| Bushnell, Twin Sisters, Un 12924 & Red Mtn D
Bushnell Peak (13,105)
Twin Sisters South (12,730) unranked
Twin Sisters North (13,012)
Red Mountain D (12,994)
Start: 9200 ft on road up Brook Creek drainage
End: 8400 ft on road up Raspberry Creek drainage
Approx. 10 miles, +5700/-6500 ft
Partners: Dominic, John Kirk & Tim Worth
Bushnell and Twin Sisters in the northern Sangres have been on my to-do list for quite a while. If I had planned this excursion on my own I would never have thought to add the two 12ers north of Twin Sisters, but it seems that John always tries to maximize his peakbagging adventures in order to not leave any "orphaned peaks" as he calls them. His suggestion to traverse the northern Sangre spine from Bushnell Peak to Red Mountain with the aid of a car shuttle seemed like a good one.
We rendezvoused at 7:15 in Villa Grove and made the short drive to 8,400 ft in the Raspberry Creek drainage where we dropped my car off. John then drove us to our 9,200 ft starting point in the Brook Creek drainage. En route we took a wrong turn and drove up the Ferguson Creek drainage instead and easily made it to 9,500 feet, but thick scrub oak scraped the heck out of the truck. High clearance was necessary to reach both "trailheads". It was about 8:15 when we finally got hiking and I didn't think that boded well for the large amount of elevation gain we had ahead of us, but we would see.
We hiked up the old Brook Creek drainage road until about 10,200 ft. At that point we left the trail and hiked steeply up through the trees onto Bushnell's southwest ridge. Except for a few minor postholes, it was easy going without snowshoes. However, if it was a warmer day I'm pretty sure it would not have been as pleasant. For the final very steep stint to the ridge we used snowshoes, mainly for traction (and Dominic and I for our beloved heel elevators). After regrouping at the top, I was shocked to find that we'd already gained 2,000 feet in about 1:15. The grade must be very efficient!
We strapped our snowshoes (which we would never use again) on our packs and made our way up Bushnell's steep, talusy southwest ridge. For a while it was a tedious slog up talus interspersed with snow. The last few hundred feet to the summit were a little rougher, but they didn't pose any problems. The wind had really started to pick up and it was cold than I had expected. We reached the summit around 11:40 but sitting around for a nice break wasn't really an option.
We descended Bushnell's steep northwest ridge to begin our planned three mile traverse over Twin Sisters and UN 12,924, and ending at Red Mountain. The initial descent was steep and a little more time consuming than we'd hoped, but it wasn't difficult. From the west and south our first goal, Twin Sisters South, looked like nothing more than a ridge bump. The ascent was short and sweet.
After a pause and a few pictures we continued on to Twin Sisters North, the higher of the two. We were surprised to see that the lower peak looked much more dramatic from the north. However, the two sisters looked absolutely nothing alike, at least from our vantage points. The terrain between the two was relatively gentle and easy going. From the summit of the higher sister, we could see most of the remaining ridge to UN 12,924 and Red Mountain. Although we were starting to tire a bit, the fact that UN 12,924 was only half a mile away and there was little more than 300 feet to be gained to reach its summit was reassuring. Red Mountain was another story, but one step at a time.
I don't remember a whole lot about the remaining ridge trek. Blowing snow and cold winds made it unpleasant at times, but the terrain was easy. Everyone except Tim left their snowshoes at the incredibly windy UN 12,924 – Red Mountain saddle for the final summit push. It was 4pm when we reached our final summit, a little late to think we wouldn't be needing headlamps on the way out. No big deal.
We backtracked to the UN 12,924 – Red Mountain saddle, retrieved our snowshoes, and began talus hopping southwest down into the Raspberry drainage. There was avalanche debris around, but we were able to stay mostly on talus. We avoided some steep questionable looking slopes by entering the trees on the north side of the drainage. The angle subsided pretty quickly and was reasonably gentle the rest of the way out. We got in one slow rather pathetic glissade, but it was mildly entertaining. After fighting our way through deadfall along Raspberry Creek, we found an old road along its south side. From here it was smooth sailing back to my car. We found that we could have driven to about 9,200 feet on this rather good road. Headlamps weren't necessary after all and we reached the car around 7:15. After a short and bumpy ride back to John's truck, we headed to Coyote Cantina for some much needed food.
I think that these were some of the best snow conditions I've had for a late March hike. The cooler weather was probably a blessing in disguise.