more North Twin/Twins Tower
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On top of North Twin, 1991. The summit ridge then was one big symmetrical mass of snow and ice, unlike the photo taken in 1999. Mount Alberta sits to the right. Spectacular Mount Bryce lies a few kilometres south while Edith Cavell was visible to the north.
A group waiting to descend the slope to Twins Tower col and climb the facing snow ridge.
Twins Tower as seen from North Twin. You ascend the crest of the steep snow arete. Exposure? About 1000 metres drop on either side. This ascent took us about 2 hours return from North Twin's summit.
Ascending the ridge up Twins Tower from the col. John and I had firm snow for step-kicking, which is exactly what you need. It was not necessary (or possible) to place protection.
Looking back up North Twin's ridge, which we have descended to the intervening col. Our dainty little footprints are just barely visible.
Taking great satisfaction in summitting Twins Tower, our 4th 11,000 footer that day. Rarely does that happen! The other two peaks nearby we ascended were East and West Stutfield Peaks and these are very easy to ski up from a well positioned camp.
In a crevasse! We four skied back down unroped and just before camp, I removed my skis carrying one in each hand to walk the last 200 feet up the glazed ski-track. Suddenly, I fell into a crevasse up to my waist, suspended only by a ski in each hand. Heart pounding, I gingerly hoisted myself out, knelt delicately on the skis and pushed forward about 30 feet before clipping into them again. Whew!! At least 20 people had skied right by that spot that day and every single one was unroped on return. Shows how skis distribute your weight so much better. I still wonder just how far in I could actually have fallen...
Andy had a treat for us when we got back to camp in early evening: Soup! Thanks Andy!
On the way back to Athabasca parking lot next day, we collected all our wands which we had placed about every 300-400 ft. Better than a GPS, wands are a godsend for routefinding back if the weather deteriorates into a white-out. (Frequently it does) The best wand is a thin bamboo plant stake 3-4 ft long, with a 4" or 5" piece of black plastic garbage bag duct-taped on. In a storm, black shows up much better than orange or red. At least 100 or more wands are necessary to wand the whole way from the top of The Ramp to North Twin.
By mid afternoon we were back at the parking lot, the end of a most successful ski mountaineering trip on Columbia Icefield.
This trip to Columbia Icefields was a grand success due to good weather brought about by an all-too-rare weather pattern known as an Omega block. This is a huge high pressure system that occasionally forms and parks itself over British Columbia, diverting any storm systems far to the north of both B.C. and Alberta. It is the best good-weather guarantee you can have in the Rockies. For more information about ski ascents check the guidebook page of my web site.
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© all photos copyright by the author 1999.