Estes Cone (11,006 ft), 11/23/2002
When we got to the Longs Peak Trailhead parking area, we were pleasantly surprised that it wasn't even close to being filled up with cars. What a difference from the summer crowds! The temperature was seasonal and it was sunny. Started hiking at 9:58. The trail had several inches of snow on it, but it was nicely packed so we didn't sink down far at every step. We soon passed several groups of kids accompanied by an adult which we figured to be a Boy Scout troop. We took a right at the next trail junction to go to Estes Cone. At the next trail junction we took a left to Estes Cone, where the trail begins its steady climb up to Storm Pass. We soon passed one person coming down. That would be the last person we saw on our climb to the top. Somewhere near Storm Pass the rock cairns were no longer visible being covered by the snow and there were no more footprints, so Stefan just led us up the best way that he saw. Surprisingly, there was a lot more snow on the ground than the last time we were here 10 months ago on January 20. Stefan is a good route finder because he picked up the trail again higher up where the less dense trees allow more of the snow to melt exposing the rock cairns. Just below the summit above the forest it became very windy, and we were getting chilled with our wet shirts caused by sweating so we put on dry shirts, put on our jackets, hats and gloves then scrambled up to the summit. We reached the summit at 11:39. The view is really nice at the top with Battle Mtn, Longs Peak, Mt Meeker, Twin Sisters, Lilly Lake, Mummy Mtn, Hagues Peak, Mt Fairchild, Mt Ypsilon, Flattop Mtn, Hallet Peak, and Otis Peak, among others, all visible. We took several pictures while being blown around by sporadic wind gusts that felt like about 50 mph. We soon headed down off the summit to get out of the wind, then slowly made our way down to Storm Pass. We met two guys on their way up who asked if it was much farther. Returned to the trailhead at about 14:10. The altitude gain for this hike was 1,596 ft, and it took 1 hr and 41 minutes from the trailhead to the summit. This was a nice early winter hike because there were not many people on the trail, the snow was pretty hard so we didn't sink down much, and the views were great.