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The days when I could lope up the Twin Sisters’ telephone lines in 46 minutes are long gone, but there are still plenty of nice hikes for old folks like me. When I went up Estes Cone with some friends last week I took along the 1936 K-2 expedition ice ax I used in numerous difficult climbs years ago. Now it served as a mere walking stick as I wheezed my way along the trail.
Estes Cone is just across the road from the Aspen Lodge, which reminds me that I mentioned Joe Droesser here some weeks ago. He called to tell me that after 28 winters as the owner, he now lives in Phoenix, plays some tennis and has plenty of time to “shoot the rat”—that’s “chew the rag.” It was good to hear from him.
Estes Cone isn’t one of our loftier peaks, at only 11,006 feet, but it’s certainly the most symmetrical as well as one of the first to be named. It appears on the earliest survey maps, right next to “Lillies” Mountain.
The short climb to the top is certainly among the most rewarding in the Park. The view of Longs, Trail Ridge, the Twin Sisters and south through Tahosa Valley is spectacular, and this is a case where getting there is half the fun.
The trail begins near The Ledges which was, as is proclaimed by a bronze plaque, homesteaded by the artist Dean Babcock and his wife in 1909. As the trail approaches timberline near the summit, one passes through what is known as the Gob1in Forest, so-called because the twisted trees look as though they might reach out and grab you.
The agricultural expert in our little group pointed out the way the trees on the west have struggled to stay alive. Often two or three dead branches are surrounded by a twisting, living branch, as it uses the dead parts for support in this clearly desperate fight for survival.
Looking at them, one senses the power of life itself, in its constant battle to dominate the environment. Many of these trees are hundreds of years old, and we were all disgusted by the sight of some idiot’s recent attempt to immortalize himself by carving his initials on one of the oldest and most beautiful of them.
We were rewarded for our effort with rainbows on the east, snow on the west, and sunshine both north and south; a magnificent pay-off, and while I can’t guarantee the weather, this is a climb almost anyone can make.
I have to say “almost” because near the bottom on the way down we ran into a lady wearing designer jeans, Cuban heels, and a name-tag which said “Hi! I’m Julie.” She wanted to know how far it was to the top.
Who knows, maybe she made it, too.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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