Peak(s):  Twin Pks A  -  13,580 feet
Date Posted:  05/26/2012
Date Climbed:   05/24/2012
Author:  Vermont Mike
 Who Needs Al Ellingwood When You've Got Dave Lynch?   

I had this outing planned for a month or so down the road, but with bluebird May weather and the Sangres looking drier than Mitch Hedberg's humor, I decided to give it a shot this past week. I made the drive from Colorado Springs to the Blanca area in the usual 2+ hours, with the usual captivation by Mt. Mestas followed by the customary "looks like talus hell" thoughts of what it would be like to climb it (it's on my ever-growing rarely-shrinking list). I reached the South Zapata Lake trailhead around 7:15 AM after driving up the access road that would make any Zydeco band proud.

Good morning, dunes:

The trail quickly climbs up above Zapata Falls and heads eastward above the ear candy of South Zapata Creek. Soon Twin Peaks could be seen to the southeast, with Ellingwood Point making an appearance in the distance.

Desert, meet forest:

About a mile and a half in (according to my sketchy-at-best judgment of distance), the wilderness boundary is reached.

The world above treeline is a magical place, and this drainage is no exception.

Ellingwood Point and the connecting ridge to Twin Peaks help form a beautiful cirque:

At 4.5 miles (according to my not-so-sketchy map) I arrived at South Zapata Lake. It was already 9:45 and I was moving approximately as quickly as your typical Senate bill. I found this a bit concerning but shrugged it off as early season sluggishness. After a quick snack and adding a layer I started making my way up southwest towards the summit of Twin Peaks. There is probably a climber's trail all the way to the saddle but I kept losing it every couple hundred vertical feet. At any rate it's a simple Class 2 climb from the lake to the summit.

Looking back down at South Zapata Lake near the summit of Twin Peaks. The route climbs the gully that forms the right corner of the triangle at the right of the photo. By now Lindsey and Blanca have joined the party:

I reached the summit of Twin Peaks at 11:15 AM, and it was clear by now that I wasn't going to be moving quickly at all today.

Wimpy dunes 6,000' below as seen from a David Lynch television series:

My next goal for the day was to give the connecting ridge to Ellingwood Point a shot. I don't have a lot of experience on narrow ridges so I figured at the very least it would be educational. I also don't have an ice ax yet, so I knew my day would be over if I encountered any unavoidable snow.

The ridge over to Ellingwood from the south peak of Twin Peaks

After putting on my thinking cap (aka helmet), I slowly made my way down along the ridge proper, which soon narrowed and required a little bit of Class 3. It wasn't long before I came to a notch which required a 20 ft downclimb followed by a couple exposed 4th class moves to bypass staying on the 5.harderthanicando ridge crest.

Here's what the ridge looks like about 1/4 mile from Twin Peaks:

I slowly kept making my way along until I reached a spot that was, for this ridge neophyte, a deal breaker: a technical downclimb into a snow-filled notch with steep snow on either side. I could have probably backtracked a bit and downclimbed a couple hundred feet and traversed past this difficulty, but I had already been on the ridge for an hour and my cut-off time of 2 PM for an Ellingwood summit seemed unattainable.

This notch ended my day:

So, what does a ridge neophyte do? Backtrack and reclimb Twin Peaks? Nope. Ridgus neophytus finds -- nay, creates -- a place to bail off the ridge. I created this spot a few yards back from the Nemesis Notch at the top of a gully which held some snow that looked like it could be avoided with a little effort. At the very least if I got cliffed out I was reasonably sure I could reclimb back to the ridge.

I bailed down the gully at center, Nemesis Notch at the left:

After an hour of downclimbing/routefinding through cliff bands and down unstable talus I finally made it out of the rockfall/wet slide danger zone. My bail from the ridge was not the safest or smartest thing to do, but I was happy that I kept calm and made rational decisions once I had committed to it. I definitely had some nice *-puckering (read a certain Vonnegut book if you don't know what the * stands for) slip-and-die moments working my way down some cliff bands. Man do you feel alive during those minutes! At any rate I'm sure a more experienced climber would have made easy work of the ridge and/or my downclimb. The middle section of the ridge looked like it was broader/easier than the first third from Twin Peaks, and as I understand it the final third or so to Ellingwood Point is a fun Class 3ish scramble.

An hour or so of clambering down some more talus and I was back at South Zapata Lake for a late lunch. This little devil and his friends were inquiring whether or not I had reservations:

Less than 2 hours later I was back to the trailhead and my dilapidated Honda Civic. All-in-all a good day, with a bicentennial summit followed by some valuable routefinding experience. Thanks for reading, now go climb something!

Comments or Questions
nice report
05/26/2012 10:13
Good job on the report! I enjoyed reading it!
Congrats on all of your accomplishments on this trip.

Now I think I'll go climb something. ;)

05/26/2012 13:43
Like your sense of humor and writing style - makes this a fun read.
Congrats on a great and safe day out, the summits, and thanks for sharing!
You've got some nice pics in here, too.

I'll climb something tomorrow, thanks!

Great report
05/26/2012 16:42
Very nice report and wonderful pics. Smart guys like you turn around when the going gets beyond reasonable. Perhaps, another day, another route will make it all happen

Thanks for sharing...
05/29/2012 15:41
your trip report on this ”off the beaten path” mountain. Not many people venture out to the Twin Peaks and thus, get pixs and commentary from this viewpoint. So, thanks for sharing. And I too enjoyed your dry wit! Love your name for ”Nemesis Notch”!

Great write up!

06/19/2018 15:52
Love the report! The photos aren't showing up? Would sure like to see them!

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