Trip: North & South Twin Sister - West Ridges (with a bushwhacking shortcut)

Date: 8/25/2017

Trip Report:
But was it a shortcut?

Our plan: Climb the North Twin via the West Ridge on Friday, find a spot to camp (hopefully the basin), and then finish off the trip Saturday with the South Twin via the West Ridge. The big unknown going into the trip was the best way to link the two climbs together. The map showed two adjacent trails/roads that may be accessible with a short bushwhack in between them, but I knew they were overgrown from looking at the satellite images. If that worked we wouldn't have to retreat all the way to Dailey Prairie before heading up the ST trail.

We left the (then open) gated bridge (1200') at about 0930 on Friday morning. The two of us each brought along a bike after reading many suggestions to do so. We walked the bikes most of the way on the forest roads, yielding to the trucks that occasionally passed by. We consulted the map and altimeter a few times just to make sure we were making the correct turns but overall it was fairly obvious which way to go on the forest roads.

We arrived at the NT turnoff (3240') at around 1130 and proceeded to push the bikes up to the NT trailhead (4120') which took another 45 minutes or so. We stashed the bikes and some of our overnight gear to lighten our load and after a break took off on the NT trail at around 1245.


NT Trailhead

The trail was obvious and we had no route-finding issues. Some cairns marked the way once you got farther up onto the ridge. The rock was good with plenty of solid and grippy holds. I could see why people recommended bringing along some gloves. We made our way up the ridge, following cairns when we saw them and the path of least resistance when we didn't. We met a couple climbers on their way down at around 6000' who let us know about either ascending directly up the ridge, or looping around the north side on more of a trail. We chose to go right up the ridge. At 1500 we arrived at the NT summit (6640'), just over 2 hours after leaving the trailhead (5:30 from the car).


Heading up the ridge


Scrambling


Baker from NT summit


Looking at the ST from the NT summit

After 30 minutes on the summit we took off back down the ridge, this time dropping down to the north side as mentioned by the other climbers. This route was fine although it was littered with more loose rocks; we would have preferred coming down the solid ridge. Anyways, we scrambled back down and arrived at the trailhead at 1745. We did have a slight delay when we passed by our trekking poles we stashed on our way up the ridge! That was an extra few hundred feet of climbing!

Here are our routes so the rest of the TR makes sense (click to enlarge):

Green = day 1
Magenta = day 1 bushwhacking
Cyan = day 2

We grabbed the bikes and our gear, then rode down one switchback to around 3760' where I had hoped we could begin our traverse over to the ST trail. We stashed the bikes again and then started off on the obvious old trail/road. It was overgrown with young alders but it was easy to follow and the bushwhacking was manageable. The alders were thick in spots but they were easy to push through. Also, the alders were only present on this old road so it was a good indicator we were on the right track, but eventually the alders stopped. This was the end of the marked trail and we would need to do some true bushwhacking to meet up with road on the other side.

We took a bearing and continued moving. According to the map it was only around 300-400 feet before we would meet up with the other side. Our progress slowed a bit as the forest became more dense, but we moved on. Watching the GPS, we arrived at the switchback of the other road I was looking for, but we didn't see anything resembling a road yet. We were near the switchback corner, but unfortunately I made an error and thought we had to ascent up the switchback to the ST trailhead. I should have checked my map. In retrospect we should have descended slightly at that point which would have led us to the old road and eventually the ST trailhead.

We continued, ascending slightly and watching the GPS, looking for any sign of a road. Nothing. More bushwhacking. More cussing as huckleberry bushes scratched our legs. Eventually we were beyond the mapped road and had just assumed the road was so overgrown we couldn't find it. At this point we were out of water and looking forward to getting to Orsino Creek to re-hydrate, so we picked a line toward the creek/basin and continued on.

The bushwhacking wasn't the most fun, but we did get some relief as the forest thinned with rising elevation. Eventually we were out of most of the trees and on the scree below the NT West Ridge. We continued our traverse and at around 4400' we spotted a cairn! We were finally on the ST trail, just 800' higher than we planned. That was a relief. Still thirsty, we continued on the real route now and soon arrived at Orsino Creek to get some much needed water. A few minutes later we made it to flat area of the basin (4800') where we would set up camp for the night. It was 2030 (2:30 after dropping the bikes and beginning our "shortcut"). I did manage to find a couple nearby trees to set up my new hammock. My climbing partner slept in my UL two person so I had that as a back up. A bit of a weight penalty bringing along my hammock but I really wanted to try it! It was great, by the way! We fell asleep to the occasional pika chirp.


Camp Spot (the next morning)


Cozy spot for a hammock (NT in background)

The next morning we took our time getting up and after breaking down camp we were off to the ST at 0800. We left most of our gear at camp, only bringing one pack between us with some water and snacks.

We hiked a bit deeper into the basin before turning south and gaining the ridge at around 5400'. From there it was straight forward with a lot of cairns marking the way. We were in the shade for the first part of the climb so it made for a cool (and cool) ascent. Overall we liked the ST route better than the NT. There was a lot more solid rock and barely any dirt/scree that we dealt with on the NT. It just made the climbing more enjoyable for us. More of the route was exposed which we liked as well. I would rate it class 3, though due to some of the exposure some might rate sections class 4. We never felt like protection would be necessary.


Ascending the ST

Just below the summit we wrapped down around the south side as recommended by other reports and made the scramble to the summit (7000') by 1000. At 1045 we started our descent and made it down the ridge without difficulty. Just before we dropped off the ridge into the basin we ran into bargainhunter and his climbing partner who were beginning their loop traverse. Check out his TR!


On the ST summit


Looking SE from summit


Panorama (NT on left)

We were back at camp at 1230 where we gathered our gear and continued descending, stopping by the creek again to replenish our water. We had a couple options at this point: 1) try to find the correct route and bushwhack our way back to our bikes, or 2) hike all the way down to Dailey Prairie and then back up the NT trail to retrieve the bikes. We opted for option 1, assuming we could find the beginning of the road.

We continued down past where we joined the ST trail the day before, following the cairns along the way. Eventually we left the talus field and made our way into the forest where the cairns disappeared. There was a fairly obvious, albeit slightly overgrown, trail to follow through the forest. Occasionally we would see a piece of ribbon on a tree branch marking the trail. We lost the trail a couple times where there were fallen trees but taking a bearing toward the trailhead lead got us back on track pretty quickly.

Soon we were at the ST trailhead, where the old road/trail ended. This is where we wanted to end up the day before. The road continued NNW which is where we wanted to go get back to our bikes. So we followed it, fighting the young alders along the way. But overall it was pretty good. We lost it a couple times, but keeping an eye out for the alders led us back on track. After about 0.3 miles we hit the end of the road and had to begin bushwhacking the middle section to meet up with the road we were on yesterday. Some fallen trees looked familiar as we tromped through the woods. Keeping an eye on the GPS we were getting close to route from yesterday but we still didn't see the alders we were looking for. We probably bushwhacked 300' more than we needed to but eventually found the road and soon were back at the bikes. It took 1 hour to make this 0.7 miles bushwhack traverse. We probably could have shaved 10 minutes off if we hit our mark better.

By 1500 we were on the bikes and tearing down the forest roads. And by 1540 we were back at the car...2600' and ~6 miles in 40 minutes was awesome after a long couple days.

We had a great time on the NT and ST! This was our first time up there and we highly recommend it for some excellent scrambling. As for the "shortcut", I say save yourself the headache and just use the standard route from Dailey Prairie to get to the ST. This is especially true if you have bikes since it makes the trip down to Dailey Prairie a breeze. Overall it would be more mileage and elevation gain, but I bet it is a heck of a lot more enjoyable than bushwhacking.

Mileage:
Forest Roads (up and down) - 10 mi total
NT Ascent from forest road - 2.5 mi
NT Descent to beginning of bushwhack - 1.8 mi
Bushwhack To camp - 1.5 mi
ST Ascent from camp- 1.2 mi
ST Descent to forest road - 3.4 mi

Total 20.4 mi

Also, I could totally see doing the NT or ST in a day, especially if you have bikes. Based on our times it would have taken us just under 9 hours to do the NT car-to-car (5:30 up, 3:15 down).

Gear Notes:
Helmets, gloves, bikes.