West Twin Peak (South Face)

On Saturday 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 route we took up West Twin heads up the obvious couloir in the middle and then traverses right 2/3 of the way up.

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.

Yvonne just below the summit col with Eklutna Lake in the background.

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.

Route Information

West Twin, South Face Class 3

The route up the south face ascends the prominent Southeast gully that leads straight to exposed the summit ridge.

Approach:  To reach the Southeast gully you have two choices:  (a) Park at the pull out just past the curve (and shortly before the ice cream shop) on Eklutna Lake road.  From the curve pullout bushwhack north and east along existing game and hunters trails until you reach the meadows in the basin below West Twin and Goat Rock.  The approach takes about an hour and is easy early and late in the season before / after the brush is thick. The other option (b) is to park at Eklutna Lake and take the Twin Peaks trail until you reach the bench (just before the trail turns sharply and veers towards Pepper Peak). Next  traverse North and West into the basin at the base of East Twin.

Route: If approaching from the curve ascend a series of gullies and rock ramps up and right until you can traverse east into the Southeast Gully.  If approaching from Twin Peaks trail traverse across the drainage between East and West Twin until you reach the Southeast Gully.  Once you reach the prominent Southeast gully ascend the gully all the way to the final summit ridge.  Once on the ridge work your way up and right until you reach the final exposed section to the true summit. The final 50′ to the true summit is very exposed, but several rock outcroppings provide protection if you choose to use a rope and slings to protect the last bit.

Descent: Descend the route.