Peak(s):  Rinker Pk  -  13,783 feet
Twining Pk  -  13,711 feet
PT 13,500  -  13,500 feet
Date Posted:  10/07/2017
Modified:  10/18/2018
Date Climbed:   10/06/2017
Author:  Mtnman200
Additional Members:   RandyMack
 Weather or Not in the Sawatch  

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Mt. Hope from Rinker Peak's summit, with Willis Lake visible right of center


My older son (Randy) is working on climbing Colorado's bicentennial peaks and had Thursday and Friday available for climbing this week. However, my family volunteers every Thursday morning at an animal shelter, so Randy and I needed to find a climb that we could do with an afternoon start. Twining Peak and Unnamed (UN) 13500 (near Independence Pass) fit the bill, plus that would allow us to climb Rinker Peak from the Independence Pass road the next day. Also, these three peaks had the advantage of approaches on south-facing slopes.

We checked the forecast: a 30% chance of snow and 20 - 30 mph winds for Twining Peak on Thursday, and a 20% chance of snow and 10 - 15 mph winds for Rinker Peak on Friday. That sounded decent and made us feel confident of our odds for success.

Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017
Randy and I left directly from the animal shelter and ate lunch as we drove to Independence Pass, where we found an unexpectedly large swarm of tourists. We grabbed our daypacks, crossed the highway, and soon found a trail that started east of a pond and headed toward the south ridge of UN 13500.

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UN 13500 from Independence Pass. The trail toward the peak starts to the right (east) of the pond


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Climbing the south ridge of UN 13500. We had microspikes with us but never needed them


As we climbed up the ridge, the winds grew stronger and definitely felt like 20 - 30 mph. The ridge was an easy Class 2 climb, and soon we found ourselves on the summit of UN 13500. We didn't find a summit register (although it could have been buried in the snow), but we did find an old iron rod.

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On the summit of UN 13500. An old iron rod can be seen in the foreground, just right of the snow


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Great view from the summit of UN 13500


After enjoying the views from the summit, we descended north along the ridge to the 13,140' saddle between UN 13500 and Twining Peak.

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Looking south as we descended toward the UN 13500 - Twining Peak saddle


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Looking north toward Twining Peak (Taken from the same location as the previous photo)


Twining Peak's south ridge was mostly snow-free, but as we approached the summit block, the wind was picking up snow from just below the ridge and pelting us in the face with it. We were glad to be wearing ski goggles.

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Randy's almost to the summit of Twining Peak


We didn't find a summit register on Twining Peak, but we did find spectacular scenery in all directions.

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The view from the summit of Twining Peak did not fail to impress


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Another view from the summit of Twining Peak


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And another view from the summit of Twining Peak


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If it hadn't been so windy, we would have spent more time enjoying the view from Twining Peak's summit


We returned to the UN 13500 - Twining Peak saddle and decided to bypass UN 13500 rather than reclimb it.

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From the saddle, we descended west (right) to a relatively level area and then contoured back toward Independence Pass


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Blue = ascent route to Twining Peak from Independence Pass; red = descent route


When we returned to Independence Pass at 4:30 PM, the hordes of tourists were gone. We drove toward Twin Lakes, found a suitable place to camp at the Willis Gulch trailhead (9280'), and cooked jambalaya for dinner.

We had cell signal here, so we checked tomorrow's updated weather forecast for Rinker Peak: still only a 20% chance of snow, but the winds were now expected to be 15 - 20 mph. Even with higher winds predicted, that sounded like pretty good October weather.

Friday, Oct. 6, 2017
A full moon greeted Randy and me in the morning. We crossed the nice bridge across Lake Creek, followed the trail between several beaver ponds, and continued as the trail reached a section of the Arlington Ditch (a long-abandoned water diversion project that transferred water for use in hydraulic mining).

The trail followed the Arlington Ditch to an intersection with the Colorado Trail/Continental Divide Trail at about 9880'. We turned right (south) on the CT/CD Trail and followed it to a junction at 10,300', where we turned right (east) onto the Willis Gulch Trail.

It didn't take long before the shadier sections of the Willis Gulch Trail were covered in one to five inches of snow, but the trail was pleasant to hike regardless. At about 11,650' in an open area, we left the trail and headed northwest toward the 13,100' saddle between Rinker Peak and the unranked Twin Peaks.

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Looking back down Willis Gulch from near where we left the Willis Gulch Trail at about 11,650'


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Looking up Willis Gulch toward Ervin Peak and Mt. Blaurock from near where we left the trail


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Rinker Peak (right) from near where we left the trail. Looks like a bluebird day, right? Stay tuned for updates on this developing story


The south-facing scree slopes of Rinker Peak were largely snow-free and somewhat unstable. Across the valley, the north-facing slopes of Mt. Hope were much snowier.

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Mt. Hope (13,933') from near the Rinker Peak - Twin Peaks saddle


As we climbed higher, the slope eased a bit and the rock became more stable. When we reached the saddle between Rinker Peak and Twin Peaks, we found ourselves in 30 mph winds. Hey, the forecast promised only 15 - 20 mph winds. What's up with that?

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The 13,270' and 13,333' summits of Twin Peaks from just above the Rinker Peak - Twin Peaks saddle


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The winds on Rinker Peak's east ridge were definitely stronger than 20 mph and the clouds were building but not too threatening yet


From the saddle, it was only about 670' (45 minutes) to the summit of Rinker Peak (13,783'). The south (left) side of the ridge was snow-free, while the north side had accumulated a fair amount of snow. In some places, the top of the ridge was snowy, but we had no trouble with the snow, even though we never put on our microspikes.

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Someone built a tripod on the summit of Rinker Peak, where I took my glove off just long enough to sign the makeshift summit register


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Randy on the summit of Rinker Peak, with Mt. Elbert (14,440') behind him


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Mt. Hope from Rinker Peak's summit, with Willis Lake visible right of center


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Another view from the summit of Rinker Peak


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Twin Peaks from Rinker Peak's summit. Twin Lakes Reservoir is visible in the background (left of Twin Peaks)


We ate a quick snack to re-energize ourselves for the descent. Light snow began falling when we were about halfway down from the Rinker Peak - Twin Peaks saddle to the Willis Gulch Trail. After about 15 minutes, the snow began falling heavily and continued unabated for another 2 1/2 hours, which made us glad we had the gear to handle it. We descended toward a mine that we'd passed by in the morning because Randy wanted to take some photos of an old steam engine there.

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Looking back at our descent route from Rinker Peak, with an old steam engine in the foreground


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A closer look at the old steam engine; the strong winds are blowing the snow horizontally


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Snow is building up on the old steam engine


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The view from just above where we returned to the Willis Gulch Trail


It doesn't look like a bluebird day anymore, does it?

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The view from just above where we returned to the Willis Gulch Trail. This is what a "20 percent chance of snow" looks like


Once on the trail, we made good time downhill. Our footprints from this morning were mostly covered up by this afternoon's snow. The snowfall eased up by the time we descended to about 10,200', and less and less snow remained on the trail as we went downhill.

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The trail along Arlington Ditch at about 9900'; none of this snow was here this morning


By the time we reached the trailhead, the trail was snow-free. Our car had about 1/4 inch of snow on it, however, and we were glad we'd packed up our campsite this morning. We stopped for a much-needed and well-deserved dinner in Buena Vista before continuing on our way home (and nearly getting hit head-on east of Hartsel by a driver making an ill-advised pass). I feel safer climbing in the mountains than driving on the roads!

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Route on Rinker Peak from the Willis Gulch Trail



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
Lewie81504
Wind be damned!
10/07/2017 23:08
Sounds like a great trip, except for the wind....not a fan of cold wind! Thanks for sharing!


jrbren_vt

nice photos
10/09/2017 10:01
Looks like a very beautiful trip, thanks for the report (and your family's work at the animal shelter) ! The nice refreshing breeze sounds delightful from my desk


dillonsarnelli

bluebird is overrated
10/12/2017 08:57
looks like a solid outing!



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