|John heading up Red Cone Peak|
John wanted to get out on Sunday and had North Twin Peak in the Lost River Range on his mind. Failing to find anyone else to join us, the two of us were on the road at 4AM. After a quick stop for some gas and a breakfast burrito, in Arco, we were on our feet in Elbow Canyon at 8:45AM. Luckily, we were able to drive to the 7000 foot level before the snow blocked the road. From here we continued on foot following some ATV ruts in the deepening, crusted snow.
The “road” terminated a mile and half later in an open meadow surrounded by 10,000+ foot peaks. Here we turned west and started up a tree and snow covered ridge that would eventually lead us to Red Cone Peak at 10,286 feet.
|Red Cone Peak|
Once on the ridge, the snow thinned for a while and we made good time. But at the 8400 foot level, the bare ground disappeared requiring us to travel on the snow pack. I’ll use the term “pack” loosely here, since every third or fourth step we would break though the so called “pack”. It was after a half hour of this post holing that I turned to John and told him he made a mistake. He should not have listened to me when I said let’s leave the snowshoes back in the truck!
|Though a horrible picture, it illustrates the snow conditions|
On the bright side, we only had to ascend another 1000 feet of this hell before we broke out on the talus ridge leading directly to Red Cone Peak. It is hard to describe the snow conditions, but there were a couple of times where we had to crawl on all fours to try and stay on top of it. Fortunately, the final ridge was snow free – nothing but loose talus.
After a slow slog up the talus ridge, were we on top of Red Cone, staring at our main objective, North Twin.
|North Twin (left)|
We took a short break to eat and drink a bit and admire the views. Though there was a thin cloud cover, the temperature was relatively warm with only a whisper of wind. With the energy draining snow conditions we were both a bit tired at this point. I was thinking that it was going to be tough for us to get in the three peaks we had planned for the day, but figured I would see how I felt once on top of North Twin.
|Ridge between the two peaks|
The snow ridge between Red Cone and North Twin looked like it might be a bit spicy as we descended down from Red Cone. We stopped and put on our crampons before traversing this thin ridge, but we crossed without so much as a heart flutter – the view from above was a bit deceiving. Though the snow across the ridge was consolidated, as soon as we started up the remaining 1200 feet to North Twin’s summit we started punching through again. After a quick stop to remove the crampons, we moved to our right to gain the exposed snow free ridge.
Though out of the snow, we now had to deal with the LRR’s infamous talus. But after the fun we had been having in the snow, the loose rock was a welcome relief.
We slowly plodded upward, eventually gaining the summit at 1:30. By this point, the thin cloud cover had dispersed, improving the lighting and our views. After resting and eating again, John and I mutually decided that our third objective (Peak 10677) was out of the question.
|Heading down with Red Cone Peak in the background|
On the descent, we dropped back down to the saddle between Red Cone and North Twin with the thought of a nice, long, butt glissade down the large snow filled north gully. The snow had to be better right?
|The glissade gully|
Wrong! Though John did eventually glissade a portion of it, I could not get more than a continuous 10 foot slide. I would break through the 2” thick crust and sink into the sugary snow. I spent the 1000 foot descent alternating between trying to glissade, post holing up to my thighs while trying to walk and shouting F-bombs.
I eventually met back up with John at the bottom of the gully and we mixed in little bushwhacking with the continued post hole hell for the next mile all the way back to the ATV trail.
We eventually made it back to the truck with our tails between our legs at 4:30 – completely drained but smiling nonetheless. Though it had been a hard day, it was still a great day!
|A look back on the drive out|
John's trip report: http://www.splattski.com/2015/north_twin/index.html
Distance: 7 miles
Elevation: 4300 feet
Time: 4:45 to summit, 7:45 car - car