4th of July on the North Twin Sister

There is some fun summer shredding going on right now. Our friend Kael Martin sent us this nice little report of his trip with Lucas Debari and friends.

A Mountain Adventure to Celebrate America’s Independence

Lucas Debari, Kael Martin, Anthony Gervais, Calvin Patterson, Daniel Sandberg, Jerry Mark, Quinn Baumberger, Cody Garrington

July 4th, 2012 was a unique day not only because it marked the bicentennial of the War of 1812 in which America went to battle with our northern neighbor Canada, but also seemed to be the beginning of summer in the Pacific Northwest. It was hard to complain about such a cold spring. The rest of the country has been in a horrible heat wave/drought and we were coming off a second amazing winter due to persisting La Nina conditions, but it did seem like a very dreary June.

Reports of significant recent snowfall and high avalanche danger kept us from heading up any of the local volcanoes, but we found a wonderful alternative in the North Twin Sister. We were confident the west ridge would be snow free and that the north face would be easy to negotiate on the descent. The approach of the North Twin can be difficult if the logging gates are not open, so we prepared by bringing along eight bikes, piled in the back of a truck with the rest of our snowboards, boots and backpacks. It was quite a heaping pile of gear. Fortunately for us, the loggers we up and working at 7am on a designated holiday. We were able to drive the bikes all the way up to the trailhead and drop them off there. We packed our bags while being devoured by mosquitoes and set off up a short but steep trail to the west ridge.

An hour or so of hiking got us off of mud and snow and onto the extremely high quality rock on the ridge. The Twin Sisters are composed of dunite, which is almost entirely olivine – a beautiful deep green colored mineral. Not to mention how strong and grippy the stuff is, pretty awesome!

The morning was wet and misty, it felt as though we were stuck in the clouds, but the mist blocked the exposure and provided a great atmosphere for the climb. Temperatures were cool and the light was very interesting. It seems as though we keep finding ourselves in these mountain vortices.

Lucas brought a rope ‘just in case’ although I don’t think there were more than two harnesses for the eight of us. Here, Lucas discusses logistics as we move up the ridge. His time spent deep in the Alaskan wilderness seems to be paying off.

Moving higher up the ridge we were greeted with great position and remarkable views. It is always fun to take a summer trip and form a list of things you wish to return for in the winter. The terrain surrounding the Twin Sisters is very inspiring. As you get higher on the ridge the 3rd class seems to merge into 4th class. The exposure is fun, but certainly can raise some nerves. This seems to be amplified while climbing in snowboard boots on wet rock with a snowboard sticking a few feet up above your head.

The experience levels in the group varied considerably. Some folks had never moved on exposed terrain before, others were very comfortable in this environment, even taking more difficult routes than necessary. One member met his lifelong fear of heights head on. However, a scary moment was transformed into an inspiring display of courage and self-confidence as he successfully fought his fears and made it to the summit. As a group everyone moved together with support and solid decision making. Teamwork!

As we approached the summit the weather started to break blue and spirits were high. We recounted previous trips in the cascades and reminisced about the great winter we had. Sometimes as the summer goes on you don’t get to see snowboard buddies as often, it was great to get everyone together for another snowboard trip so late in the year. We were able to take a casual pace, crack some jokes, and stop often for snacks and water.

We topped out on the ridge at about noon. By this time it was clear blue sky and starting to get warm. We finally moved onto snow about 100 feet from the summit, which sits at 6660 ft. The snow was surprisingly soft, it seemed that as much as 5” could have fallen the night before. It was starting to look like we would be riding wet pow for the 4th of July. Who would have thought? As we moved across the top of the face we threw some snowballs down. A single snowball caused a wet slide which propagated the length of the face. We took note that before we dropped in. We threw lots of snowballs to get as much of this wet snow to slide as we could.

When we made it to the summit we celebrated with cold beers, photo opportunities, and fireworks. On the drive from Seattle to Bellingham, Anthony had created two rockets out of American flag Budweiser tall cans and class C model rocket engines. These were sketchy to say the least. The igniter leads stuck out of the bottom of the engine – the only way to ignite them was with a 9 volt battery taped to an ice axe. The first one did horizontal spirals, narrowly missing the summit team. The second stayed true to a straighter path and lifted another 1000 feet or so from the summit. It was awesome.

Following our summit shenanigans we were ready to shred. The north face of the North Twin is a long mellow and consistent slope. Perfect for late summer snowboarding. There are some great chutes, but these melt out early in the spring. We all strapped in together, did some hooting and hollering and got ready to party. The wet slides had created some crazy deep corn snow runnels but there was still some fresh snow to be had bordering the face. The riding was fun, fast, and variable. But most importantly we were snowboarding on the 4th of July, in good snow, and that doesn’t happen very often.

After we made it to the toe of the snowfield we were in for some good ol’ Cascadian bush whacking. We made it back to the trailhead pretty quickly and then were treated to 5 miles of downhill bike riding. Sharing smiles, high fives and good views the bike ride was almost as fun as the boarding.

Making it back to Bellingham at a reasonable hour we did the true American thing and started the BBQ. More fireworks, flag can Budweiser tall cans, and bike riding capped off a great day. Turns out the city of Bellingham put on a great fireworks show as well. There is certainly still snow out there in the Cascades. Don’t be shy to go find it!