North and South Twin

Submitted by Pat

Mountains: North (4,761) and South Twin (4,902)
Date: October 13, 2006
Time: 9 hours and 20 minutes
Weather: Sunny, temps ranging in 30's and 40's
Miles: 11
Elevation Gain: 3,451
Steps: 31,941
Trails: North Twin Trail, Twin Spur, and back
Holy Shit Factor: A lesson in cold

Picture Gallery

Short Video Clips
360 Degree View from North Twin
Bagging North Twin
Nancy Crossing the Little River

We watch the weather all week and all week it looks like rain or showers or chance of showers and a cold front passing through for Friday the 13th. We decide to take the risk and play hooky anyway, heading off to the Whites on Friday morning at 6 a.m. The sky is clear and we reach the trailhead in good spirits. We are greeted by the coldest temps we have encountered this hiking season - mid-30's - refreshing. Even down at this level, Thursday night's rain has turned to wet snow and has frozen to branches and leaves. We leave the parking lot at 8:52 a.m. and head up the North Twin Trail.

This is a great warm-up trail as the first mile is not steep and we are able to sustain a comfortable rhythm as our muscles warm and we look around at the dripping crystal ice palace that surrounds us. The Little River to our right is absolutely gorgeous, water picking up glints in the morning sun and rushing downstream with the extra energy provided by the previous day's rain. I read that the first two water crossings are not the most fun and now I can see why. The boulders are huge and most of the possible crossing rocks are either submerged or too far apart to provide proper footing. We find the herd path that continues by the banks of the river and bypass the first two crossings. I am anxious following the herd path, even though I can see tracks in the snow from someone who went up earlier. I guess I am more comfortable on the true path - what's going to happen when we start bushwhacking to get the 100 highest? I'll need an orienteering refresher that's for sure.

We arrive at the third crossing and look and ponder and wander up and down the bank looking for a crossing that will allow the possibility of dry boots upon reaching the other side. But we can't find any so we roll up our pants, take off our boots, and walk across. The first step is refreshing, the fifth step is painful. It only takes four steps to reach my cold threshold. But we make it and sit on a log in the sun to dry off and put boots back on. Meanwhile, a hiker has arrived on the other side and crosses without removing his boots. Of course, when he shows up his boots are wet and he mentions he did both of the other two crossings as well. Perhaps he is brave, but I am glad I am starting my climb into heavier snow with relatively dry footwear.

Shortly after crossing the river, we start climbing, and we climb and climb and climb some more. As the sun rises higher, the snow and ice melts off branches and the remaining leaves. The trail becomes narrower and as we brush past branches our clothes, boots and packs get wetter and wetter. We pass the hiker where he stops to put on his pack cover - we note his good thinking and press on without stopping. At 12:23 p.m., we push out above tree line and hit the summit of North Twin (elevation 4,761). The views are breath taking. I look over at South Twin and think for sure it is some other peak, surely not the one we are climbing that day. I am continually amazed by how far away the next peak looks to the naked eye and when my body actually walks the distance it is never as daunting as it looks. I try not to feel anxious, but it still looks so far away.

Nancy changes into dry clothes because the exposure chills her almost immediately and she quickly becomes uncomfortable. Even with the extra clothes I can tell she is very cold as we sit and eat a quick lunch. In hindsight, she should have changed into warmer clothes before we became exposed and if she hadn't managed to stay warm, we should have moved off the summit and into the brush to eat. We are learning. Luckily the wind is gentle and the temperature not deadly as we learn our lesson. We head across the ridge at 12:52 p.m.

Despite what looks like a long 1.3 miles, we hit the summit of South Twin (elevation 4,902) at 1:49 p.m. The views are absolutely gorgeous and we are able to spend a few minutes taking pictures and slapping high fives in celebration of our 35th peak before heading back. The picture we take of us on top of South Twin makes us look like we are on the top of the world. With Washington in the background and Dejah by our side, we both look so be alive, to be together, to have this moment, to have bodies that get us there and hearts that want it. Our smiles say it all.

The journey back is a slow setting of the afternoon sun. The snow that was going to melt has melted and we no longer have to contend with water coming at us from above as well as dealing with the ice and snow and mud below. As the day darkens the temperature drops and the exertion needed to go downhill isn't enough to keep Nancy warm so we stop so she can take off her boots and nylon hiking pants and put on long underwear. Ok, now that is a moment. Balanced in the middle of the trail with one boot on, trying to put on long underwear leg by leg, well, I spend most of the time laughing and trying not to pee my pants. Endorphins are flying and our laughter helps us slog back down the mountain.

By the time we reach the river crossing my boots, socks and feet are soaked so it is a relief to cross the river with boots on and take on a little water. Not as much as I had anticipated but enough. My feet stay warm albeit soggy for the rest of the hike. We eke every ounce of daylight out of the day. Nothing like pushing the edge of the envelope. We arrive at the trailhead at 6:31 p.m., strip right there in the darkness of the parking lot and put on warm clothes. More laughter and that blissful moment of sitting down and feeling the heat come up and hold us. Yes! We did it. Again.

32 of NH 48
35 of 67 in NE
36 of the NE 100 Highest