Rinker Peak and Twin Peaks rest within the backbone of the Colorado Continental Divide, the Sawatch Range. The Sawatch Rrange stretches nearly 100 miles north and south, starting at Tennessee Pass and ending at the Marshall Pass area. The Sawatch is home to 15 fourteeners and 14 centennial thirteeners; no other Colorado mountain range contains as many peaks above 13,800 ft. When hiking this range, there are a few things you can count on, long approach's, plenty of vertical, and endless class 2 hiking.
Sticking to the normal Sawatch mountaineering theme, Rinker Peak has very steep surrounding slopes and gentle, broad ridges leading to its summit. I will submit two routes for this mountain, the Northeast Ridge Route and the Southwest Face Route. Both routes deliver 11 miles RT with 4,700-ft of vertical gain.
Rinker Peak (13,783-ft) is another in a long line of towering Colorado Sawatch Mountains. Similar in configuration to its neighboring fourteener La Plata Peak (14,336 ft.), and centennial thirteener Mount Hope (13,933-ft), this immense mountain only typifies it’s grand surroundings. In my opinion there is one word that best describes these mountains that surround this area “expansive.” In addition to the mountains listed above the Twin Lakes area is home to Mount Elbert, Mount Massive, Mount Oklahoma, French Mountain, Casco Peak, Mount Hope, the Belford Group and many other notable highpoints.
A few notes, first- try to visit the old mining equipment left behind at about 10,800-ft on the ascent up Rinker’s south slopes. There is a serious piece of equipment sitting there for your imagination.
Willis Gulch TH
Getting to Rinker Peak is about as easy as it gets for a climb of this magnitude. Spotting Rinker Peak is about as difficult as locating Mount Elbert or Mount Hope, in fact, you can easily view this peak from the town of Leadville.
The Willis Gulch TH is at 9,280-ft and provides access to Rinker Peak’s two feasible routes, the Northeast Ridge Route and the South Face Route. From the junction of Colorado 82 and U.S. 24 go west 8.4 miles on Hwy 82 past the tiny town of Twin Lakes and on to the signed Willis Gulch TH on the left. There is ample parking here, and the trailhead is about 100 yards west. Rinker’s long northeast ridge towers over this TH, you can’t miss it.
Click image to enlarge
No permits required to hike in this area of the Sawatch. Camping is permitted up in Willis Gulch and seems to be a popular place for backpackers. If you hike all the way up to upper Willas Lake I would assume that you should set up camp at least 200-ft from the lake.
Camping in the Twin Lakes area is plentiful. Considering the popularity of the area I will assume that an early arrival time to the campgrounds directly off of hwy 82 would be a good idea, especially on the weekends. You can actually car camp at the Willis Gulch TH if that’s your thing. The Parry Peak Campground is only another mile or two west on 82, I believe it is $10.00 a night. Go another 2 miles west on hwy 82 to the Lake Fork TH for the standard approach of La Plata Peak and turn left on FR391 and go about 1 mile south on the semi rough dirt road and there is some camping there as well, no charge. All of these campgrounds are within 4 miles of the Willis Gulch TH. There are a few places to stay in the tiny town of Twin Lakes, a bed and breakfast and some nice cabins seem to be the ones that I remember.
There are plenty of available campgrounds off of U.S. 24.