Estes Cone-11006' - CO Rank 1777
Longs Peak Quadrangle
Rocky Mtn Natl Park
6.3 miles RT, 1800' gain
Participants- Nick and Erin Beth Ponsor, Kevin & Jenni Baker
My wife Jenni and I had been planning a snowshoe outing for this weekend for quite some time. The original plan was to explore the northern Sangres with 3 other couples, but with the limited snowfall of late down there, we opted to try RMNP as Nick and Erin Beth rented snowshoes specifically for the occasion. It turned out we didn't need them in RMNP either!
We left C. Springs at 6AM and arrived at the Longs Peak trailhead at around 9 after a quick stop in Estes Park. The weather was looking great albeit 50mph gusts were in the forecast. We all strapped on snowshoes to our packs, but the trail was hard packed most of the way. The day started at 9:18 as we took a leisurely pace up the familiar Longs Peak trail. This was Jenni's first time hiking in a few months other than the incline, so the easy climb was enjoyable for everyone. It was a bit windy at the trailhead, but the day looked promising as it was already pretty warm.
The route to Estes Cone follows the Longs Peak trail for the first half mile. The junction with the Estes Cone trail is well marked and the trail was almost as hard packed. We came across four or five groups along the way, so this is a pretty popular winter hike. The trail gradually climbs to the n.w. towards Moore Park and Storm Pass. Occasionally our destination would appear through the trees. There were patches of ice to deal with, but most of them could be easily skirted around. Erin Beth took a fall on one patch but was OK. Nick and I took a break at 10200’ Storm Pass and waited for our wives. Jenni and Erin Beth were not interested in continuing to the summit as I pointed to it through the trees even though it was just a quick 700’ grunt and less than a mile. They missed out on some awesome view on top.
I put on snowshoes for a few minutes in anticipation of unconsolidated snow, but the trail was still in great shape. We missed a few cairns on the way up, but there were plenty to quickly find the way again. After a false summit and some fun scrambling, we topped out at 11:30 with incredible views of Longs, Meeker, the Mummy Range, and Estes Park. The false summit actually blocked much of the wind, so it was comfortable on top. After admiring the views, we headed down at 11:45 as our wives waited at the pass. As usual, the trail was harder to follow on the way down but we eventually found it again and retrieved my cached snowshoes. The trip down was an uneventful, pleasant stroll through the softening snow. The trail was so well packed that postholing was not a problem, even with temps soaring into the upper 40’s. We were down at 1:20, having enjoyed an awesome day in RMNP!