| Mineral/Molas Pass 13ers.
August 10, 2011
~13.6 Miles, ~5,700 Gain.
Trailhead: End of the Mineral Creek Road (FS 585)
The impeccable forecast was still holding out for another bomber blue bird day. My wife and I met my friend, Sandy, in Silverton and then together, found a decent camping spot off of the South Mineral Road. Being such a popular place for Ice Basin, the camping spot took some work to find. We woke up and carpooled to the trailhead at the end of the Mineral Creek Road past the Bandora Mine and were hiking up the Rico-Silverton trail by 7:15 AM.
As enjoyable as it was, we followed the trail until ~11,800 and then hiked on pleasant grassy slopes to the base of the southwest ridge of Twin Sister West. The enjoyment ended. To bypass the cliffs, we ended up doing an ascending northeast traverse on crappy talus ledges below the cliffs to ~12,500. If the enjoyment hadn't ended, it certainly did now. We climbed directly north up rotten talus slopes to regain the southwest ridge above the cliffs. Travel was slow since Sandy had to exercise caution as this was the hardest trip since recovering from a shattered ankle.
Ledges on the south side of the southeast ridge on Twin Sister West.
Nasty talus to gain the southeast ridge.
We finally reached the ridge, and the talus slopes became more tolerable. Up and over point 13,205 we continued onward towards Twin Sister West. Right at the saddle of Twin Sister West and 13,205 was a short notch which we bypassed easily on the left/north side of the ridge. We arrived on the summit of Twin Sister West at 11:20 AM. Our break was much needed and shortly thereafter, we were on our way to Twin Sister East.
The southeast ridge above the cliffs.
Working our way to the false summit of West Twin Sister.
Nearing the summit of West Twin Sister.
Engineer Mountain from the summit of West Twin Sister.
East Twin Sister from the West Twin Sister.
It was a class 2 talus hike to Twin Sisters East where we arrived at 12:10 PM. Sandy and Donna didn't really care for the other peaks, and didn't mind waiting, so I continued onward to collect another three peaks. The descent off of Twin Sisters East wasn't easy but was better than the ascent of Twin Sisters West. From the summit, I headed southeast down a grassy, then rocky, steep rib to the Twin Sisters East-12,601 saddle.
Descending the West Sister.
Ice Basin Peaks.
From the Twin Sisters East-12,601 saddle, it was a grassy hike up the west slopes to 12,601 where I arrived at 1:00 PM. Still clear skies. Now, off to the more important objective of 13,042. Again, it was a grassy hike to the saddle of 12,601 and 13,042 and then a grassy hike up the southwest slopes to the summit of 13,042. It was nice to have a good break from all of the talus and rotten rock. I arrived on the summit of 13,042 at 1:35 PM.
Twin Sisters from 12,601.
13,042 from the summit of 12,601.
Point 12,579 was a little out of the way but was certainly going to be manageable on the grassy terrain. I returned to the 12,601-13,042 saddle and then hiked west around a grassy basin straight towards the 12,601-12,579 saddle. Even from the saddle, the summit was still a mile away. Travel went quick on the grassy south ridge of 15,579 and I arrived on the summit at 2:20 PM.
I returned back down the south ridge and traversed into the basin above porcupine creek where I was going to meet up with Donna and Sandy. Without any trouble, I found them and we started our trek back to the car. We descended to the northwestern side of the valley and found some game trails which took us to ~11,200 where we found a great trail that isn't marked on any topos or trail illustrated maps.
Twin Sisters from the north.
Sandy had a 1997 printing of a San Juan mountain map which showed the trail so we knew it was there. The trail was in better shape than some trails that are marked on topos! This trail took us down and dropped us off on the east side of the Bandora Mine. Unfortunately, the river crossing was a little difficult as we had to take our boots off. I dropped off my pack and ran back to the car and then came back to pick Donna and Sandy where I arrived back at 4:30 PM.
The willow trail.
The unmarked trail after the river crossing.
This trail on the north side of Twin Sisters would certainly be the best way to climb the Twin Sisters as it avoids the nasty talus on the south side of Twin Sister West. It would also make a very enjoyable hike for the other peaks as well. The best way to find the trail is to park at a road junction just before the Bandora Mine at ~10,700. The trail is directly southeast from this junction and is very hard to see from the road. After crossing the river, the first part of the trail appears to be in a stream bed. Once in the willows, the trail is easy to follow.
August 11, 2011
~6.8 Miles, ~3,600 Gain.
Trailhead Start: Molas Pass northern trailhead for the Colorado Trail. End: Highway 550 at Deadwood Gulch.
An easy day was needed after several days of climbing. We slept in and I was dropped off at the Molas Pass trailhead for the Colorado Trail (north side) at 8:00 PM. From the trailhead, I headed directly north up the grassy slopes to the “West Turkshead”-12,899 saddle. I couldn't find the trail that I had read about that went into this basin.
Near the top of the gully to the “West Turkshead”-12,899 saddle, I had to bypass a steep section of marginal rock on the right/east side and from the saddle it was a grassy hike up the east slopes to the summit of “West Turkshead” where I arrived at 9:10 AM. Great views of Vestal Basin. My stay was short and I returned to the “West Turkshead”-12,899 saddle and bypassed 12,899 to the east side where I found a trail.
Vestal Basin Peaks from the summit of West Turkshead.
Grand Turk and Sultan from West Turkshead.
The trail I found traversed around the west side of 13,087 towards the 13,087-Grand Turk Saddle. Unfortunately, the trail didn't continue to the summit of Grand Turk but rather continued to the Grand Turk-Sultan saddle. I left the trail on the northern end of the saddle and climbed up the grassy south slopes of Grand Turk arriving at 10:00 AM. Even though it was early, the weather was starting to build.
Grand Turk from a false summit
Sultan from Grand Turk.
I continued directly west off of the summit of Grand Turk, down a talus slope, to re-intercept the trail that would take me to the Grand Turk-Sultan saddle. At the Grand Turk-Sultan saddle, I ditched my pack and made the short class 2 hike to the summit of Sultan (10:40 AM). Great views of Silverton.
South slopes of Sultan.
Silverton from Sultan.
Vestal group from Sultan.
Returning to my pack, and for something different, I headed down the very steep talus slopes into Deadwood Gulch. The first 200 vertical feet really sucked but became more enjoyable once I descended lower. I continued east down Deadwood Gulch staying on the north side of the creek. It was a bushwhack but wasn't as bad as some. At times, I even found an abandoned trail (miners?). Once I hit 550, I radioed my wife and I was picked up around noon.
Grand Turk from Deadwood Gulch.
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