Ascent of South Twin on 2020-08-23

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:James Barlow -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Duane Gilliland
Connor McEntee
Date:Sunday, August 23, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:South Twin
    Elevation:7000 ft / 2133 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was a relatively leisurely 2-day ascent of South Twin by the standard route, using mountain bikes for the road approach.

We biked up the excellent dirt road, gaining about 2100 feet over 5.5 miles and making sure to take the correct turns, see GPS track. My companions had electric bicycles and were kind of enough to wait for me as I used 100% human power in the hot midday sun through the clear-cuts, although James’s e-bike was a bit balky and I was not too far behind him.

The road ended abruptly at a bermed area, and we found hidden places in the woods to stash our bikes (somewhat difficult given the thickness of the brush). We then took the easy-to-follow but somewhat brushy climber’s trail uphill for about 1.8 miles and 1500’ of gain to camp. This path started out as an overgrown logging road that fortunately sees enough foot traffic to be mostly clear. This led to a talus field of orange rock for a few hundred feet of gain, then cut left to an old cabin site and then an open meadow.

We spent quite some time trying to decide where to camp--we investigated the meadow area, noted the spot where a large stream emerges from the ground as the highest water, and finally Connor, scouting ahead, found the excellent flat, sandy spots at about 4800 feet that are the best camp spots. The only drawback was the lack of water there in late summer, but we tanked up at the stream font and before bedtime James and I made the 10-minute, 100’ loss/gain hike to re-fill everyone’s bottles for the summit climb the next day.

We were at camp by 4:40 PM so we had a very lazy evening of setting up our 4 individual sites (Duane had a 1-man tent, the rest of just bivvy sacks), making dinner, and otherwise hanging out.

We started hiking at 6:15 on Sunday morning and scrambled up to the west ridge directly from camp, and then followed it, more or less, all the way to the summit. No real need for a GPS track or directions—the route is pretty obvious in general, but parties will take countless variations around the various rocks, gaps, gendarmes, and other obstacles. The closer one stays on the crest, the more exposed the scrambling, and dropping down to climber’s right (the south) will often yield easier bypasses.

We stayed near the crest route for the most part and didn’t have and real issues. The scrambling was rarely more than class 3, but some of the lines we took near the crest had some airy step-arounds that were near class 4. As others have noted, the rock is generally good quality, but rough on one’s hands and gloves are a good idea.

The only major deviation from the ridge crest we took was near the final summit pyramid, where we dropped down about 100’ into a talus basin to cross a narrow snowfield at a spot that only required about four careful steps on the slick and icy snow. From there some steep talus and then steep gullies led to the false summit, and from there is was an easy stroll to the top.

A pair of climbers doing the South-to-North traverse had passed us earlier, and they were on top when we arrived, so we chatted with them as we identified peaks in all directions, ate snacks, and took photos. It was still somewhat early, about 10 AM, so we had a long summit sojourn. There was no register we could find.

The other climbers left, and at about 10:45 we headed down, retracing our upward path. Due to intricate scrambling and constant ups and downs on this route, one should not expect big time savings on the way down—we took about 3:45 up, and 3:20 down. When we got to the 5360’ level on the ridge, a prominent gully looked like a promising route down to the flat basin that would save the scrambling around trees on the lowest part of the ridge, so we took that route down and we think it saved us considerable time. See GPS track—it is probably not a good ascent route, due to some loose scree and talus, but downhill it worked fine for us.

We took down our camp and rested from 2:10 to 2:40 PM, refilled our water as short time later at the mysterious stream birthing spot, and hiked down to our bikes without incident—we were a bit tired and some of us were slipping on the easier terrain. Once on our bikes it was almost effortless to cruise downhill—after a mellow 80’ gain on the road it was all just braking. I took 35 minutes to do the 5.5. miles (about 9.5 mph), trying to avoid wiping out on the gravel turns and needing to give my fingers a rest halfway down from continuous brake lever gripping.

Our overall moving time was 12:40, but an hour of that was wasted time while looking for a campsite, and our two-day timetable left us with little motivation to move super quickly. So doing this trip in 10 hours or so seems reasonable, and therefore possible as a day-trip for fit and experienced parties.

Bridge Trailhead to End of Road: 1:30
End of Road to Camp: 2:15 (includes a lot of camp search)
Camp to Summit: 3:45
Summit to Camp: 3:20
Camp to End of Road: 1:15
End of Road to Bridge: 0:35
Total Moving Time: 12:40
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6340 ft / 1931 m
    Total Elevation Loss:6340 ft / 1931 m
    Round-Trip Distance:18.1 mi / 29.1 km
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Bicycle, Bivouac
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:6160 ft / 1877 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 5780 ft / 1762 m; Extra: 380 ft / 115m
    Loss on way in:380 ft / 115 m
    Distance:9.1 mi / 14.6 km
    Route:W Ridge
    Start Trailhead:M Fork Nooksack  1220 ft / 371 m
    Time:7 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:5960 ft / 1816 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 5780 ft / 1762 m; Extra: 180 ft / 54m
    Gain on way out:180 ft / 54 m
    Distance:9.1 mi / 14.6 km
    Route:W Ridge
    End Trailhead:M Fork Nooksack  1220 ft / 371 m
    Time:5 Hours 10 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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