Distance: 14 km
Elevation gain: 1000 m View map Download GPS track
Twin Peaks are the officially named two summits at the north end of Cabin Ridge, a ridge extending north from the Oldman River. I’ve wanted to hike up them for a few years now, but the fickle weather of shoulder season has always thwarted my plans before they even started. With a forecast of sunny skies and only moderate winds today, however, I figured I’d finally give them a go. Alison Sekera had expressed interest in this scramble as well, and so her, her boyfriend Heath, and I set out from Calgary at the terribly early time of 5:30 am.
As we made our way west towards the Forestry Trunk Road (Highway 40) about two hours later, however, the brightening sky revealed that the clear skies did not extend west beyond the most eastern foothills, and by the time we reached the parking area for Twin Peaks 14 km northwest along the Oldman River Road, it was completely overcast and snowing heavily! This was not the weather any of us had anticipated, but with no suitable backup plan and a long drive to get there we decided to continue with our plan anyway.
We followed several old logging roads and/or unofficial dirt bike tracks to a point below the southern summit of the two peaks, and while we both had GPS tracks to guide us to this point, they weren’t particularly necessary. Thankfully the snow gradually slowed and small fleeting patches of blue sky encouraged us to keep going as we hiked. Near treeline the wind picked up (of course) and after a quick food break we donned most of our winter gear and ascended towards the southern of the two peaks. Normally I hate leaving the shelter of the forest in such weather, but today I was eager to try out some new gloves and the first balaclava I’ve ever owned. I’m happy to say both worked wonderfully, and it’s a good thing too, as it was positively frigid for the next two hours.
When we reached the base of the southern peak we turned north and stumbled in the moderate wind over snowy boulders towards the higher northern summit. The footing was quite terrible and unpleasant along this section, but improved when we reached the col between the two summits. As if to compensate for this improvement in terrain, the weather deteriorated at this point from what had been encouragingly blue sky to a full-on snowstorm. And it was very windy too, of course.
The summit block of the northern summit had looked impossibly difficult from afar, especially as it was snowy and icy, but as is the case with so many peaks it looked progressively easier the closer we got. While we had to carefully pick our route up it, in the end just one spot required hands-on scrambling, and I’m sure we could’ve found an alternate and easier route had it been necessary. By the time we reached the summit the snowstorm had largely abated, but low cloud and flurries all around us continued to severely limit the view.
After a short summit stay we picked our way back down to the col, then followed the ridgecrest to the southern summit. A strong and cold wind, deep snow, and slippery and loose boulders made this section quite challenging, but clearing weather to the east and north motivated us to keep going and gave very nice views from the summit.
Stumbling back down to our ascent route from the southern summit was perhaps the crux of the day. While the grade was at worst moderate, the snow-covered boulders were very loose and deep holes regularly swallowed my hiking poles (which were critical for balance) and I slid, fell, or stumbled many times. From treeline to the car, however, was quick and easy, and thankfully much of the slippery snow from the morning storm had melted. It wasn’t quite the weather I’d wanted, but my new gear performed very well and it’s always nice to battle through nasty conditions and still tag a summit!