Every time I drove south from Fort Collins, along I-25, I gazed out the window at Twin Sisters Peaks, pointed and said, “I want to climb those.” Today, Mike and I summited these beauties, at (only) 11,428 feet, this hike has some of the most spectacular scenic views of the Continental Divide.
[Psst: If you want to skip ahead to the good part, the top-of-the-world vistas are at the bottom of this post.]
For a Sunday in July, this trail was also not terribly crowded. We passed a variety of hikers, a group of women who called themselves the “60+ Club,” and us, “The Spry Ones,” as well as four eighteen-year-olds audibly playing Tchaikovsky from a backpack, though we had plenty of quiet time and space on the trail to ourselves.
In September 2013, Estes Park experienced a devastating flood that washed away roads, bridges, and houses, and a landslide that had wiped out part of our trail!
Luckily, the trail, while a bit confusing, is well-marked by cairns. We stopped in our trek to stare at the shocking amount of land that had fallen from above us.
After the landslide area, and some significant climbing in elevation (a total gain of 2,475 feet in only 3.5 miles), we passed through the Krummholz (German for “twisted wood”) area that grows between the alpine and the spruce-fir forest, which by the way, smells amazing. I plucked a small piece of fir and held it to my nose for a good portion of our hike!
It was here, in the Kummholz, almost at the top, that we just couldn’t wait any longer for lunch. So picked a rocky seat and ate the first half of our sammies with the mountains behind us and a cool breeze cooling us down. I was super into my hummus, red pepper, turkey, and tomato combo.
After a bit of lunch, we felt much more energized, and continued into the alpine area of our hike.
|Our trail companions are so tiny!
And were greeted by clusters of the tiniest wildflowers.
We barely spent any time in the alpine before we were suddenly…
AT THE TOP!
With the most incredible views I’ve seen of my beloved Rockies.
And the closest I’ve been to Long’s Peak since I summited it two years ago!
There’s an East and West Sister; they’re fraternal as one is slightly taller than the other, and of course, I had to make sure I finished on top of both–to keep things fair. 😉 Seated in the saddle, the area between the two peaks is a radio tower used by the USDA Forest Service to save lives, locate lost hunters and downed aircraft in the national park and forests.
The wind REALLY picked up once we summited East Sister so we scrambled down to begin our descent. I’ve done a few high-altitude hikes, but I learn something new every time, and today, it was that I can’t expect the same experience from all of them. This seems like a pretty obvious conclusion, but I’m thinking about elaborating in a tips for high-altitude hikes post (like how to strike a balance between not eating a giant sandwich at high elevation and getting altitude sickness and how to make sure you pack enough food for sustainable energy.)
All in all, success!