North Twin Sister, Elevation 6,640ft
West Ridge: Grade I, 4th
November 2, 2002
North Twin Sister from the base of the West Ridge. South Twin can be seen on the right.
My original plan was to climb the West Ridge of South Twin but fearing several inches of new snow and unknown terrain, I opted for the West Ridge of North Twin. Having climbed this route with my boss a few months prior, I had some idea of what to expect. Still, there were a few surprises.
I arrived at the MF Nooksack bridge around 11am to find the gate open. Fearing the truckers, I parked there, mostly not wanting to get locked in. I made quick work of the road, reaching the trailhead just shy of 1 hour. Recent road maintenance between miles 3.5 and 5.5 allowed me to ride my bike through all but a short section of boulders. I made my decision to climb North Twin at the final turnoff. Most of the north facing slopes had a dusting of snow that I wasn't sure my tennis shoes could handle. The West Ridge of North Twin looked a lot drier so I stuck with the familiar.
I ditched my bike at the end of the road and hiked/jogged to the base of the ridge. There were two climbers racking up and there appeared to be another group somewhere ahead. 2-3 inches of dry powder made for some sketchy moves where the route straddles the upper ridge and the final summit traverse was slow going because it was mostly in the shade. Boots would have helped but I was thankful to have tennis shoes for the crux moves. I reached the summit around 12:30pm thinking man that was fast, however, the majority of my thought was spent absorbing the views. South Twin looked awfully snowy, helping put my regret to rest.
The North Face of South Twin.
Myself on the summit looking west.
Shade/sun contrast on the upper ridge.
The descent involved more of the same. The exception being the ride down which was as fast as ever. I reached the truck around 3pm and realized that I had forgotten to set the clock back. So… I left around 10am for an ascent time of 2.5 instead of 1.5 hours. I must be human after all.
On a final note, if you're able to downclimb the West Ridge, I highly recommend it. My boss and I downclimbed the North Face during our first trip. It was painful when dry and would have been even more agonizing with the snow conditions that I encountered during this trip. My descent time down the West Ridge was nothing to brag about but I think it will always be faster unless you can glissade the North Face.