Twin Sisters Peaks (CO)

March 30, 2022


Estes Park, CO

There are two many peaks named “twin sisters” and this one sits in the Rocky Mountains’ front ranges in northern Colorado. This is a rather small peak by Colorado standard, but is a stand-alone massif that boasts over 600 m prominence. The east summit is slightly taller than the west summit and a trail goes to the east/west saddle, from which the east summit requires some scrambling on boulders to attain.

I made a spontaneous decision to drive an hour and half north of Golden to check out this peak purely because of the weather. The 29th was a rest day as the weather was crap everywhere within a few hours of driving including the state of Kansas. The 30th was still bad, but the farther north I could drive to the higher chance I would see sunshine. I wanted to at least ascend a “P600m” objective and the only easy-ish one was Twin Sisters Peaks. I determined that this ascent would not take a full day, so opted to hike up Lily Mountain in the morning mostly to scout out the conditions after yesterday’s snow storm. The amount of fresh snow was less than a few inches but the wind was cold and fierce. I knew the main trail on Twin Sisters Peaks is a busy one at any time of a year, so left the snowshoes in the car.

Twin Sisters Peaks hiking route. GPX DL

The first “trail-head” I checked out was blocked by some private property signs so I drove a few hundred meters back on the road and parked at where everyone else parked. The first stretch was to plod up the boring (gated) road to the summer trail-head and this took about 10 minutes. The main trail beyond the summer trail-head was indeed heavily trafficked so all I needed was to put one foot in front of another. There wasn’t much to see, so I just listened to music. The forest was sheltering me from the cold wind so I could do this uphill hike in just t-shirt but after a long-ass southwards switch-back I came to an open gully and had to stop to don some layers and gloves. I came across two hikers on their way down and confirmed that snowshoes were indeed not required. From this gully to the saddle on the NW flanks had some endless switchbacks and felt very boring and tedious.

This was the start of the official trail.
One of the narrow sections on that long stretch due south
Crossing path with another group of hikers
Views of Longs Peak were excellent from Twin Sisters Peaks
Crossing this open slope was very cold

The “trench” near the treeline zone started to become a little bit less defined and previous hikers started to ascend straight up the slopes making some steeper grades. I did not bring microspikes and were too stubborn to put on the crampons, so struggled a bit on a few steeper hills. The trail was literally a sheet of ice that even my brand new Trango Tech mountaineering boots could not edge in easily. At treeline I met another couple who just turned around due to the weather elements. I put on my goggles and balaclava and entered the misery. The sun was actually quite strong so it wasn’t too cold, but the wind and the blowing snow meant I definitely needed these facial protections. It took me a long while to slog to the col between the two summits. The scramble to the true summit would be very easy in summer, but the boulders were covered in fresh snow and the wind was pushing me around so I had to be extra careful not to lose my balance and break an ankle. I only stayed on the summit for a few minutes.

At the treeline zone now
The second group I met had turned around at treeline
Blue skies above Estes Park to the north
The summer trails were all covered in snow drifts
The wind was howling like a mad man..
Plodding ahead trying to follow the trails but eventually gave up.
The last few meters of scrambling to reach the true summit
Summit Panorama from Twin Sisters Peaks. Click to view large size.
The high peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park on the horizon
Longs Peak with Mt. Meeker to the left
It was definitely storming non-stop to the south of my position
This is the other substantial summit on Twin Sisters massif, to the south
A zoomed-in view of Longs Peak and its Diamond Face
Me on the summit of Twin Sisters Peaks

I was going to check out the west summit but decided against that. The views would be the same so it’s pointless to expose myself any longer than necessary in the wind, so I quickly dashed back to treeline. I ended up having to wear the layers and gloves most of the way down as the temperature stayed cold. My original plan was to car-camp in Estes Park and scramble Mt. Lady Washington the day after, but I changed my mind spontaneously. I did not have the motivation to deal with the cold and winds for every day in the next 3 days, and the closest place to escape the cold was the deserts in New Mexico. There are endless prominent peaks to bag in that state, so I started the long journey southwards in the afternoon. The traffic through Boulder, Denver and then Colorado Springs was horrendous in the evening rush hours but I just had to suck it up. Through the evening I pushed all the way to the state of New Mexico and found a rest-area to sleep in the car. The east slopes of Sangre de Cristo Mountains had seen some snowfall and the freeway was icy and snowy. The driving required some concentration so I might as well take a break first and drive in daylight.

Descending the upper slopes
Looking back towards the cluster of summits from treeline
The typical descent on the trail in the forest. It was boring..