Saturday, June 20, 2009

North Twin Sister - West Ridge - 06.19.09

Elevation Gain: 3800'
10 miles RT
Left car: 6 am
High point (5000'): 10 am
Back at car: 1 pm
7 hour round trip

We were supposed to head to Washington Pass this weekend. But when Julie made her surprise visit to Ken and Liz's wedding last Saturday, she told me she was done with climbing for now and wanted to concentrate on her bike ride.

So Ken and I started planning something for ourselves. This became a climb a Mount Constance in the Olympics. And we were pretty excited about it. As luck would have it, after 29 days in Seattle without precip, the weather was starting to look sour for the weekend. So we made a last minute decision to change the destination to North Twin Sister. A climb Ken and Sammy wanted to do earlier in the season, but didn't go due to avy danger.

View Larger Map

The weather for the Constance area was 30% chance of precip for Fri/Sat while North Twin can be done in one day and had a mostly cloudy forecast for Friday. So things looked good when we drove up Thursday evening, and we could see the route from Highway 9.

The weather was a bit more gloomy when we awoke Friday morning. There was a low cloud deck, and no sign of the sun. While we ate breakfast in the car, a wet mist coated the car. Ken and I decided to go ahead with the climb, and that it might just burn off and become sunny. We figured we'd take our time to give the sun a chance to fight the clouds. The approach route on logging roads is supposed to be confusing, but we had no issues finding the appropriate turns, which even had mile marker posts. There was a new bridge over a creek crossing and what seemed like no time, we were on the overgrown logging road section of the approach. By this time, it was not only misting, but legitimately raining. It was driving me nuts, so I put on a rain shell. Ken toughed it out and kept going.

Shortly afterward we arrived at the 4100' "trail head." This section was never a logging road, and was a steeper, narrow, muddy trail. Within a short distance, the fronts of my pants were soaked. We then reached a section of tall (old growth?) trees. The brush wasn't bad, but I made sure to knock water off the blueberry bushes before hiking past them. The treed section was short, and we were soon out on the ridge to start the technical portion of the climb. We had agreed in the woods to climb short distances at a time so retreat would be easy. Since we could not see the summit, or most of the route, we determined that navigating the snowfield down would not be a great option, and we should down climb the route.

We dropped our poles, and started on the mostly 2nd class ridge. After a short 3rd class step we were on fairly level ground again. The rain was coming down in big drops. The wind was blowing. We had cold hands from touching the rock. We were at 5000'. Just a few feet short of the first down climb into a notch. We contemplated going to the notch and then decided we had had enough. We headed back into the woods.

In the woods we met a few guys and a kid who were going to attempt the climb. They looked ill prepared for the conditions, but who am I to say? They rode motorcycles in to the highest point they could so at least they didn't have the commitment that Ken and I did hiking about 4+ miles on logging roads. Ken and I hiked out and drove back to Seattle after that.

This was an interesting trip, as Ken and I both needed to get out (and prove to myself at least) that we were not afraid of a little weather. It just didn't make a whole lot of sense climbing with no views and in the rain. We would have been sketched the whole way, and it would have taken longer. And for what? But now we know how easy navigation is on the approach. We now also think it may be worth it to bring mountain bikes for the approach as well. (Although I'm glad I didn't have one, as mountain biking in the rain would be really muddy.) We also realized that if you are not doing the glissade descent, there is no avy danger from wet slides on the route which means it can be done early in season before the snow has settled. (But from what I've heard, one of the reasons to do the route is the 1000' of glissading.)

Sorry, no pics. I left my camera in the car and Ken never took his out due to the rain.

No comments: