10/14/2006 Eleven-sie Twelvers – A Clean Sweep of the LCW
12ers (written by Bob Dawson)
Bob Dawson, Dwight Sunwall, Keith Bershader, Jeff Kunkle, Steve Nicholls
w/ Jean Kunkle / Denali (Support Crew)
Complete Itinerary (per Dwight’s most-excellent GPS):
39 miles, 8000'
Start at 11,050, Kenosha Pass south of North Twin Cone 5:20am
North Twin Cone 12,323' 6:36am
Mt. Blaine 12,303' 7:16am
South Twin Cone 12,340' 7:50am
Kenosha Peak 12,100' 9:07am
X Prime 12,100' 10:20am
Peak X 12,429' 10:51am
Peak Y 12,274' 11:36am
Peak Z 12,244' 12:06pm
Zephyr 12067' 12:52pm
Lost Park Camp 9,980' 3:04pm
Turn off trail up to Bison 10,570' 5:05pm
Bison Peak 12,431 6:38pm
McCurdy Mountain 12,168' 8:40pm
Twin Eagles TH 8,540' Midnight-ish
All the Twelver’s in the Lost Creek Wilderness (or more accurately, the
Retirement Range) beckoned.
Myself and Keith had climbed them all, together I believe. Dwight had climbed
all but three, Jeff only Bison. Steve had climbed none of these gems. So would
Steve be the first person ever to climb all the LCW 12ers for the first time and
all at once? We wondered. Had anyone done this hike? Probably, but who knows.
Jennifer? Gerry? Kane? Gary?
On the way to an outstanding outing up the “Ke’yat” ears last winter,
Dwight and I were talking about Roachs’ “super hikes” in their LCW
guidebook. One of us (we forget who) had a brainstorm: in the spirit of Roachs’
super-hikes, why not create one of our own and link all the LCW 12ers into one
fun and beautiful scamper? How long would that one be? Would it be feasible in a
day? The answers: No reason, just under 40 miles, and yes!
So we did. We got together five fun folks and pulled this off. A couple others
were interested, but alas could not make it this particular weekend.
We made camp at the Twin Eagles campground Friday night, up Sat. morning at
3:45am, the five of us piled into Dwight’s 4-runner and headed back to Kenosha
pass and up a gnarly road along the standard route to N. Twin Cone, and got
started hiking at 5:30am under a mostly-clear starry sky.
In short order, we summitted N. Twin cone just before sunrise, and heading over
to Blaine, we arrived there right at full sunrise. Beautiful light! We were all
feeling absolutely numinous.
Two down! 18.2% done. No worries! The weather looked iffy though. Chalk up
another victory for CO weather reports. Utterly wrong yet again. Glad none of us
in any way rely on them or plan around them.
So far essentially zero snow issues, just some ankle deep stuff. We headed down
and over to S. Twin cone now under full-light. Was it getting colder? Yep.
Mostly cloudy, but thankfully very little wind. Short food & pic break again
on S. Twin cone (and every summit for that matter).
Apparently Dwight was not too thrilled with the selection of grub he chose to
bring along, because while heading down S. Twin cone along the ridge towards
Kenosha Peak he suddenly broke into a full sprint towards an innocent, harmless
little flock of Ptarmigan, trekking pole locked and loaded to try to bag himself
a late breakfast. Thankfully those cool little bird were too wiley and quick!
An hour later we were on the little bump named Kenosha Peak, easily the least
interesting ranked 12er in this area. But still all were happy! 4 down, 7 to go
and it was only 9am! 36.4% done, right? Ok, off to X-Prime. Our energy still
seemed boundless and we chose to walk over all the little unranked peaks on the
way. Tons of ‘em!
X-prime. A cool little peak, with lots of scrambling opportunities. Some of us
chose to follow the cool “Northwest Buttress’ route, others a walk-up ramp.
In any case, 5 of 11 done. Almost ½ way and only 5 hours from the car!
Off to Peak X. My CMC/WTS grad hike destination. Again when I taught WTS. Again
next weekend when my current WTS students hopefully find it. 3 other times as
well, one time by accident (looking for X-prime in a whiteout). This time, no
sweat, but some significant vertical gain for this one at least. Six down, 6.5
hours elapsed time. Piece of Pie! Off to Wye.
What happened next threw me for a complete loop: we saw people in the LCW. Only
the second time this has happened to me in 5 years of fun in the area. We
summitted Y right when they did, chatted, bragged about number 7 of eleven, and
headed off to Z.
Cool terrain between Y and Z! Cool terrain everywhere actually. I was in LCW
heaven. It was snowing, kinda cool actually. Added to the already outstanding
What happened next REALLY threw me: for the (now) third time ever, I ran into
other people in the LCW! None less than Rich Carr (rijaca?) and “Tyler” (I
think), both from 14erworld! Cool! Is the word getting out on the LCW? No
worries as 120,000 acres can hold quite a few more. So we chatted, climbed the
summit block, and bee-lined for the next peak.
Confusion! What I thought was “Zephyr” somehow turned into “Zeppelin” or
something like that. Was the “air” somehow getting to some of us? Zeppelin,
Zephyr, no worries, 9 of 11 were in the bag! And only 1pm. Except that we
expected to be at the Lost Park campground, resting and refueling by now.
So down we went, found the trail and headed for the mid-way point, a l-o-n-g way
away (6 or 7 miles?). What made this leg of the journey special was the
revelation on a new use for pine cones. Preferably smaller softer ones. ‘Nuff
said about this, except that 10-11 hours and 19 miles into a hike seems to make
for eclectic conversation, to say the least!
But no problems, except that we were very late (just poor estimating is all), we
arrived and LP camp, had a nice reunion with Jean, Denali the Wonder dog and a
fine, tasty round of beers. 45 minutes, fresh socks, strategic duct tape
applied, and filled water bottles later we were outta there. Seemed kind of late
to start the second 20 mile hike of the day! Yet under cool, cloudy skies we
headed up towards Bison Peak.
Another half hour later, realizing a mistake, we were now heading up towards
We knew this would be easily the toughest leg of this journey. But we were
9/11ths done so who cared! 2500-ish vertical feet to gain for this one, the 10th
twelver of the day. Actual work? Choosing a more direct route for this one, we
left the comfort of the trail NW of the peak, and climbed nearly 2000’ up a
hillside. Goal: summit this puppy before dark! Topping out on a ridge, snowing
and in a cloud, this was an ethereal place to be. Rock formations all around;
reminded me of something out of a Lord of the Rings novel (book 1). Now we
realized where the name Bison Peak came from. Eerie. Weird. Beautiful.
This is where Dwight became the hero. Where the hell was the summit? With
visibility of maybe 100’, this could become problematic. And it was getting
dark fast. Enter Dwight with his accurately programmed way points, and ½ hour
later, through thick fog and growing darkness we found the Bison summit. So easy
on a bright sunny day. Not so easy at dusk in the pea-soup, 13 hours and 10
summits into a day-hike. Ok, 91% done! Woohoo!
It was cold. It was snowing. We were all grinning like Cheshire cats, happy as
larks. Off to the south to find the Bison Arm trail. We passed by the famous and
eerie Monolith, vowing, as always, to return some day to climb it. Soon we were
heading southeast on a fine trail again. Pitch dark and still snowing, but again
thankfully not windy. Quite pleasant actually!
Again Dwight rose to the occasion and had a nice waypoint programmed for the
turnoff to head up McCurdy. Easy! 500 vertical feet later we were somewhere
around the summit, in the rock playground that IS McCurdy mountain. My favorite
peak in the LCW. A couple of inches of fresh snow blanketing the area, quite
beautiful in our little circles of headlamp illumination. I know McCurdy pretty
well, and between that and Dwight’s summit waypoint, we found the ramp on the
north side and cautiously scrambled our way up to number 11. “This trek Goes
to Eleven; it’s One Higher” I kept thinking. I watch too many Rob Reiner
High fives and knuckle butts all around we sat on top of our 11th twelver of the
day! Fun stuff. It was 8:30, 15 hours into our scamper.
Down. Almost 4000 feet. 7.2 miles. couple of hours right? Wrong. More like 3 ½
hours. But the lure of camp, hot food and a warm cheery fire kept everyone going
through the wet (rain/snow) chilly night air and we finally made it “home”
to the Twin Eagles campsite. We were all feeling quite knackered to say the
least during this descent. But it’s amazing though what 5 minutes in front of
a roaring fire, a couple of beers and the imminent promise of grilled cow will
do, no matter how tired one is. So we had a great time for quite a while yet,
into the wee hours. I was the first to crash, maybe 1:30. I have no idea how
late others stayed up as I was out cold.
Next morning after a 4000 calorie, 150 grams-of-fat breakfast of bacon, sausage,
more bacon, eggs and monster scrambled-pancakes drowned in buttery syrup it was
time to part ways, Jeff and Jean heading south, the rest of us in Steve’s
“Bucket” up above Kenosha pass to retrieve Dwight’s trusty 4-runner. On
the way up Kenosha Pass, we looked south and saw Peak X, now blanketed in a lot
of fresh snow. It had been essentially bare the previous morning when we
Maybe the best and most satisfying LCW trip ever. I keep saying that, but they
just keep getting better. Not sure what’s next but some ideas are brewing!
Dwight claims there are 35 ranked 11ers in the LCW…