The weather in Colorado has been very warm and dry the past few months. With Christmas around the corner, we are still anticipating the first significant accumulation of snow for the season. That is why I enthusiastically headed to the mountains last weekend when a cold front moved in, I just wanted a taste of winter.
The forecast was calling for a few inches of snow and temperatures in the single digits. I packed my backpack with some water and snacks then carefully planned out my layering for the day. I planned to hike Twin Sisters Peak (11,428 ft) which is located near Estes Park, CO. The hike is 7.2 miles round-trip and 2,477' in total elevation gain, making this a nice easy day-hike in the summer and perfect for a cold weather adventure.
Our group of 4 arrived at the empty trailhead parking lot just before 8:30 am. A fresh inch of soft fluffy snow covered the valley. It was a beautiful sight but once we opened the doors of the vehicle, the bitter cold had me wondering why the heck I wasn't home by the fire. I ran through all of the layering choices I had made in my head while I retrieved my backpack and trekking poles from the trunk of the car. I was wearing all the clothing I had brought and it didn't appear that any of my hiking partners were going to suggest we cancel the trip to hit the coffee shop, so I began walking up the trail with hopes that my body heat would help make this situation bearable.
Within ten minutes the uphill climb and friendly conversation allowed me to feel comfortable again. We worked our way up the rocky trail and wound our way up the mountain, one switchback at a time. The early morning sun seemed to always be just around the corner as we climbed up the west side of the mountain. We approached treeline and thought we would enjoy a little sunshine but the clouds began to block out our hope of removing any layers on this trip. Our only reward for reaching the final rocky summit attempt was an increase in the cool breeze. The thermometer read -5 which calculated to about a -10 windchill. Regardless of the weather conditions, we had a short talus and boulder hopping adventure between our resting place and the final destination, so we pushed on.
We finally reached the summit and were rewarded with beautiful views of Long's Peak and Mount Meeker covered in a light blanket of snow to our west and sprawling urban communities to the east. We all faked smiles for various summit photos and quickly headed back down just as the snow began to fly. We made some good time coming down the trail while enjoying beautiful views of the valley, pine forest and various rock outcroppings. By the time we reached the car, I had really gained an appreciation for the experience and for each one of the layers I was wearing.
Even with a negative 10 degree windchill, I was actually quite comfortable the entire time. The few times that I had to remove my gloves to get into my backpack had sent an instant chill to my fingertips but with a warm hat, windproof jacket and good layering system I was prepared for the adventure.
On the ride back home, I was filled with a sense of accomplishment, relief that it was over and a desire to plan my next outdoor outing. I had successfully filled the day with fun, adventure and had accomplished a goal. I am thankful for the experience and for finally having a real taste of winter. I hope you will be inspired to bundle up get outside to enjoy the outdoors regardless of the weather conditions.
For details on the layering choices I made to stay warm on this hike check out this blog post: Layering Systems for Winter Adventures or check out the Sierra Trading Post Buying Guide
Recent Adventure: A Frigid Summit Climb
By Andy Hawbaker
January 12, 2013
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