My recovery from hernia surgery has went pretty well. I had been expecting to do a hike in the local foothills this weekend as a final test (after doing some short runs and a long flat walk) of my readiness for the real mountains without the burden of a "heavy" pack. But, that step didn't seem necessary. I'm still having some soreness and/or numbness in and around the incisional area, including the muscles above and below the incision, but nothing particularly bothersome about 95% of the time and still not too bad the other 5%.
I still wanted to do something short and easy, but also something new, because I don't want to "waste" my limited remaining time in Colorado re-climbing something without a very good reason. I had always thought I might save the high peaks in the immediate Independence Pass area for the way back from a long trip to the San Juans. I would take the detour over the pass on the way home and on a nice day I would do the quick hike to cap the trip. But, now everything is fair game.
With the exception of Mount Evans which is more or less summited by a paved road, Twining Peak is the easiest ascent of a peak in the top 200 list in Colorado from a paved road. From Independence Pass, one can take the most direct route and have a about a 3.5 mile round-trip hike with about 1700 feet of gain. I decided to take the slightly longer route which stays on the Continental Divide and crosses an unnamed 13,500-foot peak that is on the top 300 list in Colorado. Twining Peak itself wasn't named until the 1970's and thus is only noted as the USGS "Blue" station on most of their maps of this area in circulation. (They have released a revised version of the 7.5-minute quad with the new name added.) It is a very significant peak with more than a 1000-foot saddle drop to the nearest higher peak (Mt. Champion), but not widely visible from roads. The saddle between Twining and Point 13500 on drops down to 13180ft, just enough to count the latter as a separate peak.
The weather has been quite unsettled recently, and it even rained in Boulder at around 9am while I was gone. But, after driving through some low clouds south of Leadville, the weather was bluebird at Independence Pass when I arrived at around 0540. There doesn't seem to be a well-defined trail leading from the pass, so I picked a likely route, skirting to the left of the pond across the road from the large parking area.
I made my way up to the main ridge on tundra and through occasional short ground willows. It was a bit marshy in places, despite very little snowcover in this area. I headed north up the Continental Divide, encountering a large area of 8-foot long steel "stakes" strewn on the ground. They sort of looked like rain gutter sections and there were several dozen of them. My only good guess as to their purpose is that maybe they are building a snow fence to protect the road as this ridge is immediately to the west of the road. Then again, the road is only open from Memorial Day into October; maybe they are planning to keep it open longer.
The terrain is easy up this ridge until you reach a rocky area about 150 feet below the unnamed summit. It looks very rugged with very large boulders, but it is pretty easy to slalom around the biggest rocks and is just Class 2. Just after this, you get a nice view of some pinnacles on the right side of the ridge. I skirted around some small snowfields on the final approach to the summit. The summit itself was unimpressive and unmarked, except for a small cairn.
From there, you have a good view of the final 500+ feet of Twining and I could see that there was some snow right on the last "steep" part of the ridge before it leveled off at the summit. But, the ridge at this point was more of a face, so I could see that I should be able to avoid the snow by traversing across the face and doing an "end around". The snow probably would have been managable, but after a clear night and a current temperature around freezing, I figured the snow surface to be quite hard and worth avoiding in my trail shoes unless it was flat.
That worked out fine, and I could easily walk on the remaining hardpacked snow when necessary on the final part of the ridge. Near the summit there is a bit of a notch which again required avoiding some snow. The very summit was still encased in a snowbank, so I don't know if there is a register or if the USGS marker is still there. The more general summit plateau was dry, though.
The weather was still great, 35F with occasional gusts just short of 20 mph, but only a few clouds and good visiblity. There was still a fair bit of snow remaining in the gullies on the mountainsides making for some nice views. The Elk Range is nicely visible from here and I could easily pick out Mount Sopris, Snowmass Mountain and the Maroon Bells. The rest of the Sawatch Range to the north was muted by sunglare, but the southern part of the range looked nice.
I remained on the summit for about 20 minutes, making sure to spend several minutes sitting down to rest my groin muscles. I would have stayed there longer, but my camcorder battery was more or less dead and I couldn't shoot much video. Plus, the hike up had been short enough that I didn't need a major break.
Although my groin held up pretty well, I did have some extra soreness, especially when changing from descent to ascent, e.g. when starting up Twining from the saddle. I had thought about completely retracing my route over Pt 13500 for the extra exercise, but decided to take the more direct way down. This amounts to leaving the ascent route at the saddle, and skirting around Pt 13500 on the east side of the Divide. Just below the saddle, I encountered a bit of trail, but if there was a continuous trail between there and the trailhead, I couldn't follow it in the presence of many snowfields. From above, I could still see a good route back over to the initial ridge just above the pass and followed my eye. I did hike across snow a couple times, and it was mostly solid, but one would not have wanted to tempt fate too much on that issue. One has to do a bit of extra gain in crossing gentle ridges across the grain, but only amounting to about 100ft.
I skirted the "Pass Pond" on the other side this time, and arrived at a much busier parking lot at 0852. I had my nifty Suunto altimeter watch and wore the heartrate monitor, and based on my climb rates and heart rates, I'm in the "pretty good shape" that my running had implied before I had the surgery. Although I did have the extra soreness I already mentioned, I don't think the after-effects of the surgery affected the hike and the 2-week layoff from strenuous activity didn't seem to hurt, either. Of course, a 3-hour hike doesn't say much about endurance. Still, I was quite glad to be in (and on) the mountains once again.
To the chronological trip index
To the Twining Peak page
To the Point 13500 page
File last modified: 31 March 2005