Peak(s):  Twin Pks A  -  13,580 feet
Twin Pks A South  -  13,534 feet
Date Posted:  09/22/2017
Date Climbed:   06/21/2017
Author:  gore galore
 "The Ones We Never Got Around To Climbing," Albert Ellingwood and the Twin Peaks, 1916   

"The Ones We Never Got Around To Climbing," Albert Ellingwood and the Twin Peaks, 1916
Twin Peaks, 13,580, 13,534
by gore galore

In the sport of fishing they call them "the ones that got away from catching."

In the sport of mountain climbing we call them "the ones we never got around to climbing."

In my case I have more experience with the later than the former.

Take for instance Mount Sir Donald, Selkirk Range, Rogers Pass, British Columbia, Canada. I learned about this peak and its classic northwest ridge in the early 1980's while climbing Mount Lefroy at Abbot Pass.

I never got around to attempting Sir Donald until 2006 but because of peculiar circumstances we climbed Uto Peak instead. That's a good consolation peak but it's not Sir Donald.

In 2015 another trip was planned but because of a bad weather forecast we climbed several peaks on a traverse of the Kokanee Glacier the southernmost largest interior glacier in British Columbia. That's a great outing but it's not climbing Sir Donald.

In 2016 we journeyed to Rogers Pass and climbed the glacier route on Rogers Peak and the classic west ridge of quartzite on Mount Tupper. Those are fine climbs but they are on the opposite side of the highway across from which we could see Sir Donald. So although I have never got around to climbing Mount Sir Donald it's not because I haven't tried.

I have noticed something of this phenomenon of "the ones we never got around to climbing" in other aspects of the sport of mountain climbing. It usually occurs from summits of peaks when people overcome with what they are seeing proclaim in reports that they will climb everything surrounding said peak sort of like those fifteenth and sixteenth century colonial explorers who landed on a shore and proclaimed everything the waters touched for the King and Queen back home. In both instances it rarely works out like it was intended.

Another aspect of this phenomenon occurs with peak lists. People will proclaim an intention to finish a peak list but in reality far more fail to finish than complete said list leaving a lot of peaks as "the ones we never got around to climbing."

Even the notables in the sport of mountain climbing are susceptible to this phenomenon. Take for instance the case of Albert Ellingwood. In 1916 Ellingwood and seven others embarked on a month long expedition to the Sangre de Cristo Range "fed in part by tales of peaks unclimbed and peaks unclimbable" and "to make a test of the unclimbability of the Crestones." I wrote of this historic expedition in my trip report, "With Albert Ellingwood On Gibbs Peak, Sangre de Cristos, 1916."

At the end of the expedition after climbing Blanca Peak the party made a stiff climb to the saddle north of California Peak on their way to the Zapata Ranch and the hike out to Alamosa for the train back to Colorado Springs. Ellingwood wrote, "We reluctantly agreed to postpone California Peak, Old Baldy and the Twins, and all the minor trips that might be made in and around the splendid basin which marks the beginning of the Huerfano."

I know that Ellingwood returned to the Sangre de Cristos in 1925 when he climbed Old Baldy (Mount Lindsey) on the same trip that he climbed the eastern arete of the Crestone Needle but there is no apparent record of him climbing California Peak or the Twins or in other words "the ones that Ellingwood never got around to climbing."

And therein lies the premise of my trip that I would climb the Twin Peaks that Ellingwood never got around to climbing. The Twin Peaks lie west of Blanca Peak from which Ellingwood would have seen them at the edge of the South Zapata Creek Valley.

I know nothing of the Twins except what I see from the map so I decide to look into Ellingwood's background as to what essentials I should take to climb these peaks.

Albert climbed at Wasdale Head in the English Lakes District while a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford from 1911 to 1913. He described this most famous climbing rendezvous of "fine rock peaks and cliffs that tower above it are rich in variant routes." In the event the Twin Peaks are anything on the order of towering rock peaks and cliffs I decide to take a climbing helmet hoping that there exists a variant route to the summits that doesn't require a rope.

While at Oxford Ellingwood also traveled through the French, Swiss and Italian Alps although he apparently did not do any climbing. He wrote of the scenery of "massed snowfields" such that I decide to pack an ice axe in case I need to cross some lingering snowfields that might exist on the flanks of the Twin Peaks.

When Ellingwood climbed Kit Carson Peak in 1916 he wrote of the scene as "No other mountains in our State are quite so picture-bookish, quite so like the idealized representations of what mountains ought to be." Since the map tells me that if I make the summits of the Twin Peaks I will be looking across the valley straight onto Blanca, Ellingwood, Little Bear and behind them Old Baldy, I remind myself to freshen up the batteries in my camera.

After climbing the Crestones, Ellingwood's party broke camp at Crestone for Liberty traveling with "fair going through heavy sand." They continued going "slow, much sand, view of dunes" to camp at Little Medano Creek and then "sand heavy but steady pace" to Big Medano Creek and Mosca Pass.

I notice from my map that the Great Sand Dunes are north of South Zapata Creek but just in case the sand sheets extend further south I decide to take an extra bottle of water just in case I find myself trekking across miles of sun scorched sand.

And finally I also know from my own experience that some of these Sangre de Cristo peaks are big lumbering giants that are perfect for lolling around on the summit after a tiring climb for which I pack a paperback novel as an essential. And now I am ready to go.

As a further part of my trip planning I know from some research that on the 1916 Sangre de Cristo expedition Ellingwood relied mainly on walking and some train travel with burros for supplies and a hired car at the end for two of the members as transportation. On his 1925 trip a Model T truck and a Buick along with a pack horse for supplies were used.

I mention Ellingwood's modes of transportation because just as Ellingwood's expeditions to the Sangre de Cristos were historic in nature so is my trip something of a small mountaineering event. I am taking a road trip to the Sangre de Cristos in a 1995 Subaru Legacy wagon with 400,000 miles on the odometer. I am the sole owner from showroom floor 1 mile to 400,000 miles. I do not believe anyone has taken a road trip for the purpose of mountain climbing with this many miles, many of them on approach roads in the back country.

I have had only one real problem with the car and one which can be expected with this many miles when the transmission no longer would go in reverse at 396,678 miles. This mechanical problem resulted in some creative parking situations that I had to invent until I could get the transmission replaced.

But the car runs good now and I should get more use than the one year or 12,000 warranty mileage before I decide to sell with the classic for sale car ad of "Runs great, Good body, Needs some work, $$$ OBO."

The odometer shows 401,380 miles as I pull into the South Zapata Creek Trail head parking. I can see that I will not need my extra water bottle as I will not be trekking across miles of sun scorched sand and there is plenty of water in the creek beside the trail.

I can also see the rounded shoulders of the peak and there is one strip of snow on its west slopes such that I decide to take a chance and leave the ice axe and climbing helmet behind.

So with food and one water bottle, map and paperback novel and camera I follow the trail into the picturesque Zapata Lake cirque. I have also taken a tent and a sleeping bag with me in case I decide to stay the night.

A hiking couple that I meet on the way tells me about the marmot activity at the lake. With this in mind I bury my larger pack, sleeping bag and tent separated from some extra food and cover everything with rocks. But I am not mindful that marmots are burrowing animals and my food cache is completely destroyed packaging and all when I return.

My route to the peak goes from the lake following drainages into two small basins before gaining the final slopes to the peaks. I angle to the right to the highest of the Twin Peaks breaking through some thin crust of the corniced ridge that remains between the two summits.

I am met by some thunder and raindrops which hastens my leave to the south peak where I encounter some brief graupel which further hastens my downward retreat. I don't have time for my paperback novel but from the summits of the Twin Peaks I can see with my camera in Ellingwood, Blanca and Little Bear "the idealized representations of what mountains ought to be" just as Albert Ellingwood saw the Crestone Peaks from the summit of Kit Carson in 1916.

In the end I am quite satisfied with my eventful road trip to climb the Twin Peaks as "the ones Ellingwood never got around to climbing." I now have a better understanding as to why Ellingwood might have wanted to climb the Twins with that view of the four Fourteens across the way.

And as for Mount Sir Donald I might have to finally admit that it really is part of "the ones I never got around to climbing." And finally as to my car after a brief return to the shop it now has 402,501 miles on the odometer and so far is running fine.

Comments or Questions
09/23/2017 13:20
was such a fascinating character. I just climbed Twin Peaks. I appreciate the historical perspective. One hundred years is nothing in geologic time.

gore galore
09/23/2017 23:13
There is a biography, "Albert Ellingwood: Scholar of Summits" by Jeff Arnold, 2010, 159 pages, probably out of print or hard to find now.

Interesting history
09/24/2017 20:42
Twin Peaks is on my radar for sometime in the next year; thanks for the history lesson. BTW, I used to own a car that had no reverse, but I only paid $200 for the car so I really couldn't complain.

Yet another chapter...
09/25/2017 10:59
... in the book. I do so enjoy reading the history you document.

Nice Summits
10/03/2017 07:12
Well-written Trip Report too. Thanks so much for posting the quality 13er route beta. Excellent work with reaching these Sangre de Cristo Range peaks. Way to go. Information regarding lesser-traveled Colorado mountaineering lines is great having. Keep climbing safe, smart, and strong

   Not registered?

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

Please respect private property: supports the rights of private landowners to determine how and by whom their land will be used. In Colorado, it is your responsibility to determine if land is private and to obtain the appropriate permission before entering the property.

© 2022®, 14ers Inc.