Monday, September 7, 2009

Thursday, 9/03/09-Saturday, 9/05/09 Twining Peak, PT. 13,500, Sayres Benchmark

Twining Peak (13,711), PT. 13,500
Thursday, 9/03/09
~4.5 miles
~2,300 vertical
3 hrs RT
From Independence Pass
Jeff, Allison and Sierra Valliere

After setting up camp at the base of Graham Gulch (there is some great informal camping there), we drove up to Independence Pass to poke around and see if the weather would cooperate for a hike of Twining Peak. The sky looked a little iffy, but the dark clouds to the West looked somewhat benign and it was sunny overhead, so we started up the well worn trail to the North at 3pm and made our way up Pt. 13,500. We were making good time, but as we neared the summit of Pt. 13,500, the sun went away, almost as if somebody flipped off a light switch and suddenly it was dark, cold, windy, snowing and there was somewhat proximate thunder and lightning.

I have a mild case of PTSD when it comes to lightning after a frightening experience 12 or so years ago, so I immediately wanted to turn tail and run back to the car. In a complete role reversal, Allison suggested we wait it out for a while under some nearby rocks and see what happens, as the danger did not yet seem imminent. We hunkered under some very sheltered and protective rocks (protective from the precipitation, not lightning) for nearly 40 minutes, as wave after wave of graupel passed overhead, until we were assured that conditions were safe enough to proceed upward.

We found if most efficient to pass directly over Pt. 13,500 en route to Twining, then drop the ~350 feet to the saddle. The remainder of the climb from the saddle was straight forward and we reached the summit of Twining around 4:45pm. The sun was out and the conditions were pleasant, so we hung out for a while enjoying the scenery.

Before long, a bolt of lightning several miles to the NE forced us into gear, where Sierra and I were nearly running back toward the saddle with Allison in hot pursuit. There were a few more rumbles, but fortunately, the micro cell moved away from us. Again, we were in a nice calm weather window, so we took a nice long (relaxing this time) break on Pt. 13,500.

We arrived back at the pass at 6pm, as the weather was clearing and headed back to camp for a warm meal and s’mores. An interesting afternoon.

Sayres Benchmark (13,738)
Friday, 9/04/09
~10 miles
~4,000 vertical
5 hrs RT
Sayres Gulch TH
Jeff, Allison and Sierra Valliere, Kevin Lund

We met Kevin at the La Plata TH and he drove us 2.7 miles up the South Fork Lake Creek Road to the head of Sayres Gulch. After a minor route finding snafu (vague and/or out of date route description) and a return trip to the car for a forgotten burrito left on the roof, we were finally on our way up the twisty and now defunct dirt road up toward Sayres BM at 8:35am. If I had to do it over again, I would just head directly up the ridge and skip the road for the most part, as it is ridiculously circuitous and gradual, but if you are looking for a casual walk, the road is a refreshing option. Finding the road requires close attention early on, as we walked right past it and fortunately realized the mistake within a few minutes.

The easiest way to find the proper road is to take a left at an obvious junction 2.6-2.7 miles up the road where there is a sign for Sayres Gulch. Immediately, there is another junction, choose the left option and the road soon comes to a dead end at a foot bridge. Park where the road ends, cross the bridge, walk for a minute or two until the trail intersects with a road and go left. This is the 4wd road that heads South into Sayres Gulch and you have to look for a locked gate immediately on the left, where on the other side is the proper road that ascends the NW ridge of Sayres. This gate is set back a bit and easy to miss if not looking closely for it.

There are a few minor junctions along the way as you ascend the road, but if you pay attention to the map, it is easy to follow. At around 12,500, there is a junction where you have to make a choice. You can keep climbing the road that ascends almost to the false summit of 13,430, or you can take a right on a spur road that drops a few hundred feet and ends below the Sayres/13,430 saddle, which is the option we chose on both the ascent and descent. I had hoped to catch 13,430 on the return, but threatening weather ruled that out. Either way, there is extra elevation gain/loss involved.

The ascent to the saddle is steep, but for the most part, it can be done on solid ground and minimal scree negotiating is required. From the saddle, it is a straight forward class 2 climb on the ridge to a false summit, then a short, but steep and loose climb to the summit (class 2 moving sidewalk scree/dirt).

We arrived on the summit at 11:15am, just as a storm was brewing over La Plata. We did not delay after the first crack of thunder and scampered back down into the basin from which we came to access the mining road, where we had to climb ~300 feet before our final descent back to the car. Although there were storms on either side to scoot us along, fortunately, neither one caught up to us, as we again lucked out upon a near perfect weather window above us the entire time. We arrived back at the TH around 1:30pm for a 5 hour RT.

After lounging around at camp for a while, we decided to head down the road to track down Jason who was supporting Bill and John for an attempt to run over all the Sawatch Peaks (except for Holy Cross). We contacted him by two way radio at the Echo Canyon TH waiting for Bill and John to come off of Elbert. I headed up trail for a ways until I met them, then accompanied them all the way to the La Plata TH. I was gung ho to join them up La Plata, but since I had no gear with me, nor had I eaten yet, I passed on the opportunity. Once darkness fell, I was pleased with that decision.

Pt. 13,198 Attempt
~5 miles
~1,500 vertical
2 hrs RT
From Independence Pass
Jeff, Allison and Sierra Valliere, Kevin Lund

I guess this is hardly worthy of being called an attempt, but since I tried to get there, then perhaps it qualifies? Our original plan was to head up Lackawanna, but some niggling pains for my partners and my foot not being 100% healed, we decided to head up to the pass again for something easy and see how far we could get heading South.

From the pass, it appears that it is possible to get all the way to 13,198. There is a nice double track trail that rolls across the tundra, eventually turning to single track and picks up some (to the best of my knowledge) un-ranked and un-named 12er bumps along the way. On the highest bump, the character of the ridge changed from grassy tundra to volcanic towers, blocks, then loose choss.

The ridge down to the 13,198 saddle is a steep series of steps with lots of loose rock. I did an exposed class 3 down climb to the bench below and walked over to peer off the next step, which was longer, steeper, looser and more exposed than the one I had just negotiated. Turning around was a no brainer, so I headed back up to meet Allison, Kev and Sierra.

Again, we took our time on the summit and getting back to the car. On the drive home, I was shocked to see so many cars headed up I-70 so late in the afternoon (2pm-ish), it was nearly a parking lot, bumper to bumper and just barely moving. Everyone getting a late start on the 3 day weekend I guess. We had 3 days of near solitude and were thankful for that.


Day 1:
Day 2:
Day 3:


  1. Why do you insist on going place I have never heard of? I have to constantly pull out Google Maps to see where you are hiking. :)

  2. You used the word three times in this post. It might be time.

  3. Brandon, if you have to look it up and have never heard of it, chances are, most others have not heard of it either. We drive past 14er trailheads with 50-100 cars, yet just up the road, we hike in complete solitude for the entire day.

    GZ, getting closer, still digging the bike and hiking though. A few more weeks....