North Twin Sister, Elevation 6,640ft
West Ridge: Grade I, 4th
September 28, 2002
Jeff at the base of the West Ridge.
I skied the North Twin Sister a few winters ago. Well, at least I think I did. The place was socked in so we didn't get to see much besides a campfire and road. I'd heard that the West Ridge was an excellent summer climb so when my boss expressed an interest in summiting, I figured we ought to give it a shot. The nice thing about working together is that it takes no time to make plans. No phone calls or emails, just a visit to the neighboring office.
I ended up crashing at Jeff's place in Lynden after an evening of fishing and crab.
The approach to North Twin involves ~7 miles of logging road. Neither of us wanted to walk it so we decided to bring bikes. I had a rough idea of how long the climb would take but I wasn't sure about the bike. I knew Jeff hadn't ridden in awhile but when we pulled his bike from the cobwebs to find two flat tires, I became a little concerned. We opted for an early start expecting to walk most of the road. Jeff woke me up around 6am and we were on the road within minutes. Two bikes and gear was a tight fit for the back of his Jeep but we managed. The views during the drive were compelling. I expected to see all of Bellingham at the trailhead but there were no other cars when we got there. We were also surprised to find the gate open but decided park there as planned. The gate is usually closed at a steel bridge across the Middle Fork Nooksack, just under 5 miles from Mosquito Lake Road.
The views from Jeff's Jeep. North Twin is the left of two peaks seen above the road.
We managed to bike about 1/2-mile before Jeff decided it was more efficient for him to walk. A few dump trucks passed us on their way down.
Finding the first right turn is key. Stay on the main road until you cross a bridge at around 2 miles. There's an overgrown road on your right just past the bridge that you don't want to take. Continue 1/2-mile or so to a more obvious road and take a right there. If you start going downhill you've gone too far. We rode most of this spur which is flatter but more bumpy than the main road. You'll want to follow it until you cross an obvious creek. After that, you'll want to stay left at the main forks. The road flattens out as South Twin comes into view. When you start to descend, look for an overgrown road on your left. This road is quite tight at first but it opens up at the first switchback. After crossing the West Ridge, make two final switchbacks and take the left spur that ends within a couple hundred feet. A faint trail leads through some brush and into the trees. If it's snow covered simply follow the ridge.
We walked most of the road and found ourselves in the trees within 2-3 hours. That is where we took our first break. I promised Jeff that the remainder would be less taxing, at least physically. We snagged a few berries before leaving the trees.
Jeff leaving the trees.
The route up the ridge was pretty obvious. There were quite a few cairns and some footprints in places. Jeff had never rock climbed so I gave him a few pointers -- watch out for loose stuff and don't look down. It was mostly 3rd class, some 4th and a bit of low 5th. The latter coming near the top beneath what Beckey calls the comb. I knew there was an easier way but the rock was solid and Jeff didn't seem to have a problem with it so we just kept going.
Jeff on some 3rd class near the base of the West Ridge.
Jeff on some 4th class near the middle.
Jeff on some 5th class near the top.
With the summit in sight, we scurried up the remaining ridge. There were some boulders along the way that offered more 5th class but they were easy to avoid. I climbed a few of them but Jeff was anxious to summit so we wasted little time.
Myself bouldering near the summit.
I'm not sure when we reached the summit but it didn't really matter. More important was the solitude and views. We chilled for nearly an hour while drinking the celebratory beers that Jeff carried. I could have used a few more for the descent.
Jeff on the summit looking west.
Myself on the summit looking east.
Fearing the exposure of the West Ridge, we decided to take Beckey's advice and descend the North Face. I can see how this would be a good idea in early season when you're able to glissade the snow but as was, most of our time was spent in the awkward and unpleasant moat and the lower boulder fields offered little support. It took a good 2 hours to get back to our bikes.
The ride down was anything but slow. I didn't time it but I imagine that it took less than 30 minutes to go 7 miles. This may not sound fast but with the condition of Jeff's antique and my hybrid, any faster and we would have been eating dirt for dinner.
Jeff descending the North Face.
Jeff riding his antique. The West Ridge is on the right skyline.
Jeff's wife made tacos for dinner and they dropped me off in Bellingham later that evening.
Another check for Jeff's list and some clearing for my clouded memory.