North Twin- North Face G.Lowe & C.Jones Ascent 75-76


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rick d

tucson, az
Jun 30, 2009 - 10:57am PT
This thread is real climbing. Alpine climbing is the sum of all other forms done in environments with objective hazards to spice things up. Two men and a rope. Comparing "Climbing" mag's 'hot flashes' of the latest 5.15a test piece is really irrelevant vs. alpinism. I once thought rock climbing on sound rock, in the sun, daytime temps 75+/- degrees was all that was important. Others were silly to venture out in cold weather, climb poor rock, walk for days to get there, etc. I have realized in the last 20 years that it is in those 'remote' places where sh#t happens.

Less than 10 ascents makes a route worth repeating. Less than 5 makes it o so desirable. The second can be coveted. A first, is well... breaking new ground.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 30, 2009 - 11:09am PT
"The absolute technical limit of difficulty was reached long ago."
O. W. Steiner, Vienna 1962 as quoted by Messner in The Seventh Grade.

Difficulty is as much a function of style as it is overcoming the "hardest" section on a given route. The raw demands placed on spirit, courage and fortitude are what make this route shine.

Social climber
way out there
Jun 30, 2009 - 11:39am PT
Great recap Barry.

"Even if you never step foot on the face to see that cirque is worth the walk. It is one of the great mountainscapes of North America."

Most everyone here has been to the base of El Cap. Remember the first time you saw it? The awe?

The cirque on the other side of Wooley Shoulder is truely amazing. The north faces of Alberta, Twins, Columbia are all there. And for me more inspiring and scary every visit than my first view of El Cap. Which is saying a lot.

Back in the hut.. at the end of a full days walk, after first fording the river in the middle of nowhere. One day back to the road if you don't climb a thing. But the committment level to actually get on any of the faces back there might well be trying.

Deborah or N. Twin? Between the two it felt more isolated at N. Twin in the late '70s. Eiger can't hold a candle to either.


Trad climber
boulder, co.
Jun 30, 2009 - 12:18pm PT
"It's no wonder they didn't take much gear.

They had to make allowance for the giant ballsacks they would be dragging along......"

Survival that was a HOOT!

Jun 30, 2009 - 12:53pm PT
Nice & sweet climbing thread.

George on the Salathe above the ear '06.

On the headwall.

Thanks Steve for the "history channel" feature and hello Barry.

We'll get George by the fire, by George.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jun 30, 2009 - 12:58pm PT
Marvellous stuff! Perhaps someone could recruit Chris, to round things out. He certainly has a talent for history, stories, and writing - not to mention climbing.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 30, 2009 - 01:39pm PT
A big welcome to Barry!!! You have chased after more big, frosty Canadian dragons than just about anyone. Thanks for pulling up a chair!

Say hi to Jenny for me, if you would, Conrad.

I'll see what I can do about Chris.

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Jun 30, 2009 - 03:10pm PT
Barry: Thank you so much for your very interesting post on the connections between George Lowe, yourself, Dave Cheesmond, Carl Tobin, and other legends.

Prior to your post I had been intrigued by Hobo Dan’s question comparing the amount of balls needed for North Face of North Twin vs The East Ridge of Deborah.

I dug out my issue of Mountain 96, which has an article on the first ascent of East Ridge of Deborah.

So------a quick comparison of balls needed results in a tie. Both teams had giant brass cojones that normal mortals would be hard pressed to carry, let alone climb with.

North Face of North Twin brass-ball points: A new route on a face that had not been explored, done in true alpine style by a two-man team that barely pulled it off. Minimal equipment and bad weather on a 7 day epic. Oh-and Grizzlies and untrod wilderness for much of the approach.

Points subtracted: They were required to register for the climb by the Park Service ----thus when they were overdue: a helicopter came looking for them. It was unlikely that they could have been rescued off the N. Face.

E. Ridge of Deborah brass-ball points: A remote route in a remote area with a big reputation from previous failures. The route featured horrible rock and heavy snowfall, with that crux-pitch of over-hanging snow-ice. “Protection” for the pitch were pickets: that were shoved in by hand and removed the same way. In case of accident: outside rescue was very unlikely to occur.

Points subtracted: They flew into the base of the mountain and had some prior knowledge of the route. There were two parties totaling 5 climbers that came together on the route, and the first 1/3 of it was fixed.

After Barry’s post-----what wraps this all together is: one of the two parties on Deborah was his friends Carl Tobin, and Dave Cheesmond. Carl lead the crux pitch.

It was a “small world” of alpine hardmen in the 1970’s and 80’s in North America.

My photo of North Face of Deborah with East Ridge on the left. I recall vertical rise from base of mountain to top is about 8,000 feet.

Social climber
way out there
Jun 30, 2009 - 04:08pm PT
"It was a “small world” of alpine hardmen in the 1970’s and 80’s in North America.

For things like N Twin, Alberta, Deborah it still is.

right here, right now
Jun 30, 2009 - 05:02pm PT
Thank you Barry, for breathing life into the Forum.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jun 30, 2009 - 05:41pm PT

Thank you very much. This is a masterful piece of writing, something I have come to expect out of you, and I so appreciate your showing up and giving this your full focus of measured attention.

The seriousness of this face and what it draws from the very few who will commit to even just the approach, is reflected deeply in the tone of this thread. In that sense it echoes the other beyond-serious thread here currently, the one on the Bachar-Yerian.

Tami has to be right: this is way beyond the Mordwand.

Mountain climber
Monrovia, CA
Jun 30, 2009 - 06:36pm PT
"this is way beyond the Mordwand"

Put on your hobnails, front-pointless crampons, straight-picked axes, cotton anoraks, and contemplate the 'Mordwand' in context.
Clearly North Twin is a quantum leap technically and psychologically but the 'Mordwand' was an equally grand step at its time, n'est-ce pas?

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jun 30, 2009 - 06:55pm PT
You're right Reilly, which is why it's hard to compare eras. Each generation builds on the preceding one. The guiding lights of each age had different equipment, training and information but they all the same visionary mindset.

Social climber
Jun 30, 2009 - 07:16pm PT
Dang Barry!
That was a wonderful piece of writing. The old Hobo balls shriveled right up.
The hike in to Wooley shoulder sounds beautiful.
You have inspired me to grab a beer, throw something on the grill and plop my soft fat ass in a chair and read something adventurous
Thanks again for sharing

Social climber
WA, NC, Idaho Falls
Jun 30, 2009 - 10:15pm PT
Thank you all for a great climbing thread!
Bump for the real deal!

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Jul 1, 2009 - 12:30am PT
Only alpine epics gossip here. Bump for this real climbing thread!

Social climber
way out there
Jul 1, 2009 - 09:50am PT
While I haven't climbed any of them, I have climbed on them :)
No question, different generations build on those that came before them. Then there are a few guys in every generation who just go out and take a big step forward all on their own. Not that they would ever see it that way. Pretty obvious to us who they are.

When you make comparisons between Deborah, N Twin and the Eiger I see them in my own memory.

In '76 Fritz and I and two others went to the the north side of Deborah for a month or so. We were flown in and out. And had a radio.

In '78/'79 two of us I went over Wooley shoulder thinking we would climb the north face of Alberta. In '80 three of us went back in again.

In '78 two of us got part way up the N. face of the Eiger.

I did less climbing over Wooley shoulder than on any of the other two trips and way, way more walking.

Of the three locations the isolation and seriousness of that cirque on the other side of the Columbia ice fields is stark in comparison. A black hole. Anyone that gets up a climb, any climb, in there has my respect.

And to think for most of us that adventure is a lot closer than getting to Deborah or the Eiger.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Jul 1, 2009 - 12:25pm PT
Unbelievable--and I've got a copy of that
Ascent. Inspiring, AWESOME.

My hat's off to Jones & Lowe, and the rest of the posters here.
And of course to our resident historian, Mr. Grossman!!!

Trad climber
Jul 1, 2009 - 12:27pm PT
The North Pillar of North Twin is a fitting memorial for Dave. I miss him. Great post Barry.
Every era has featured only a small group of people putting up the hard alpine climbs in the Rockies. You can't appreciate how committing these climbs are (for small peaks generally close to the road) unless you have done a technical route up here. As the Big Cheese said "If you can climb here you can climb anywhere"

Jul 1, 2009 - 03:29pm PT
Respecting Cheesemond's legacy, he and I touched the Brit party's fixed ropes only to flick them out of our way for a couple of days of climbing. After merging our efforts, all of us moved up in alpine style. As for the "crux", I thought some of the mixed pitches were hard as hell and Cheese was the definite star there. His comment: "If this was in the Rockies, it would have been climbed 10 years ago!"

At the time, I was one of 3 people in the world whose main title was "technical snow expert". Not only that, but all 3 lived in Fairbanks and of those 3, I was never far from the top! So, the "crux", for me, was casual and I was surprised someone even mentioned in a set of postings dealing with "sacred" topics. Those Brits, they can get a person worked up with their writing, "demented spiders", and such.

After Deborah, Dave and I skied over to MT. Hayes and did a new route on the west face, and then we skied and floated to the Denali highway. Cheese had been there before, walking in the year before with some of his SA friends, and then walking out just before starvation set in a month later, since their air drop never occurred.

NT in 74 was the sh#t really. Bubba's and Cheese's ascent was great. As for Deb E. Ridge, it was my 2nd ascent of mountain. I reckon there could be another in me sometime.

As for George, he is a good man.

As for quotes by a person who is involved in this series of postings, who said, "Why get married, find a woman you hate and buy her a house?". Hint: not Tami.
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