Sunday, May 16, 2010

North Twin Sister - West Ridge - 05.15.10

5300' elevation gain
14 miles RT
Left car: 5:15 am
Summit: 5:00 pm
Back at car: 8:15 pm
15 hours car to car

I had scheduled a trip to do the Twin Sisters Traverse as a long one day. Vance and Andrew agreed to join me. We went to the trail head (Or gated bridge) on Friday night to sleep for our 4:15 wake up time in the morning. Vance and I had alarm failures, so we were a little late and didn't get out of camp until a quarter after five.

Biking up the road with a heavy pack proved challenging. I was having difficulty finding an appropriate gear, and my bike started having shifting issues. I got off and walked a bit and then would get back on, not loosing a whole lot of ground to Andrew. (Vance, with the heavier bike lagged behind us.) At some point Andrew committed to walking as we felt we were expending a little too much energy biking. (We were about a mile and a half in.) At this point we heard trucks coming up the road and got to the side. They stopped out of sight below us and we heard talking. When they got to us, Vance was in the front seat and the loggers were offering us a ride. We threw our bikes in the back of the first pick up and jumped into the second one. They took us to the fork before Daily Prairie, and we were once again on our bikes on flatter terrain. We figured our ride with the loggers gave us a fighting chance to make this traverse happen as it shaved around an hour off our approach.

We stashed the bikes and headed up the overgrown road encountering snow fairly early. We were on continuous snow from 3800' up. The going was still good, as the snow was firm when we walked on a snowboard track that was just like a sidewalk. When the road deteriorates, the snow got soft, and we post holed our way up to the woods and onto the ridge. This was discouraging as we were now feeling like South Twin was slipping away from us. When we exited the woods onto the ridge, we pretty much made a choice it wasn't going to happen when we saw the conditions on South Twin. (Lots of snow.)

There was plenty of snow on the ridge we were currently trying to climb, and that made for some early route finding issues as well as making some of the climbing difficult. The going was relatively easy though and we were having fun. The sun finally poked around the false summit and started shining on us directly as we climbed the sticky rock and tried to avoid the snow. Around the time we reached the obelisk is where things started to slow down and get spicier. Tracks in the snow were on the exposed north side of the ridge. But the sloppy unconsolidated snow at the top of a steep snow slope with cliffs below was not appealing to us, so we started trying to bypass the snow and had some difficulties doing so.

At one point we were stymied and decided to down climb to tracks in a gully below us. The downclimb was not particularly easy an we had difficulty picking our way down to the gully. The snow was OK at first, but then we had to do a not so pleasant traverse across another gully to continue. After that point we really tried to stay on rock.

We were wasting a lot of time, but we were now in a position where it would take the same time and effort to turn around as to continue, so we forged ahead. We stuck to rock to regain the ridge with just brief steps on snow. (We would do this whole ridge climb with our ice axes in our hands, or between the shoulders for ready access.) Once higher up and near the crest of the ridge again, more of the snow was ice with a little bit of soft snow on top. We didn't want to put our crampons on, and tried to avoid it the best we could.

We reached a section below "the crux" that required some icy snow crossing. After too much hesitation we finally decided to bust out the rope. (As we weren't going further without it.) Vance led out on the pitch to near the notch and chimney from the route description. He brought Andrew and I up and we popped through the notch to the other side. While Andrew brought Vance up, I scouted on ahead and found more steep insecure snow a bit further on. It was now late in the day and all the snow was quite soft, although it did not appear to be prone to sliding.

Vance once again led the way up some rock to avoid some skittish moves on snow. Andrew and I followed and we made a few rock moves before needing to traverse under the ridge top to points beyond. I led out on a steep traverse to much milder terrain on the other side. From there it was a snow walk on the summit ridge to the summit. We didn't stay long, and then we down climbed the first steep section from the summit col down before turning out and plunging a bit. Vance and I got a couple of nice glissades in, but the snow was so soft and deep that glissade technique was very important not to bury yourself. The rest of the hike out was uneventful and we made our way to the bikes. (The moment we had been waiting for.) We agreed to regroup at intersection in case someone got a flat, or so that none of us would go the wrong way. We regrouped a few times, and were set on not regrouping again, but I watched Andrew's rear tire blow. (Due to a heated rim from braking.) Since we were around a mile and a half out, he patched it and we were on our way again. It ended up deflating, and he came jogging in about two minutes after us. Even with the tire repair, the four miles or so took about 40 minutes.

This was a fun journey, but sad because we hit it at less than ideal conditions. It will probably be a much nicer climb in a few weeks or so, but who knows? South Twin was not in any sort of condition for us to surmount a summit attempt either. I'm guessing this is a climb that is better suited to later in the season as a traverse, or even just the West Ridge of North Twin. The rock is sticky and fun to climb with lots of holds too. I'd like to revisit this climb at another time and give it another chance. One thing is for certain, the summit of North Twin Sister has some of the best views. We could see peaks in BC, Vancouver Island, the Olympics, North Cascades, and as far south to Mount Rainier.

My pics are here.

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