The season is upon us. Gone are the weekend mornings of leisurely starts and sleeping in till 7:30 and meeting at 8:30. The sun rises at 5:55 am and sets at 9:57 pm. Although it doesn't make any sense, we argue that because the days are longer we should get up earlier so we can have a longer day. Thus we go to bed on Friday night and set the alarm for 5am. It beeps at 5 and I jump in the shower to wake up; an hour later we're driving north - skis, pickets, ropes and plastic boots in the truck. We want to try Granite Peak but as we get closer the rains come and just past Palmer we pull over, disappointed and turn back to Anchorage. It is 7:30.
On the way back we decide to try West Twin Peak in the Chugach Mountains. We turn of the highway and drive up the narrow winding road, reaching the parking area around 7:45. The mountain is dry; bone dry. We expected snow and ice and we're faced with scree and tundra. Plastic boots would kill our feet so we turn around and head home; reaching the house at 8:30 am exhausted from the 3 1/2 hour drive. To salvage the day Yvonne runs up Flattop and I join Todd, Lauren, Dan and Scott for a half day of slushy runs at Alyeska. The skiing is great but skiing at a resort grows old after about 3 runs and I spend the days tracing routes up ridges on the other side of the inlet.
On Saturday night we set the alarm again. We figure West Twin will be a short day so we sleep hard till 7am and by 8:15 we're driving north; the plastic boots, skis and pickets are all left at home. We pack leather boots, a half rope and a handful of cams, slings and biners just in case. By 9:15 we've parked in the small pull-out and are marching up and down the road looking into the woods with the dim hope that perhaps, somewhere, there is a trail. After a couple false starts we give up and begin the bushwhack; tackling the brush head on and fighting our way through a twisted mass of dead wood and devils club stalks. The bushwhack begins tough but soon we reach taller trees and skirt the southeast flank of Mt. POW MIA heading towards the large drainage in-between Goat Rock and West Twin following a series of game trails that for the most part avoid the thick brush.
The "trail" meandered north east and soon we reached the creek that drains the south face and were pushing our way up through alder, willow and a lot of dead wood from the fire that decimated Ekluta in the mid-90s. There are quite a few moose in the area and they had stamped out a decent trail and after 2 hours we reached treeline and took a break at the base of the south face.
The route up the south face begins with an obvious couloir that dumps you in the upper cliff bands about 500 feet below the summit. We cruised up the lower section and after about an hour had reached the upper cliff bands. The snow was hard enough for crampons but there was a lot of rock that one had to work through so we opted to just kick steps instead so we could easily work our way through the rock. However - the rocks bands soon became covered in a glaze of ice so we opted to begin traversing east in the hopes of reaching the south ridge and thus avoid roping up.
We wove our way up a couple snow gullies connected by rock ramps and soon found a sidewalk that took us to the massive gully that drains the south face. The gully was easy going and soon we reached upper slopes where we were once again forced out on the hard snow and began kicking steps up to the summit ridge. The summit ridge was gained easily enough, but the final 200' was icy and slightly corniced so we dug into the ridge and balanced on tiptoes while we pulled on the harnesses and un-flaked the rope. After tying in I lead off, tentatively kicking steps in the snow with one foot and balancing on rock with the other. I slung a couple rock horns for psychological protection and humped my way across a section of snow au-cheval style before finally kicking steps to the final summit. Yvonne joined me a few minutes later and we enjoyed the view and snapped a bunch of photos before she turned and lead out back down the ridge.
After carefully downclimbing we reached the col at the base of the summit ridge, took off the rope and harnesses and began hiking down the scree fields. The descent was fast and easy; we chose the head down the south face and near the bottom traversed west to another long scree gully, before traversing west again to head down a final snow gully to the valley floor.
Back at the base we turned out backs on the peak and began the bushwhack downhill; 1 1/2 hours later, with half the skin scraped off my legs from briars we burst though the trees, 100 feet from where we began 8 hours earlier. I patted myself on the back for such superb route finding (Yvonne rolled her eyes) and we hopped in the car and headed back to Anchorage where I spent the better portion of the night digging devils club spines out of my hands and legs!
comments powered by Disqus