Hiking Twin Sisters, Rocky Mountain National Park (May 2012)

Long on my list of hikes I’ve been wanting to sample, I was glad to sign up for an opportunity to join a group hike on a Saturday morning in late May to summit Twin Sisters in Rocky Mountain National Park.

My calendar reminds me, however, that Saturday is my last training run for the 2012 Bolder Boulder 10-kilometer run. I’ve been training for five continuous months, and on that Saturday I am supposed to continue to “taper” by running an easy 20-minute jog. Would a five-hour hike – steep enough to be rated “difficult” by hiking maps – be a suitable replacement for the jog? I decide to opt for the hike as a form of “cross-training.” And even if the hike is not suitable, I could always run for 20 minutes after the hike…

The morning features skies that are clear of clouds. But our skies are not the deep blue clear I’ve come to love and expect in Boulder. There is a noticeable haze blanketing the Rockies. We soon learn that the enormous 100,000-acre wildfire currently raging in New Mexico to our south is creating a smoky haze in the Rockies.

At first, I’m disappointed, as this means an obscured view of the snow-capped mountains. But later, halfway into our hike, we cross a hiker coming down from the summit. We ask if the views are substandard, given the smoky skies. He informs us that even if he had knew in advance what kinds of views he’d have with the smoke, he’d still opt to do it, as the views are spectacular.

Even with the smoke.

Twin Peaks is a “double summit.” The “difficult” rating for the hike is that the 3.9 miles from trailhead to the summit is all uphill. And rather rocky near the summit. The trailhead is relatively close to the summit, but when we glimpse at the summit from where we start the hike, it appears that the hike will be straight up a sheer, vertical rock face. There is a 2,340 ft elevation gain from trailhead to summit, but looking up at the summit makes it seem like a lot more.

The trail surface, for the first three miles, is relatively smooth and softened with a pine needle duff as it passes through a pine forest. As the trail goes above the tree line, the last quarter mile of the trail crosses a rocky scree field to the summit.

And at an elevation above 11,000 feet, even those of us who have trained for Bolder Boulder are huffing and puffing given the scarcity of oxygen at this altitude. The sister we choose to summit stands at 11,428 feet. The “sibling” is close by, but I decide not to engage in a twin summit, as I am concerned about over-exerting just before the 10K. And the lingering concern that I might twist an ankle while doing so, and thereby throwing away five months of difficult training for the 10K.

At the summit, we are rewarded with stunning, 360-degree views of surrounding Rockies – particularly awesome are the views of Longs Peak, which dominates the sky for much of this hike.

Joining us at the summit are two well-fed marmots, which aggressively beg us for lunch food.

I decide after returning home from the hike that I don’t have the energy to run for 20 minutes. The hike was more than enough. “Tapering,” though, it was not.

This YouTube video consists of photos I shot during this hike: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rtgWiwR7Ck

Categories: 2011-Present, Colorado, Hiking | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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