherwise my legs would have been scratched raw. Now I could at least brush through the hip level willows with less pain. The summit was only a short ~320 feet up, but it was nearing 5pm, and I was tired with the uphill. I had heard voices on the summit, as well as seeing silhouettes on the ridge, and I was hoping to run into the only other hikers of the day. The 4WD'ers I ran into thought my GPS was cool... um yeah. But as I got to the summit, there was no one, but a moldy wet summit register. The lighting was getting better, and since I was hoping for some nice sunset shots, I didn't stay long on this summit either. Just enough time for some pics and a donut. Mmmm donut with sprinkles!
The summit post map showed the person's track going back towards North Twin Cone, adding mileage to avoid the willows. But I decided that I would try to find the old road that goes up S Twin Cone. The decent is kinda steep, at first, but nothing too bad. I manage to find some game trails through the willows and don't have too bad a time of navigating. Sometimes walking through the forested sections proved easier, than navigating the willows. Along the way I found the old road twice, but it made such sweeping long slow switchbacks, I gave up on following it. So instead of having a nice willow/stream crossing in the end, I swam through the willows back to the road. After a couple feet on the road, I saw the blocked off old road that I should have taken! Grrr
From here it was mostly a quick slog trying to get back to the truck before sunset. The long slow uphill traverse section was annoying, but after that it was all downhill. The overlook had some great sun-setting lighting, so I made a quick stop here. Then only a couple more stops for some leaf photos, and a quick jog back down a couple switchbacks to my truck. On the quick drive out, it became apparent that I was going to miss the sunset, by only a few minutes. So once back at 285, there was only just enough light for a couple more pano's before the drive home
Photos: (View Slideshow)