Peak(s):  Twin Sisters - 11,428 feet
Date Posted:  03/16/2008
Modified:  03/21/2008
Date Climbed:   03/15/2008
Author:  Aubrey

 Twin Sisters  

Twin Sisters, 11,428' (NE peak, according to RMNP. I think this elevation reflects the updated survey. Some sources give it a slightly lower number. There are really two northern summits - the NE one is slightly taller than the NW one - and one south summit.)

Elevation gain: about 2,400 from trailhead / about 2,600 from locked winter gate
Distance: 7.4 miles round trip from trailhead / about 7.9 miles round trip from locked winter gate

Preface on the photos: Don't bother adjusting your monitor. After serving me well for many years, my digital camera decided to die on this climb. I'm not sure what happened, but when I got home I noticed that all my photos were blurry, scratchy and heavy on the magenta hue. I've still included some of the photos in my trip report so that you could get a general sense of conditions. Sorry that they're so messed-up looking.

After an early rise at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, we thought about skiing for a bit … then made the impulse decision to head to Rocky Mountain National Park to do some snowshoeing. With the summer climbing season just around the corner, I gotta get back in shape!

But first: breakfast. We had to get in touch with our white trash heritage, so we hit Waffle House on the way. After inhaling a load of grease, salt and carbs, we were back on the road.

While cruising along Hwy 66 behind one of many slow Colorado drivers, going 10 mph under the speed limit, we changed our plans and decided to climb the Twin Sisters. From Hwy 66 they looked pretty dry, and the skies above the Sisters looked better than the skies over RMNP.

We pulled into the parking area right off of Hwy 7, across from Lily Lake, at 10:30 a.m. and started hiking up the road (in the summer, you can drive up this road a bit further to the trailhead, which is only about a quarter mile or so). The 200 feet of elevation gain is gradual, and I think it only added about 10 minutes or so each way (probably about a quarter mile each way).

The trail was snow covered, but it was pretty well tramped down. If you stayed in the middle, postholing was kept to a minimum. Only problem was, it was a bit icy. And the worst part of all: The trail is slightly sloped the entire way, making it difficult to keep yourself vertical. Yaktrax or Stabil-icers would've come in very handy. Hell, even crampons wouldn't have been too much overkill. At least I remembered to bring trekking poles, though.


We had snowshoes with us, which we never really needed for the snow, but we probably should have worn them for the icy, sloped trail. I guess we just didn't want to hassle with putting them on and taking them off.

After a dizzying number of switchbacks (brought back memories from when we climbed the Twin Sisters a couple years ago), we made it to the saddle area, where the snow was less packed, softer and deeper. Still, snowshoes weren't really needed. We made our way through that area with only a couple postholing incidents.

The trail became much better above tree line. There was still some ice and snow on the trail, but it wasn't bad. That area up there is also more wind-blown and sun-drenched, so it was pretty dry in some areas.

Here's a shot looking back down the trail, with the Mummy Range / northern RMNP in the background:


And this is looking up the trail:


We made it to the top area, near that weather/research station, at 12:30 p.m.


We then spent about a half-hour climbing the two North peaks. There's some fun and easy class 2 scrambling and scampering to be had. You can also make it harder or easier for yourself, depending on which way you take up the rocks. I imagine this would be a good area for people to practice class 2+ or 3.

Here's me on the northwest summit, with Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak in the background:


Here's a hiker on the northwest summit, viewed from the northeast summit (weather/research station bottom-right):


Here's a shot of the south summit (taken from the northwest summit):


See what I mean about the photos? It's like I dropped the thing in a toilet or something (I didn't). I guess I'm lucky that my camera didn't decide to die on me while climbing Kili or some other significant peak. BTW, new camera is in the mail.

At about 1 p.m. we headed back down. Keeping my balance and catching myself from slipping was very tiring. We both took some falls.

Made it back to the lower parking lot at 2:30 p.m.

Even though I thought we did pretty well (4 hours round trip, with snow/ice on the trail), it was rather exhausting. I lost count of how many times I slipped and had to catch myself, with my big pack trying to throw me off balance even more. All that balancing and using stabilizer muscles really did a number on me, and I'm feeling the soreness in odd places today.

This new snowfall tonight-3/16/2008, and tomorrow-3/17/2008, may change conditions a bit, but I wanted to share. For those of you considering the Twin Sisters, I hope this was helpful.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Only two sisters?
02/05/2011 00:22
CODave and I were up there yesterday too, I think we were probably over on the South sister when you all made your way up to the two north sisters. We attempted to hit every one of the summits up there, I think at the end of the day we had the two main sisters and seven of there cousins. It actually boosted our elevation gain for the day to 3600+. Sorry to hear about your camera however both CODAve and I have pictures from yesterday if you want something that looks like it wasn‘t dropped in a toilet. Definitely a fun day playing on solid rock.


Elusive Twin Sisters Mountain
03/17/2008 02:36
Aubrey: Did you lift those photos from a 1940s climbing mag?

sdkeil: I have ran out of time twice this winter trying to hit ”Twin Sisters Mountain.” There has got to be a 1000 foot elevation drop and re-climb from the saddle between Twin Sisters Peak East and Twin Sisters Peak West and it isn‘t a cakewalk.


03/17/2008 02:52
Aubrey: too bad we didn‘t run into ya. It was a beautiful day up there yesterday!

Papillon: I think it‘s about a 350 ft. climb up Twin Sisters Mountain and then 400 ft. to re-gain East Twin Sister with about a total distance of 0.5 miles between the two.


03/17/2008 03:36
Slow Moving Fun Seeker and I hiked the Twin Sisters today (3/16), and had a great time. The weather was much better than the forecast. Clouds rolled in in the afternoon and dropped a dusting of snow. The trail was packed and icy, so SMFS suggested that we stash the snowshoes and use crampons. It seemed like overkill, but I‘m sure that I would have busted my a** without them. We got to see some incredible scenery before the clouds rolled in; the view of Longs Peak is world class. Great hike!


03/17/2008 04:06
Those pictures remind me of the 70‘s....or was it the 80‘s? I forget.


Fun in the sun
11/30/2010 17:28
Greenhouseguy, right on! Just missed you guys.

If I had brought the crampons, I would've used 'em, and marched up with confidence. That ice was evil.

Slow Moving Fun Seeker

Great Hike
03/18/2008 01:04
Great pictures, Aubrey, except that they all look like you dropped your camera into a toilet....

Greenhouseguy and I settled for only the East and West Sister on Sunday, but I sure don‘t regret breaking out the Kahtoolas. GHG later said he felt like Spiderman. Better safe than sorry. Nice TR.

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