Twin Sisters Traverse - WR North Twin & NER South Twin, July 2006
Twin Sisters Range - South Twin is the tallest peak visible while the North Twin stands at far right, as seen from high camp below Mt. Baker's Easton Glacier.

Jeff, Paul and I climbed the North and South Twin Sisters on a mostly cloudy July day. Actually, I think we found the only cloudy spot in the state that weekend, and we were thus deprived of all views of Mt. Baker and most of the surrounding scenery. The views (or the lack thereof) aside, some fun climbing was had, particularly on the North Twin.

As expected, the West Ridge of the North Twin fully lives up to its reputation of being a thoroughly enjoyable scramble on solid olivine (peroditite)...the kind of climbing that can be made as easy or interesting as one desires. While the Northeast Ridge of the South Twin has little of the aesthetic value the North Twin's West Ridge possesses, it is arguably the most "solid" line on the peak. The descent of South Twin's West Ridge, on the other hand was a loose and exposed affair and we were more than happy to be back down in the basin between the peaks.

Here’s the rundown (It was more involved than this, but...):

16.5 miles round trip river to river. 14 hours. 7,500' net gain.

We parked at gate across bridge (unlocked) and rode uphill 3.4 miles to a gravel berm at the edge of a spur road at right (40 exhausting minutes on bikes). 6.0 miles of biking total to intersection with trail/overgrown road leading up to base of WR of NT. Stashed bikes here and started hiking. By about 12 we were on top of NT, approx. 5 hours from car. Great scrambling!

Descended the prominent gully (no snow at all) on south side of NT. Ugly. Not recommended. One double-30 rap. Better traverse route is down NW Ridge of NT to a short rappel onto glacier. Once in basin between peaks, climbed 600 ft back up on Class 3/4 slabs to left of lowest notch. From notch, got onto glacier (no crevasses) to get to NE Ridge of ST. Easy Class 3 to summit. Register is at SE end but NW end looks higher. But when you go over to NW end, SE end looks higher. Register could be bigger with new notebook. Old tattered junk in there now.

Descended WR of ST for a while (doing one single-30 rap). It's harder than the Class 2/3 Beckey describes. Having enough of that, we bailed to the basin between the peaks, down-climbing lots of crap rock and sloping slabs with debris to the high steep snow. One more 30m rap got us to the moat where Jeff took a much easier/safer line than Paul and me.

Took the basin trail out (past the cabin ruins) to the logging road on south flank of lower WR of NT. Retrieved bikes and hung on for a white-knuckled descent back to the car! Gate was still unlocked…dang! (Photos: PK, SV)

Click thumbnails below to enlarge...
Paul in fog
Diffused light and fog make for a mysterious silhouette of Paul standing low on the West Ridge.
Slab below Air Chair
Yours truly keeps things interesting on a clean slab below a feature we dubbed the "Air Chair". Incidentally, the rock feels like coarse sandpaper and will leave your hands raw and tender - gloves recommended.
Karate Kid on Air Chair
Jeff does his best Karate Kid impersonation while standing on the "Air Chair".
Dihedral action
Fun dihedral action up higher on the West Ridge..."4.FUN!"
Jeff climbing
Jeff working the stem moves high on the West Ridge.
Playing near summit
Sure, we could have simply walked around to the left, but why pass-up this fun rock step? Summit lies just beyond the snow at left.
Rappel in South Gully
Jeff prepares to rappel down the shitty South Face gully.
Glacier traverse to NER of ST
Standing at the edge of Sisters Glacier with lower Northwest Ridge of South Twin in background.
Brief glimpse of glacier and beyond
Overlooking Sisters Glacier with Green Creek Glacier and Little Sister behind (Cinderella peeking behind Little Sister).
NER of ST
Paul standing at base of South Twin's Northwest Ridge.
Jeff climbs the NER of ST
Jeff climbs high on the Northwest Ridge of the South Twin.
Paul and Jeff on summit of ST
Paul and Jeff stand at the summit of South Twin...there's a sunny day up there somewhere!
Steep rock on WR of ST descent
A steep descent down the West Ridge of South Twin - Jeff begins down-climbing the exposed slab crack to the notch where I was standing taking the photo. We also had to make one 30m rappel just above this spot (class 2/3 my ass!).
Jeff rappelling
Near the end of the loose difficulties - we bail from the ridge and opt to rappel down to steep snow in the basin between the North and South Twins. It's quite remarkable how the rock quality on the two adjacent West Ridges can be so different.
Hiking out the basin
Back on terra firma - Paul and Jeff hiking out late that afternoon.
Afternoon light on NT and ST
Last look back up at North and South Twin Sisters - a uniquely scenic subrange that's well worth exploring. Cinderella Peak's East Buttress sounds like a good reason for a return visit to the area!
Route topo
Approach and route topo (annotations start after bermed spur road).

All-in-all a worthy outing, despite the grief on South Twin's West Ridge. My advice to anyone looking to repeat this traverse - descend the South Twin's Northwest Ridge instead and retrace your steps across the glacier and back to the low saddle between the peaks. From what we could gather, a single rope rappel (60m) will reach back into the basin. If all else fails, down-climbing the class 3/4 slabs just beyond the saddle would work as well. Also, as mentioned previously, descending the North Twin's NW Ridge to get on the glacier would be better (and more aesthetic) than downclimbing the South Face gully.
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