Monday, November 26, 2012

Twin Sisters Peak

Thanksgiving morning dawned very cold and windy in the foothills. In stark contrast to my Flagstaff Mountain jaunt I took the trip to Lily Lake and the start of the trailhead. Otto needed a rest and Livvy was recovering from an ailment so I was without dogs today.
Ascending through lodgepole

The holiday almost guaranteed a quiet trail and I was looking forward to getting above 11,000 feet again. There won't be many more opportunities for doing so this year as the trails are becoming heavily iced and soon there will be too much snow. Neither were problems on the Twin Sisters trail and it was pleasant running up through the trees sheltered from the high winds that were roaring through the treetops. Every now and then I would get buffeted and knocked off balance. It would be interesting to see what the summit was like when I got there.
Early glimpse of Long's Peak covered in cloud

I had not run this trail before, mainly because, starting in the Rocky Mountain National Park, dogs are not allowed. The map showed rapid altitude gain and lots of switchbacks on the trail, but in truth I never found any sections that I couldn't run. That didn't mean I was uniformly fast, but it did mean that I could keep moving and maintain some body heat.
Fern Lake fire still visible above Estes Park

The initial 2 miles ascends through lodgepole and the trail is fairly even and gently rising. I would catch a glimpse of Long's Peak as the trees thinned and it was shrouded in cloud - not as bad as last week when I ran up Battle Mountain, but likely snowing. If I was experiencing high wind at this level it must have been unforgiving at 14,000 feet.
Long's Peak emerging from cloud cover, taken from the summit

Although most of this trail ascends through dense woodland it is quite interesting, passing beneath some nice rock faces and with good valley views at overlooks. It climbs the west facing slopes for the first two miles than switches to the north east face as it makes the final push above tree line. This was the part I was dreading because I feared the strong, cold wind. As it turned out I was reasonably well sheltered and the only sustained damage was inflicted on the summit.
It took me a while to find a place where my camera didn't get blown away in the wind

As the trail struck up the final rocky talus I had a great view of the Fern Lake wildfire above Estes Park. This started back in August and has been burning ever since. Even the recent snowfall has failed to put it out. In the photo here you can clearly see the plumes of smoke.

I had seen no one all day. It was perfect. I had a tricky time avoiding the iced up sections of the trail on the decent but it was pleasant running and getting warmer as I lost height. I did meet a couple out walking closer to the bottom and they seemed a little concerned about the cold. I hope they made it to the top as the views are spectacular. This would make a great summer evening run.

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