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North Twin Sister (6570')

West Ridge - Aug 8 '99

North Twin Sister
North Twin Sister (pc: GS)

Party: Mountaineers - Leader: Linda Sheehan , Rope Leaders: Chad Miller and I. Basic Students: Barry Brumitt, Evelyn ?, Britt Murphy, Kimberly ? and one other student (John?)..

Weather: Overcast, foggy weather for the entire ascent. Of course, it cleared up and became sunny when we were down the west ridge.


The Approach

Do not do this climb without mountain bikes!!! The logging roads are in beautiful condition, so even the most amateur bike rider could handle the ride. OK, dont expect to get up to the trail head much faster using bikes, but the descent would be a dream.

Ok, we screwed up on the approach. An executive decision by Chad and I over-ruled the instincts of our leader on picking a certain logging road turn-off. In the approach description, where it is described as turning left onto a logging spur with a large dead tree beside the road..... really there is a large dead tree beside the road. And a second downed log shortly up this clear road. We took an over-grown, obscure road that had a few dead snags "near" its entrance..... as an after thought, these clearly don't count as "large dead trees laying by the road entrance"! Further more, the lack of indications of foot traffic on this road should have turned us back sooner. We justified the lack of scruffed up dirt to recent heavy rains. Needless to say, we ascended these logging roads to an end. at which point a flagged trail... fitting the description as a "thin trail" through the clear cut, quickly disappeared! We bush-wacked through clear-cut scrub brush for a LONG while. We got wet, cut to shreds and tired. Eventually, we came out of the woods onto a well used trail... THE Trail. From where we found the trail, it was a short hike to what begins to feel like the west ridge scramble.


The Climb

The scramble is awesome! The rock is beautiful! The route has many variations!
I think we got to the base of the scramble around 11:30AM and were at the summit at 3:15 PM. As a whole, our group moved fairly slowly. I was concerned and expected that we would have to rope up for some of the sections to come, but was pleasantly surprised that everyone on our team felt comfortable, or at least was able to climb the entire ridge un-roped. The most difficult part I recall is around the "thin gable" area in the description. We followed a low path to a corner below this thin gable and then climbed up the corner, easily 4th class and thirty feet of climbing.

The rest of the climb is just a lot of fun. I have trouble identifying the way we went with anything that is described in Becky's guide. The crux in Becky's guide is implied to be a choice between a class 4 chimney or a class 3 climb with "bucket holds". I guess, I need to understand what Becky means by either a chimney or bucket holds. We went up a few gulleys that could be described as chimneys, and we also climbed some short sections that definitely had large holds along a broken, cracked face.

Either way, I think the Becky description tends to overstate the difficulty of this climb. Maybe I just haven't experienced enough scrambling to be able to distinguish between class 3 and 4. In my opinion, I didn't experience any class 4 areas (no areas I felt the need to rope up on).


The Descent

The north face snow field was still in apparently good shape for a descent. Getting onto the snow would have involved some searching for a safe place to board the snow, given apparently large moating action in a few areas. Generally, taking the snow descent should be faster and safer than down climbing the west ridge. Especially since some of the students were not yet proficient at moving over rock. Our concern with descending the snow field was with finding our way back to the trail. We knew that by down-climbing the west ridge we could follow the trail back the right way, avoiding further bush wacking. Taking the snow field had the possibility of experiencing more bush wacking... and none of us wanted any more of that. We decided to down climb the route.

On the way down, I expected that we would have to rappel the pitch near the thin gable. We started preparing for the rappel when Chad and I found different, easier ways to down climb from the gable. My path involved walking along the gable and then down climbing along a ledgey traverse on the left (W) hand side of the gable. Chad went down around the right (E) side of the gable. Given that Chads path was less exposed, and the consequences of a fall were not as serious, Linda advised the students to go Chad's way. I think the down climbing was more difficult, but safer.

South Twin Sister from West Ridge of North
The South Twin Sister from the West Ridge of NTS (pc: GS)

We left the summit at 3:30 and were down at the trail and the base of the ridge around 7:30.... four hours to descend the west ridge! Another 2 hours were required to get back to the trailhead.... along the grueling roads.

West Ridge of NTS
Brit and Kim on a snowfield descending the west Ridge (pc: GS)

This is an awesome scramble.... did I say that already? I wish we had better weather and a view on the way up. It probably would have sped the ascent as well if we could see the route ahead of us. Anyway, I will surely come back to do this again, probably as a traverse between the North and South Twins. A team of fast, competent climbers who don't get lost on the approach and bring mountain bikes should be able to complete this climb from car-to-car in about 6 hours..... we took 14.5.... I'm getting used to these basic climb epics! :)


Reflections of the Approach

When looking at the Becky Guide, there is a hand drawn diagram of the road network. There is a road that circles the Daily Prairie area and three roads branching off toward the climb start. Nothing in Becky's description clearly tells you which of these three branches to take. All you get is the "Dead log" milepost. The wrong turn we made clearly is the left branch, the first one you come to. The correct road, the one we came down on, is the middle branch. Part of our confusion, and acceptance, in taking this route was that the roads we were following matched the lines in the drawing... they must go to the right place. In the end, they do, just the clear-cut, "thin-trail" section is more horrendous than anyone would want to attempt.



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Last updated: Feb 17, 2000
Copyright © 1999 Gordon Schryer.
E-mail: grs@earthling.net.