Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lily Mountain Ridge and Twin Sisters Mountain.

With the previous two difficult outings coming in three days, I decided to head out for something a little bit easier on my last day off between jobs.  I could sleep in a little bit, and would be comfortably on solid ground the entire day.  Which is to say, no snow climbing!  
It's interesting to look at a topo sometimes.  With this look, I noticed that Lily Mountain and Twin Sisters Mountain are essentially one long ridge, albeit with a deep pass in the middle.  Which is where Lily Lake is located, and where Route 7 runs.  I had a few things to do on both sides of this ridge from Route 7, and decided to park at the lower parking on the Twin Sisters side and head toward Lily Mountain first.  
Fosters book lists the Lily Ridge Trail as a destination, so I had to do it, and this was my reasoning for approaching Lily Mountain from Lily Lake.  I could also climb a few of the technical destinations in Jurassic Park that are listed as peaks on LoJ.  Last time I'd ascended three of them, but felt it was too dangerous to continue on to the more difficult ones, as it was super windy.  
There are several pretty well put in unofficial trails that run up toward this area from the Lily Ridge Trail.  I just picked one and moved up until I reached the climbing destinations.  I was surprised to see someone had already beaten me to the rock.
A climber on Dinosaur's Foot.
I did the fun fourth class climb up the back of The Fin, and had some decent views from the top.
The Fin, 9510 feet.
Looking toward Long Wall, The Crags, and Twin Sisters Peaks from The Fin.
And the views into the Longs Peak cirque were breathtaking and inspiring.
I then headed downwards to enjoy some third class climbing on Big Ass Slab.
The top of Big Ass Slab, 9510 feet.
A short descent and more third class brought me to the top of Left Hand Rock, 9470 feet.
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.  
Gianttrack Mountain, Rams Horn visible behind.
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.
Jurassic Park as visible from 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. 
As I got above treeline, I could see a blanket of clouds hovering over the front range.  Pretty cool!
The trail goes directly to Twin Sisters Peaks West, 11413 feet.  There were two other people here.  It had taken me exactly 1.5 hours to get here from the lower parking lot.  Again, take in great views of the Longs Peak area.
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.
Twin Sisters Peaks East, 11428 feet.
East and Twin Sisters Mountain, 11384 feet.
Looking back to Lily Ridge.  It looked tiny from here.  It didn't feel tiny while traversing it.
West from East.  Click to zoom in and you can see the two people still on top.
I looked to Twin Sisters Mountain.  While not included in Fosters book, this peak does lie within RMNP.  I headed east off of East, and then worked south as I could.  This brought some second class scrambling on mostly solid talus.  
The benchmark on the top of Twin Sisters Mountain.  
Twin Sisters Peaks from Twin Sisters Mountain.
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:
This small seep was the only flowing water I could find in the general vicinity of where Lookout Springs is supposed to be.  Honestly, I expected more!
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.
Much to my surprise, I found the first summit register of the day here, calling this "The Highest Crag".  I guess a few others had the same idea as I did!  
My visit was cut short due to mosquitoes, but this summit again held some magnificent views.  Here see Lily Lake and the climbing areas above.
The register had been in place since 2005.  The jar was broken, so I took the paper with me, hopefully to return it as soon as I can.
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.


  1. Enjoyed the photo with the two people. It gives perspective of the terrain.

    1. It's always difficult to get some perspective on things without a human body in the photo for comparison. Normally there's no one around where I go!