North Twin

elevation: 3,731 m.
height gain: 1,685 m.
area: Columbia Icefield,AB map 83 C/3

Ref: Chic Scott's Summits and Icefields
at the start

On the snowcoach road early morning.
Ski mountaineering: RT 10.0 (including Stutfield Peak); 4.0 up from our camp at GR:751833. With a well-established high- pressure ridge and extra days off, it was hard to pass up the opportunity to revisit the Columbia Icefield. We set our goal on reaching the summit of distant North Twin, 3rd highest in the Canadian Rockies. Having a third member greatly enhances safety and functionality on such a trip, we sent some invites and to our delight, Jay replied with interest. It had been 12 years since our last overnight-no hut-glacier ski trip; I was a little bit worried about carrying a heavy pack... Nevertheless, I figured determination would take me a long way. I packed light, taking my summer sleeping bag and only one liter of water. With much anticipation, Fab and I waited for the weekend. After taking our hounds to Lisa's Bed and Biscuit and barely sleeping, we headed off for a trip of a lifetime.

Approach: We met Jay at 4:30 AM and proceeded to drive to the climber's parking lot. The upper gate was closed so we walked the snowcoach road. At the buses' terminus, on the glacier, we roped up and continued towards the headwall. Snow coverage and travelling conditions were great; along with perfect weather, it's doesn't get any better! With much daylight to attain a location to set camp, we casually made our way up and around Snowdome's southern flank. The expanse of the névé is astonishing and it seems that you never get anywhere fast. Still, I didn't get tired of watching the surrounding majestic mountains, the crevasses and all these shades of white. Several teams heading for Mount Columbia dotted the glacier and we knew that two teams were ahead of us on the northern arm of the icefield; the Columbia Icefield was buzzing with action! After some time, I started to feel worn from the weight of my pack, having to pause every 15-20 minutes to lean forward and rest my load on my poles. Although this pattern became repetitive over a long distance, it enabled me to continue further. Eventually, all of us got tired. After a 9.5 hours trudge, we reached a broad saddle next to Mount Kitchener. We were still 4.5 km away from the North Twin/Stutfield saddle but we agreed that travelling light was a definite advantage. We set up the tent, rehydrated plenty and rested for the rest of the day. We retired to the shelter early to evade the wind. Tightly tucked in the roomy two-man tent, I suffered from claustrophobia a little. During the night, I woke up in a panic numerous times to get out of my sleeping bag and open the tent flap for air... Hummm, get a grip Jo. At some point I did fall asleep, from exhaustion I guess.

We didn't bother setting an alarm, the brightness woke us early and we left the camp at 7:45 AM. Travelling light was enjoyable and we all felt good. As we neared North Twin, we heard a helicopter and saw it coming towards a camp ahead of us. The wind was fierce; the helicopter swung around and seemed to be swooped by the wind before landing. A rescue? We reached the camp shortly thereafter. Three lads were preparing to leave. I recognized Vern Dewit as he told us about his friend having symptoms of HAPE and requiring a prompt evacuation. Bummer... Following a brief exchange, we continued our way; I knew we would meet Vern eventually! We got to North Twin's ascent slope in good time. It looks much easier from close, the grade isn't that steep. We carried on with the climb, somewhat sheltered from the wind. Even with a slow steady pace, we attained the ridge fairly quickly. The wind augmented along the ridge, strong wind gusts threatened to make us stumble and steal our mitts. Yet, we were jubilant; we could see the summit tip. We skied within 10 meters of the top. The bootpack was short but exciting as we clambered over the narrow snowy summit with 80 km/h gusts. We bravely stood on the tip for pictures but crouching across was the preferred technique. After glancing down at the intimidating Twins Tower, we kneeled for a break. We enjoyed the phenomenal views and great accomplishment while keeping a good grip on our things!!! Returning was fast; we unroped and skied next to the up-track. Skiing was not ideal but we had seen worse. Back at the saddle, we had a good long break. In time, we roped up again and headed towards our next objective, Stutfield Peak.

(Some pictures courtesy of Jay Lund)


Athabasca Glacier's headwall from the snowcoach terminus.

ramp below seracs

The route ascends climber's right below seracs.

up a steep slope

Preparing to climb the steep slope ahead.

looking back

Looking back.

almost at the top of the headwall

Almost at the top of the headwall.

contouring snowdome

Contouring Snowdome's southern flank.

mount bryce

Mount Bryce.

mount columbia

A close up of impressive Mount Columbia.

twins and stutfield

The Twins (left) and Stutfield Peak (right of center) at the very far end of the Columbia Icefield's northern arm.

setting up camp

Setting up camp after a long 9.5 hour approach with heavy gear.

south and north twins

South Twin (left) and North Twin.

columbia peers over

Mount Columbia peers over our camp.

our objectives

Early morning light shines on our objectives, still far away.

the windsock

The windsock indicates blustery wind.

leaving our camp

Leaving our camp behind.

minor repairs

Minor repairs along the way.

stutfield peaks

Stutfield Peaks, the left one is the highest (and closest).

we meet vern

We finally meet Vern.

looking back

Looking back at Mount Kitchener and Snowdome; another camp is noticeable on the right.

mount alberta

Mount Alberta to the north.

north twin

North Twin.

at the saddle below the ascent slope

At the saddle below North Twin's east slopes.

stutfield, just a snow dune

Stutfield Peak, just a snow dune.

starting the ascent

About to start the ascent to the ridge.

columbia and south twin

Mount Columbia next to stunning South Twin.

fanning glacier below

Amazing seracs and fanning glacier below.

nearing the summit ridge

Nearing the summit ridge.

columbia icefield's northern arm

The looooong northern arm of the Columbia Icefield.

summit tip ahead

The summit tip is visible.

along the summit ridge

Along the summit ridge.

fighting ferocious wind gusts

A couple of feet ahead of the summit, fighting ferocious wind gusts.

fab on the tip

Fab on the summit tip.

exceptional southern view

Exceptional southern view looking down on South and West Twins.

the rope is blown over the edge

The wind blows the rope over the edge.

kneeling for safety

Jay and I, kneeling down for safety!

we did it!

Fab and I.

top of twins tower

The top of Twins Tower.

standing on the tip

Standing on the tip.

heading down

Heading down.

incomparable sights

Skiing isn't the best but the sights are incomparable.

Continue on to Stutfield Peak
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