LoJ: #334 (Pre-LiDAR #340) / 13,382' Twin Sisters, West

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Ophir
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 46' 02.62", W 107° 47' 29.98" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

The Twin Sisters Peaks are usually climbed together, and it makes much sense to do so. Our route description takes you over the west summit in order to reach the east summit.

A great deal of talus plus strategically placed cliffs render the Twin Sisters Peaks a Class 2+ hike that requires some careful route examination if done from the headwaters of the South Fork of Mineral Creek. An alternate route we used years later to climb UN13,042, offers perhaps an easier way to climb Twin Sisters than our initial route, keeping it closer to Class 2. If climbed in the earlier season, snow fields may aid in avoiding some of the talus. Either route requires 4WD to reach the trailhead unless you want to start walking from the South Mineral Creek CG. Lidar data increased elevation by 8 feet.

Twin Sisters SW Ridge Route

Class 2+
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
Climbed with Twin Sisters East
RT From South Mineral Creek South Fork: 3.8mi / 2,750'
  • Trailhead
    • South Mineral Creek South Fork TH

      Use this trailhead for: Rolling Mtn., The Twin Sisters, V.9, V.10, and as a secondary access to V.8 and Beattie.

      From the Town of Silverton and the US 550 intersection on the west side of town, drive north on US 550 and in a little over 2 miles turn west onto FR585. If coming from Ouray, drive south on US 550 over Red Mountain Pass and watch for the FR585 turnoff on your right before reaching Silverton. Drive west on this graded dirt road to the campground and trailhead parking appx. 4.7 miles in. The last mile of road gets a little rougher but should still be navigable by passenger cars.

      When you reach the campground, there will be trailhead parking on the right for the trail that accesses Ice Lake Basin and the Island Lake area. On the left will be the entrance to the CG. To continue to the South Fork of Mineral Creek TH, do not turn into the campground. Just continue straight and the road will bend to the left and will continue in a SW direction gaining elevation above the campground. The road will quickly change over to much rougher. This is where we recommend the 4WD. We have seen this road in better shape but it does receive a lot of day use during the summer months and that contributes to the wear and tear. This is FR585 on the San Juan NF map and Trails Illustrated. It usually has not been too rough or slow. Soon after exiting the trees, the road cuts across the open flank of Fuller Peak and the high tundra ridge that divides this drainage from Ice Lake Basin. Continue to the coordinates provided which will be just below the Bandora Mine and where the road divides. The right fork is closed but there's room for a couple vehicles to park. If there's no room, you may have to take the left fork down a bit to find a parking spot. Use this location if planning on doing V.9, V.8, Beattie or even V.10 (a very long haul form here.) Elevation is 10,700 ft.

      If you're wanting to do Rolling Mountain or the Twin Sisters, drive on down the left fork, cross some mud puddles and make a low water crossing of the main creek The road cuts through a swath of willows then comes to an end in a beautiful meadow (or what was if beetle kill got into here). The Rico-Silverton Trail begins here. The coordinates are: n 37° 46' 49.53" W 107° 48' 10.72". There are some good campsites right here. Elevation is 10,685 ft.


      All along FR585, once you turn off US550, there are numerous at-large, primitive sites. Upon turning off US 550 and driving less than a mile, there's a large open area on the left with a vault toilet. There are usually a large number of RV's here. There is also the South Mineral Creek Campground and before arriving at the campground, you will see a number of other camp spots. Expect fierce competition on summer weekends for sites. This is a very popular area. There is no "allowed" camping at the trail head parking area.

      Directions for South Mineral CG per San Juan NF: South Mineral Campground is accessed by turning off U.S. Highway 550, about 3 miles west of Silverton, onto Forest Rd. 585, which heads west along South Mineral Creek. The campground is 4 miles off the highway and has 26 mostly level sites. Several camping loops and well-spaced sites are mostly shaded, but some are sunny. A few are next to the creek, and some have large parking areas. The Ice Lake Basin Trail, a strenuous, steep, and popular hike, begins across the road from the campground. It leads up above timberline to high alpine lakes surrounded by meadows of wildflowers and rocky peaks. South Mineral Campground does not take reservations. All sites are first come first served. There are an assortment of designated areas along South Mineral Road where dispersed camping is allowed so there is plenty of camping in the canyon on all but the busiest days.

      Picnic tables, composting vault toilets, fire grates, trash disposal, potable water. No electricity. Operated by concessionaire. The campground has 26 sites that are mostly level, at 9,800 feet. Some sites are handicapped accessible. Several camping loops and well-spaced sites offer plenty of privacy. Spruce and fir give lots of shade, but there are some sunny sites. A few sites are along the creek, and some have large parking areas.

      Dispersed camping along Forest Rd. 585 is allowed only in designated camping areas. Please follow posted directions and instructions.

      Campsite Locations

      South Mineral CG › N 37° 48' 22.08", W 107° 46' 27.25"
      Elevation 9,855
    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Twin Sisters SW Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 1999

    At the trailhead, you may want to take time to examine the west and southwest flank of Twin Sisters West, identifying cliffs and areas of talus you may want to avoid later on. From the trailhead for the Rico-Silverton Trail, head south for about 2/3rds mile to the open area on the USGS map identified as "South Park." The "park" comes shortly after crossing a tributary side stream that flows from the west facing basin between the two Twin Sisters summits. In early season, unless the Forest Service has constructed a "bridge" of some sort in recent years, stream crossings may be difficult, especially when you initially have to cross to the east side of the South Fork. The flat meadow can be rather boggy as well and you may encounter more bogs in South Park. From the park, ascend SE, leaving the trail, up the steepening hillside through trees to something of a bench area between 11,600 - 800 feet, mostly covered with rock talus. From that bench, ascend even more directly to another bench or small bowl at 12,100 ft. where contours open a little. This is a little north of directly west from a saddle south of Twin Sisters West.

    Continue your ascent on ever steepening terrain into a shallow couloir that will lead to the saddle just mentioned. 800 feet of more gain will bring you to that saddle. If later in the season, most of this will be on unsteady talus. Early season climbers may find the couloir snow-filled, thus avoiding much of the talus, but ice axe will be handy and you'll be doing a lot of tiresome kick-stepping. Once at the saddle, walk with greater confidence to the summit of West Twin Sisters over a much easier ridge. To climb Twin Sisters East, continue from the west summit NE, following the connecting ridge to Twin Sisters East, the higher of the two summits. The traverse will take about a half hour. The descent to the connecting saddle will be on some tundra with more rubble and talus. The final ascent will be mostly more tolerable rocky rubble.

    If you're contemplating or actually working on climbing all the 13ers, then continuing on from Twin Sisters East to UN13,042 (V7) would make a great deal of sense. If not, you can return by the same route as you came or return by the following alternate route to climb these two summits and V7:

    Alternate Route: From the Rico-Silverton TH, drive back down the road about one mile to a place with an old, unused road veering off to the left at about 10,600 ft. A trail is marked by a small cairn on the side of the road near this location. Appx. coordinates are: N 37° 47' 29.80" W 107° 47' 37.95". It leads down to the creek, losing about 100 feet, and then begins climbing on the other side. This newer trail appears to be used by the Silverton 100 as part of their route. This trail does not show on The San Juan NF map, the USGS quad or the Trails Illustrated #141. It does show on a "Drake Mountain Map" published in 1997 titled: "The Mountains of Silverton, Telluride and Ouray." At the creek, we had to take off our boots and wade across before getting underway. After climbing up about 100 yards or less, the trail joins another trail that parallels the east side of the creek.
    Above the creek, the trail follows along the forest edge and begins climbing steeply along the north edge of a steep, shallow gully with no water. (May have running water earlier season.) The steepest hiking was in this section where we gained well over 600 feet on a series of switchbacks. Around 11,200 ft., the trail moderates some and begins to contour more, winding through the forest, crossing a minor ridge and then bringing you out into a clearing at the foot of a great, rock glacier. Follow the trail down some to the east, crossing a flower filled basin with some water in a small stream and then contour through more forest to a crossing of Porcupine Creek. Before this crossing, we passed through an interesting area of great boulders, covered in moss and other plants, that had fallen from cliffs far above, many ages ago.
    On the other side of Porcupine Creek, the trail climbs east, then south through a field of gorgeous flowers, mostly blue columbine, paintbrush and assorted yellow, daisy-like blooms. The trail climbs up one switchback into a small, level area, ascends another rock band and emerges at yet another large, level meadow. From here, head for the pass at 12,200 ft. on the eastern flank of Twin Sister East. The entire area is laced with elk trails. From the pass, ascend west along the broad ridge of Twin Sisters East over mostly mixed tundra and rock giving way to rocky rubble as you hike higher.

    From the summit of Twin Sisters East, you can easily traverse over to Twin Sisters West and return, taking only about an hour to do so, over mostly rocky conditions.

    Additional BETA

    Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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