Reporting from Bellingham, Washington: a bit of summer fun before the snow flies and the skis glide. We did a nice double hit of some good old Cascade scrambling this past weekend. Sloan Peak on Saturday, and then an attempt on the North Twin Sister the day after.
Sloan Peak, often described as the Matterhorn of the U.S., is a cool rock horn a few hours from Bellingham off the Mountain Loop Highway. It has everything: a long hike through deep timber, a big glacier, and fun 3rd and 4th class at the the very top. Andrew Yasso, Matt Signore, and I left Bellingham at 6:30, surprisingly found the trail head without getting lost, and started up the trail at a good pace.
We hiked through the woods for a few hours, and then ascended some fun granite slabs up to Sloan Glacier. The glacier was nice summer snow, and thanks to our late start some other people had already kicked steps so we were able to make good time to the saddle where the scrambling begins. Here Matt decided to take a nap, and Andrew and I continued on towards the summit. Fun scrambling and some slippery snow covered heather led us to the summit, where we enjoyed great views of Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, and a bunch of other mountains rising around us. Perhaps someday I’ll be in this area doing some backcountry skiing.
We descended quickly to the car, in time to drive home and plan the next day’s trip. We decided on the West Ridge of the North Twin Sister. This is one of the closest peaks to Bellingham, and is the tallest mountain in the Twin Sister range. The Twin Sisters are composed of a super grippy rock called dunite, and are one of only two places in the world where this stuff is exposed at the surface.
We left Bellingham at 7:00, but due to some problems on the drive arrived at the trailhead at 10:30–alpine start! The approach for the North Twin includes several miles of steep, gated logging roads, so we pushed our mountain bikes most of the way to make the way back go quicker.
When we had our first glimpse of the peak, it was surrounded by clouds, and given our late start, we didn’t really expect to make it to the summit. However the trail climbed quickly, and before we knew it we were starting up the long ridge of 4th class fun. The climbing was fun and sustained, and even after the dunite became wet, it still felt like 80 grit sandpaper. We were moving through the fog and appeared to be close to the summit when we heard the ominous rumble of thunder in the distance. I guess that’s why people leave before 10:30! Lesson learned. After a brief discussion about the conductivity of dunite, we turned around and retreated back toward the bikes. Nice to get out on the Northwest peaks in the summer, and good recon for future backcountry skiing adventures.
Louie Dawson earned his Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design from Western Washington University in 2014. When he’s not skiing Mount Baker or somewhere equally as snowy, he’s thinking about new products to make ski mountaineering more fun and safe.