Peak(s):  Twin Pks A  -  13,580 feet
Date Posted:  01/27/2020
Date Climbed:   01/24/2020
Author:  WildWanderer
 Ridge in Winter  

Twin Peaks A – 13,580

20011_01



RT Length: 9 miles


Elevation Gain: 4625’

Any time your hike begins in the Piñon Pines and Junipers you know it’s going to be a long day. I arrived at the South Zapata Creek Trailhead after mistakenly being directed to a gated community a few miles away (Google Maps was taking me to South Zapata Creek, not South Zapata Creek Trailhead: I’d suggest putting in Zapata Falls as it will direct you to the campground and trailhead). No worries though, I was free all day and this only put me back about 15 minutes from schedule. The 4WD road to the correct trailhead was a little rough in the beginning with a lot of softball-bowling ball sized rocks, but after the first mile or so it smoothed out. I parked my truck just before the campground entrance and was on the trail at 6:30am.

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I followed the trail that led to Zapata Falls for .85 miles

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Just past a defunct trail register

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And at this cairn left the trenched trail and turned right and headed up the hill.

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From here on out I was ‘off trail’. At this point I should have put my snowshoes on, but I tend to be stubborn about such things and kept hiking in just my microspikes. My next objective was to gain the ridge to the south. This ridge was steep and I kept sliding backwards in the snow. Yep, snowshoes would have been a good idea. Here the snow was soft but I was only postholing about a foot at a time. To make things easier I did my best to follow recent game tracks. It looked like there were a lot of deer in the area.

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From the top of this ridge I followed the drainage up to a small plateau. Once again, there were tons of deer tracks here and it looked like they’d bedded down in the area last night. I even saw a buck bounding away as I arrived.

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I also got my first view of Twin Peaks A

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The view was short lived however, as I dipped back into the trees again.

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In the trees I came upon an unexpected cabin. It looked old but well kept up. I would have taken a closer look but the snow was really deep here. I broke down and put on my snowshoes.

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From here on out the snow just kept getting thicker and stayed sugary. I kept heading southeast, this time through some thick aspen groves. Shout out to the deer/elk that helped me by breaking about 250 vertical feet of trail: I followed their tracks through the trees until they disappeared over the ridge.

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This route mainly follows the ridge, but it takes forever to get to treeline. Well, it took me forever because I was trenching the entire time. This was the most challenging trench I’ve ever put together: the snow was deep, unconsolidated, and never ending. Several times the snow was so deep I couldn’t go forward and I had to get creative and zig-zag my route to make it possible to continue. This type of trenching is tiring!

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I’d make it to what I thought would be the treeline, only to find more trees ahead of me. Here’s a look at the route from one such area

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More trenching through the trees

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And I came to an area so thick with snow it was untrenchable. I was exhausted and seriously considered turning back: where was treeline anyway?!?! Last week I’d had to turn back on Rinker Peak due to unconsolidated snow, and I really didn’t want to repeat the same scenario twice. I decided instead of continuing along the ridge to descend a little to the south to see if the terrain was any easier, and it was! I came across a rocky area and easily traversed a little below the ridge and then regained the ridge (to more snow)

20011_17



I (finally!) exited treeline and had just a little bit more trenching to do before taking off my snowshoes and tackling the rest of the route in just microspikes. Up until this point I wasn’t sure I was going to complete this hike: all that trenching had worn me out and I thought I’d never make it to treeline. Several times I’d thought about turning back, but I’d put in so much work I didn’t want to give up. This clear view of the peak renewed my spirits and I was ready to go.

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I could see the summit ahead of me and it was a nice day: warm with no wind. I thought taking off my snowshoes would be a good idea and could also save some valuable time. In the beginning, this was a good idea. I was able to quickly rock-hop up the ridge

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After gaining the first bump however, things changed. The snow was no more consolidated here than it had been before treeline. In fact, the snow was 4-6 inches deep: a thin layer over rocky terrain. The snow never held my weight and I frequently postholed in areas where I could easily have twisted an ankle. I was cursing myself for taking off my snowshoes, and would have put them back on except the wind had now kicked up and I was afraid to take off my gloves because of the exposure. I was just going to have to be careful and rock-hop whenever possible.

20011_20



I followed the ridge as closely as possible, but those cornices were weak. I kept postholing in the shallow snow and my feet were becoming frozen. I wasn’t giving up though: I could see the summit!

20011_21



Here’s a look at Twin Peaks B (unranked) and Twin Peaks A. There was a lot more snow at the summit than I’d been able to see from below, those cornices are bigger than they look, and once again, hollow. I followed the ridge to the summit.

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I took a few steps up the cornice to try and get as high as possible and heard a hollow sound below my foot. I quickly retreated: In no way was I going to climb to the top of the cornice.

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I found the summit wind break, set up my camera on top of my backpack, got a (terrible) picture, and decided to book it back down. I wasn’t going to play with that cornice.

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I had no desire to climb Twin Peaks B today as well: The cornices were hollow and I would need to go over one just to start, that wind was becoming insane, and I could no longer feel my feet.

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Time to head back down the ridge

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There were some great views along the way of Lindsey, Ellingwood Point, Blanca, and Little Bear

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And also the Sand Dunes

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Here’s the rest of the route down the ridge and back into treeline

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And a look from treeline up the ridge

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I stopped to put back on my snowshoes at treeline and headed back to the trees, carefully retracing my steps and making my tracks into a solid trench. This is more tiring than it sounds.

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I followed the ridge and in a small clearing between hills saw what looked like a reverse shadow far ahead of me. Anyone know what this is?

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I made my way back to the cabin

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And decided to keep my snowshoes on for the rest of the trek back to the trailhead. Here’s the way down the ravine

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And down the ridge

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Back to the Zapata trail

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It had been a long day, and it was starting to get dark. I’d originally wanted to visit Zapata Falls while I was here, but looking at the time I wouldn’t make it there until after dark. I’ll just have to come back when I’m here later this season. The trail was easy to follow from here

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Back to the trailhead.

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I watched an absolutely stunning sunset as I broke down my gear and got ready to head home.

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I made it back to my truck at 5:30pm, making this a 9 mile hike with 4625’ of elevation gain in 11 hours. This was by far the most tiring day I’ve had trenching ever, but totally worth it!

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Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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