Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Sunday, July 16, 2017

South Twin (11,070')

After a planned backpacking trip fell apart due to the extreme heat this week, I tagged along for another obscure 11,000 foot peak on Alex's shortening 11'er list.  Alex, Steve, Doug (the math professors), Michael, Tim (the doctors), and I (neither) met up late Saturday afternoon to drive over to the Lost River Range for an attempt on South Twin at 11,070 feet.  One of my worst nightmares with snow climbing occurred on North Twin a couple of years ago.  I was hoping that South Twin wouldn't be quite as bad.

Since the forecast was for more heat, we agreed to start our hike at 5AM.  We  missed that time by 15 minutes as we all strolled up the Cabin Fork two track in the brightening sky.
After crossing the creek at 1.5 miles, we stopped to have a discussion on the preferred route.  I was excited to try the SE ridge route based on looking at the topo map, but after seeing the ridge in person, I realized that it was out of the question.  Doug had scoped out a route that would take us up the drainage to the north of the SE ridge, and without any other input the decision was made.
We initially followed an elk trail through the open forest, but it soon disappeared.  Actually it disappeared right about when the thick aspen grove appeared in the bottom of the drainage.  We thrashed our way through the thick aspens until we'd had enough before moving higher up onto the famous Lost River rock.  The walking wasn't too bad on the rock other than the occasional dead fall.
The occasional dead fall
We made reasonably good time through the rock, until it ended in another thick aspen grove.  By this point some of us were on the right side of the drainage, some higher up on the left side, and the lucky few just doing their best to trudge through.  Michael, Tim and I experienced some excellent aspen slogging that was made all the more better by the freshly shorn trees lying all around us.
An avalanche the previous winter had sheared hundreds of trees and we now had the pleasure of navigating through them.
The remaining tree stumps
 As the slope steepened, we moved above all the dead fall, aspens and loose rock.
Tim, Doug and Alex (L-R)
 At 8400 feet we took a left up through some tall limestone gates to obtain the west ridge below point 10,936.  After a short break, we continued up through the remaining trees following a goat path up the steep ridge.  By this point we were in full sunshine and it was getting a little warm for 8AM.  As we moved up the ridge, I took the opportunity to bounce into the shade as much as possible.
Alex coming up the goat path

Tim is just to the left of center 
I reached a spot below point 10,936 where it was time to traverse across a cliff band to the saddle between North and South Twin.  After a quick break, I put on my limestone gloves and carefully moved below the cliff band to the saddle.  Once across, I took an extended break to watch the others make the traverse and have a bite to eat.
The traverse with Michael skylined on the right
Tim, Alex and Michael eventually joined me at the saddle.  I was getting chilled in the breeze, so rather than wait for Steve and Doug to make the traverse, I started up the south ridge to the summit.
The ridge to South Twin with the summit on the right

 The 3rd class climbing was good with the normal LRR crumbly rock.  I reached the summit in a little over half an hour (10 AM).  I was followed on the summit by Alex, Tim, Michael, Doug and then Steve.  The breeze kept the temperatures mild as we sat around, admired the views, chatted and had lunch.
Red Cone and North Twin

Summit shot
 After our bushwhack through the aspen grove laden with dead fall, I was not keen on retracing our path.  Michael seemed to remember reading a route for South Twin that described coming up the drainage to our south, so the two of us convinced Tim to join us and make a loop out of it.  Alex, Steve and Doug thought better and decided to backtrack our route up.

The three of us started down the south ridge, before Michael made a decision to head down a scree filled gully that led to what looked like the bottom of the drainage.  After reviewing the topo map, Tim and I took the next gully and proceeded to do our best to boot ski our way down.  Unfortunately, the loose rock wasn't too conducive for skiing, but we did our best.

A look back up the gully Tim and I took down

We came down the gullies over Tim's left shoulder
Who is that guy anyway?
As we moved below 9800 feet we came upon a short band of cliffs blocking our way.  We found a path through a ledge leading through some jack pines.  This brought us to a point where several drainages funneled into another set of cliffs.  WTF!  The contour lines didn't look that close together on the topo map.

Michael traversing a cliff band
Looking back at the mess we came through
We skirted several more cliff bands before we finally made it to the floor of the drainage only to be greeted by... more aspens.  By this time it was really heating up and the breeze we had on the summit was non-existent.

We took the path of least resistance through the aspens and luckily found a nice game trail that took us on to the hillside and into some thick pines interspersed with aspens.  But, our luck quickly ran out as the trail petered out.  After fighting our way through this tangled mess, we headed back down into the bottom of the aspen choked drainage.  This was our third trip to aspen hell and our patience was really starting to wear thin. We made a move to the left and eventually exited the aspens only to find endless loose scree.

After what seemed like hours, but was probably only a half hour, we finally left the ankle twisting scree behind only to walk into a patch of stinging nettles!

But, it all worked out in the end as we pulled up to the vehicles a little before 2PM a little foot sore.  I sure hope the other three had a better descent than we did!

Distance: 10 miles
Elevation Gain: 4400
Time: 8 hours car-car


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A team of adventurers consisting of John, Tamara, Taylor, Dylan, and Shadow Fadgen