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Monday, May 18, 2015

A Preseason Assault on Twin Peaks

In spite of rain, snow, sleet, hail… darkness of day… and unseasonable cool cold temps, I've been keeping active biking on the old Schwinn nearly every day—in shorts and t-shirt, no less. Pretty tough guy, eh? I wish. The Schwinn is an Exercise Bike, now a permanent fixture in our living room and parked squarely in front of an Imax Window. It's one thing to occasionally resort to indoor "Cardio" in January—to peer from our glass-walled perch at blowing snow and flashing lights of CDOT plows groaning up 550's switchbacks to fight a losing battle with Old Man Winter and Red Mountain. But another thing entirely to be trapped for weeks on end by Seattle-like gloom—low sodden clouds and the insipid "Groundhog Day" routine of mythological weather gods taking turns at using my mood for a punching bag. I'm growing gills here.

Thus, I've been chomping at the bit for a summit and, come rain or snow, recently declared Lovely Ouray's sentinel Twin Peaks "the objective." 

Twin Peaks is a relatively modest 10,000 feet above sea level, and  some 2,000 feet above our skylight. Whether by naivety or narcissism or both, I was determined to have a peak experience… to gaze down off Gore-tex boot tips on our sleepy, soggy Swiss village from Twin Peaks rocky (icy?) summit. It's a good place to re-contemplate one's insignificance on a random trillionth planet in the Universe. 

There is no shortage of opportunity around here. Ten trails lie within walking distance of our hillside perch above Lovely Ouray… hundreds if one is willing to drive ten miles, thousands if you bump the radius to 50 miles. And though it's pushing summer everywhere else in the northern hemisphere, around these parts summiteers are at the mercy of winter's leftovers until July.

From Old Twin Peaks Trail, looking across Highway 550's switchbacks out of Ouray, and into the Amphitheater above town
There are two approaches to Twin Peaks—a steep route for youngsters with fresh legs and lungs, and a more modest one for wasted chain-smokers of recently legalized "Mary Jane" and the Senior Citizenry. Eventually the two trails meet and become one, but the steeper route saves a couple of miles so, given threatening weather, we chose that one. 

Bobbie, on the "Stair-master," a pretty high-maintenance trail barely etched into a steep drainage with lots of rockfall and earth slides.

You can get a feel for Old Twin Peaks Trail's steepness by Bobbie's angle of incline… a good stretch for achilles tendons. 

In spite of the day being cool and cloudy, Old Twin Peaks Trail broke a good sweat within 10 minutes. Must have been the humidity. All goes well on the "zig zag" and soon we are rejoined about half way to the summit with the modest trail. Scant snow, so we push on and go for it.

It doesn't take long for trail conditions (and my spirits) to plummet. We are forced to cross several avalanche shoots, with nothing to arrest a "slip-up" except our flimsy hiking poles. The going is difficult and unpredictable, hardened ice is slick, but alternates with crusted snow that suddenly gives way and left us "post-holed" up to our crotches and struggling to retrieve a lost leg from the deep freeze.  On the other side of the snowfields a trail pops out nice and dry, a lure, "if we can just get across this bad spot maybe…"

But the higher we go, of course, the worse it gets. Then it begins to snow and the wind kicks up. Bare legs are scratched and cut by ice shards from all the "post-holing," and snow has by now worked it's way into our boots and soaked feet in ice water. 

Where it's too dangerous, we leave the trail and attempt to make our way around, grabbing onto pine boughs, aspen trees… roots. We cross bear tracks, then mountain lion tracks… a big heavy cat judging from it's imprint. 

Being Male, I dislike being turned back from an objective about as much as I dislike asking directions when hopelessly lost. It seems men are deeply predictable creatures, hard-wired to take the path of most resistance. Add to that we are also conditioned by one of the cruelest of childhood fraternities: "The Neighbor-Hood." Memories (nightmares) of "Chicken," and "What's the matter scardy-cat, do you want your Mama?" get replayed, even decades later. It doesn't make sense, I know, but it's there, if only on a subconscious level, playing in the backgrounds like irritable elevator Muzak.  

Thankfully, I get cold. I can endure much, but when I get cold I really do want my Mama… could care less about ridicule or taunts from Bullies. Just give me my blanky!" 

Maybe we'll try again on Memorial weekend...if it quits snowing by then.    


  1. A valiant effort in any event. So, why not just get in Goldie and head out? Sounds like it's time for a road trip and beats riding the Schwinn in the living room, albeit with a million dollar view (and highway).

  2. I was just going to give up and buy that rocking chair had you two completed this hike.


  3. Disappointing though it may be...at least you made it home safely, and got some serious exercise. Great shots of a tough hike, thanks for taking me there virtually so I don't have to do it myself! ;-)

  4. Yes - the virtual hike was good. I just hate being that cold.

  5. Down here in Florida, we're hitting the time of year where we try to finish our hikes by 1p before the real heat of the day sets in. If you want to look at the opposite of your weather, take a look at http://www.seizingthedream.com/ (my blog). It might virtually warm you up a bit.

    Cheers, and thanks for sharing the photos and the stories!

  6. You men are alike! I am sure we have been in the same position until the wise one got cold. Then, we, too, would be turning back. Great effort! The weather has been a real bummer. We've had the same thing in Utah.

  7. We don't do cold! Which is one of the reasons we hunkered down in Sedona for awhile. I sure am looking forward to being in Montrose in July!

  8. Does seem like winter is hanging on. But I would have stopped long before any kind of snow. I Don't Do Cold! if I can help it. But then we've had a little snow at the canyon too.

  9. Thanks for the hike. But. Give me 85 degrees. And run over causeway bridge to the beach


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