South Twin Sister

The Vitals

Dates: September 10 – 11, 2016

Location: Twin Sister Range near Welcome, WA

Partners: Brittany

Distance: ~18 km bike (700 m elevation gain), ~12 km hike (1350 m elevation gain)

Time: ~7.5 hours moving time

Resources: Matt Gunn’s Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia and Summit Post (up to date at time of writing)

The Trip

The Twin Sister range in Washington state is a small range of mountains about 15 km southwest of Mt. Baker and are pretty interesting since they are composed almost entirely of olivine. There is also quite a bit of oxidized iron so the rock appears very orange and big blocks are typical rather than the compact granite and other gray and black rock of the coast. All of this lent a feeling of being much further from Vancouver than the two-hour drive it actually took.

Overview of trip with proximity to Mt. Baker (approximately 15 km distant)

With the suggestions online and from Matt Gunn’s book, we decided to bring our mountain bikes for the road portion of this trip. I was expecting decommissioned forestry roads made up of large loose rocks and water bars. Instead we found hard dirt roads that were almost entirely smooth. A mountain bike is entirely unnecessary, I would be willing to ride the same portion on my city bike with 32 mm tires though I probably wouldn’t have hit quite the same top speed on the way out. In any case, hiking the road would greatly increase the total trip time with no real benefit. The biking was pleasant through cutblocks which afforded views of Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters range on the way in though they were mostly obscured by clouds on our particular summit day.

Ripping down the FSR
A brief glimpse at Baker’s summit

The hike itself is well described elsewhere and was extremely easy to follow. There is a bushy section of 30 – 45 minutes at the end of the road before emerging onto a scree slope as you climb up toward the west ridge of the North Twin before making a hard right back into the bush. This turn is a rare opportunity to make a mistake but the penalty is just a little extra climbing before being forced into the basin between the sisters.

This basin contains several ideal camp site that are perfectly flat, small-grained gravel and sand with a creek emerging from the mountain (glacial melt? Artesian well?) only five minutes hike down from the camp sites.

A look down to the campsite from the west ridge of the South Twin Sister. The west ridge of the North Twin visible on the right side.

The scrambling itself is perfect. The rock has incredible friction, the exposure is enough to be exciting and the views are unparalleled. It’s also long. The ridge scramble is about 2 – 2.5 km long over and around a few small sub peaks before the final pump up to the true summit.

Excellent scrambling up and down

We had originally planned to do the North Twin on Sunday, but the views from the campsite were so spectacular we preferred to take our time at breakfast. Hopefully a clear day later this fall will allow a one day jaunt up the purportedly more difficult north peak.

Update: Finally scrambled the North Twin in August 2018. Just as fun and straightforward as the south.