North Twin Sister - North Slope, April 2002
For most of the winter I tried lobbying my climbing partners to agree to an early season ascent of North Twin Sister. Finally by mid April my persistence paid off and we now had a relatively large 8-person team. With the prospect of improving weather for the weekend, we assembled at Aaron's residence on Lake Whatcom and prepared for an early start that following morning.
After a tasty BBQ, numerous beers and limited sleep, we embarked for the trailhead. Finding the trailhead/road can be confusing, so I suggest informing yourself accordingly prior to any North Twin outing. All I know is that we drove through the town of Acme and at some point turned off (right) onto a dusty gravel road. We continued down that road (ignoring the immediate left turn) for several miles. At the next intersection we again took the right (down sloping) spur and drove a short distance to where the road is gated. It is probably best not to cross the bridge and continue driving due to the high probability of the gate being locked upon your return.
Definitely bring a bike for the approach on this one. I neglected to do so and was left to fend for myself with Aaron's old road bike. It was no simple task biking up the logging road and I basically resorted to walking the bike up most of the way. Everyone else seemed to think this was the funniest thing they had seen in a long time. I wasn't amused. We ended up biking for about a couple miles before reaching snow. After stashing our bikes, Jerry and I donned our AT gear and began skinning up the road while the others followed on snow shoes. We encountered two "obvious" spurs on our right as we made our way up the logging road. We turned onto the 2nd spur and endured a long trudge on the snow-covered road, frequently taking our skis off to pass through sections where the snow had melted out. Eventually the annoying alder patches, dirt and stream crossings gave way to an unobstructed track that switchbacked through a clear-cut. We took in our first good view of North Twin at a clearing and debated the conditions on both the West Ridge and North Slope routes.
We took a left at the only intersection and followed the road to a prominent ridge that's clearly an extension of the West Ridge proper. We turned off the road at this point and began ascending the ridge. We passed though some trees at the end of the clearcut and ascended the narrowing ridge just below the rocky West Ridge. The route appeared steep and exposed, but knowing that it's mostly a class 3 scramble with some short bits of class 4 was comforting. Besides, Aaron claims to have taken his dog up the route before. Eager to get some turns in the enticing looking snow to the left, Jerry skied down below the ridge into the basin and began ascending the North Slope. I decided to follow Jerry's lead. I eventually I joined Jerry on the summit ridge and debated the merits of pushing for the summit proper which appeared to be a short distance above us. My legs were cramping and without snowshoes I didn't have any interest in postholing the last bit to the summit. Screw it...let's ski!
Still a novice skier, I had some difficulty making it down the relatively steep slope in powder. I would attempt to turn and, in so doing, end up speeding uncontrollably down the hill until able to run out my speed by traversing across the slope. I fumbled my way down the slope, improving my technique with each turn until I was launched forward by an unusually heavy/sticky patch of snow. I lost a ski, broke a binding and found myself in a daze. Fortunately, nothing serious happened and I was able ski most of the way back down to the road and back to where we had stashed our bikes. Bill was gracious enough to ride the road bike back down and left me with a mountain bike. A fun climb with unique views and a great place to learn how to ski!
Mouse-over thumbnails below for a description and click to enlarge.
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