I did the fun fourth class climb up the back of The Fin, and had some decent views from the top.
I then headed downwards to enjoy some third class climbing on Big Ass Slab.
I turned north and was able to pick up a cairned climbers trail toward Lily Mountain, which varied in condition from pretty well put in and distinct, to barely visible. There are a few high points you can go around before you reach the summit, but trail or not, the navigation is easy. Just stay close to the top and you'll eventually hit the summit. I felt the forest was pretty open, and movement wasn't too bushwhacky. At least thus far!
Since I have covered Lily Mountain and Rams Horn Mountain before, I won't go into great detail here. I headed down the Lily Mountain trail for a bit, and then took a left into some bushwhacky terrain when it looked like I was a little bit lower than Rams Horn Mountain. I eventually stumbled on a trail, and was happy to have it most of the way to the top of this peak.
Without snow on the ground, I could now see that the trail continued beyond the summit of Rams Horn. I kept on it, staying close to the ridge.
Gianttrack Mountain is a pretty tricky one to get. While the summit lies in RMNP, it is completely ringed by private property. As you descend north, you'll find the kind of indistinct trail becomes a really great trail that someone has obviously spent some time building and maintaining. It looks like it gets a fair amount of horse traffic. Up until around 630 feet until the lowest point of the saddle you are still on NPS property, and completely legal. From the saddle it's around 680 feet until you are back on NPS property.
Thus, you need to cross about .25/mile of private property, which is not signed or fenced. How to do so? Use the Larimer County Land Locator, find the owners of the saddle, and ask for permission. Or maybe miracle yourself to the top of Gianttrack and back. Or maybe go in the middle of the week when no one is around. I'm sure you'll figure it out.
Bushwhacking this in reverse wasn't so much fun, and I was glad to finally hit the Lily Ridge Trail again. I decided to take a relaxing stroll around the lake.
I got back to the car. I took a nice break here, and thought about whether to continue on or not. The traverse of Lily Ridge had been time consuming, but the weather looked and was predicted to be good. I felt slightly tired, but not too bad. I drank an entire 3L bladder of water already but had more. Ditto for food. I'd be able to move alot more quickly on the well defined trail to Twin Sisters.
I applied more sunscreen, refilled my water, and left anything I felt wasn't essential behind.
If it matters to you, West is not the true summit though the trail goes directly to it. Get back to the saddle and make a fun second class scramble up to East, which is fifteen feet higher, and therefore has geographical prominence.
Rather than go back up and over East, I stayed down in the saddle between the two. I don't think either route was easier, and both were fun. I topped out into the saddle between the peaks and then started down on the trail.
Just two more things to visit!
I've been up Twin Sisters multiple times now, and had always though I'd missed a sign or trail for Lookout Springs. I finally realized there wasn't one. But I did write down a GPS point that should give me a pretty good chance of finding it. After a short bushwhack, I came upon this:
Foster also lists The Crags as a destination. Since this is a larger indefinite area full of towers of various heights and loose rock, I decided that visiting the 10831 foot high point would count. It was a short and easy bushwhack to the summit.
This was a pretty cool little summit, and it took me about thirty minutes out and back from the trail to get here. I'd highly recommend it.
The trail down was mercifully unpopulated. Earlier, I'd had two separate encounters with people playing music on external speakers. This behavior annoys me to no end. Why?
I'm sure some of you are old enough to remember the days when restaurants had smoking sections. Of course, there was no real divider, and if you sit in a large box with a person smoking on one side, you're smoking because you are in that box as well.
It's the same sort of thing. When you listen to music in this way, you set your environment, but everyone else now has to live in your environment too, whether they want to or not. So please be considerate and use headphones! I even liked the band the second person was playing.
I was able to jog some of the flatter sections of the trail and the road back to the lower parking. I arrived back at the car almost exactly twelve hours after I left it in the morning. Again, I drank 3L of water on this leg of the day.
What a day! When I had the opportunity to map it, I discovered this "easier" day was actually the longest mileage wise of the three days I did this week, and had around 1000 feet more of elevation gain than the previous day. Not bad for never going above 11428 feet!
While it was fun to do all of these peaks and points together, this could easily be broken into two days for something shorter and easier. The parking lots for Lily Lake and Twin Sisters are directly across the street from each other and easy to get to. If you want to avoid crowds on either, start early!
Lily Mountain Ridge and Twin Sisters Mountain (distances as part of the hike):
Lily Ridge Trail, 9120 feet: .8 miles in length, 180 foot gain. Easy.
The Fin, 9510 feet: .65 miles, 570 foot gain. Fourth class. Moderate.
Big Ass Slab, 9510 feet: .7 miles, 570 foot gain. Third class. Moderate.
Left Hand Rock, 9470 feet: .7 miles, 530 foot gain. Third class. Moderate.
Lily Mountain, 9786 feet: 1.2 miles, 846 foot gain. Second class. Moderate-.
Rams Horn Mountain, 9553 feet: 2.5 miles, 613 foot gain. Second class. Moderate-.
Gianttrack Mountain, 9091 feet: 3.75 miles, 151 foot gain*. Second class. Moderate.
Twin Sisters Peaks West, 11413 feet: 11.7 miles, 2480 foot gain**. Second class. Moderate.
Twin Sisters Peaks East, 11428 feet: 11.85 miles, 2405 foot gain. Second class. Moderate.
Twin Sisters Mountain, 11384 feet: 12.4 miles, 2451 foot gain. Second class. Moderate.
Lookout Springs, 10561 feet***: 13.8 miles, 1628 foot gain. Second class. Moderate.
The Highest Crag, 10831 feet: 14.2 miles, 1898 foot gain. Second class. Moderate.
As a whole, this hike covered 17.14 miles with 6988 feet of elevation gain in up to fourth class terrain. Strenuous.
*= Obviously, this will be a bit more than 151 feet of gain when starting from Lily Lake, as you need to go up and over.
**= This figure comes from my GPS at the lower parking right off of Route 7. There will be less gain the closer up the road you can park to the actual trailhead. Or just use the lower parking and walk up an easy dirt road.
***= This elevation figure comes from my GPS and likely had a +/- x number of feet status when sent. Foster says 10550 feet.