North Twin Sister (W Ridge)

Trip Date: July 6, 2013

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 4 (possibly 3 if we stayed on route)

Report: Feeling like a longer route, Brittany and I headed across the US border and down to the Twin Sisters trailhead late Friday evening to car camp and get an early start on the Saturday.  We woke up reasonably early and set off on our bikes a bit past 7 the following morning.  We took our time heading up, but managed to make it to the end of the North Twin Sister spur of the logging road before it got too hot, and after a quick snack, headed up to the ridge.

The west ridge of the North Twin Sister is very impressive from below as it rises continuously for almost 500m vertical.  Low down the ridge is straightforward on fantastic rock, not exceeding a moderate 3rd class and we had no trouble making it up to the “drop-off crag” labelled in Beckey’s topo.  However, from here, we went off route.  Rather than quickly regaining the ridge crest just past the free standing obelisk (as is recommended in Gunn’s book and implied in Beckey’s book), we followed a long series of cairns out onto the south face of the peak, far below the ridge crest we were supposed to be following.  We wasted a lot of time here heading back and forth trying to look for better routes through the ledges and wondering whether we should continue, but continue we did, always finding more little cairns ahead of us.  Eventually the cairns lead to the headwall due south of the false summit, and well, there’s nowhere to go but up (this is roughly where a ‘steep rock rib’ is labelled in Beckey’s topo).

With no real alternative, Brittany and I scrambled up a couple hundred metres of solid 4th class terrain on less than stellar rock, eventually reaching the ridge crest just below the overhang at the false summit.  From here we could see the easy route as recommended in Gunn’s book (and by another party we met up there), but that meant traversing and descending a short bit, and in our tired state, we chose to go straight up and over the false summit.  This is described as “steep 4th class” in Beckey’s book, but other than two somewhat awkward bulges to surmount wasn’t too bad.  Finally on the false summit, we made our way across to the true summit, finally reaching it a bit past 3pm, a full 7 hours from when we started.

The views were great, but we could see a nasty cloud about to move in and didn’t wait long before scrambling down onto the snow slopes on the north face, which we followed down and around the mountain, eventually regaining the west ridge just 20 minutes above where we left our bikes earlier in the day.  The north face is steep at the top (approximately 45 degrees), and so an ice axe is essential, but it eases off fairly quickly.  It was at this point that the true value of the bikes became clear.  Rather than slogging down mile after mile of logging road, there is almost no pedalling at all required to make it down the road on a mountain bike and in just over half an hour we were back at our car.  Total round trip time was approximately 11 hours, which would probably have been ~1 hour shorter had we been smarter with our routefinding.

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