McGowan Twin 2010


At the northern end of the Sawtooths, McGowan Twin has a big face but easy west ridge.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

After weather-watching all week, I emailed the usual suspects and Sean responded. Somehow I missed the fact that he had done this peak previously, but he was still willing to give it a go. When we got to the trailhead at about 7:30, it was 16°. Brrrr.

The Lopez guide says to climb McGowan Twin (Peak 9820 in the guide, also called Mystery Peak) from the little lake sitting just south of McGowan. From the lake, you climb to a saddle from the north side. Once at the saddle, climb the west ridge. We instead went in from Iron Creek and climbed to the saddle from the south side, then followed the west ridge as in the book.

This view is of the southeast aspect from the Alpine Way trail.

Peak 9820

When the Alpine Way trail came to the main creek draining the south side of the peak, we took off up the valley, threading the needle through cliffy areas. Trying to avoid a tricky-looking stream crossing, we got into some major bushwhacking comprised of both close-in north side trees with downfall and some really lovely willows, partially buried in snow. Not recommended.

As we got higher, things started opening up. And warming up. Finally.

Brush shot

As we moved up the valley, the views kept getting better. This is Peak 9789, with a huge, smooth face that appears to be overhanging. Because it is.

The face

Higher up the valley, the tricky snow got steeper. There was about 3-4" of fresh powder over an old crust, so the snowshoes were doing a bit of sliding around. In this section, the valley narrowed down into a waterfall. To avoid that, we had worked our way into a corner where the fresh powder was over just hard granite. I tried to explain to Sean the whole concept of snowshoeing as it pertains to snow...but he wasn't buying it.


Dirt snowshoeing

Once we got around that bottleneck, the valley opened back up again. It was sort of pretty.


Looking back into the basin

The valley continued to open and close, stair-stepping its way toward the saddle. When we finally saw the pinnacle that marks the summit of Peak 9604, we knew we were getting close.

Upper basin

Just below the crest of the ridge, it got steep enough that we could no longer avoid sliding around. So we took off the snowshoes and starting booting.

This ridge was really fun, although a lot of work. We tried to stay on the crest, but we were frequently pushed over one side or the other to get around the trees and rocks. And it was pretty lumpy anywhere you tried to walk.

RidgeSean Duffy photo

The other thing about this ridge is that it is quite long. We kept thinking we were about to arrive at the summit. This particular gendarme has us both trying to see a route....

False summit

But it was just another false summit. As was this one.

Another false summit

I think about False Summit #6 was the actual summit, seen here from just a bit farther east. I had hiked over to this point because the NE aspect of McGowan Twin holds a huge snowfield that extends all the way to the top- and appears to be skiable.

There was a good breeze, and we were sweaty from the hard work. We agreed it was too cold to eat on top, but we took pictures until our hands started going numb.

Looking south to the main body of the Sawtooths. Main Sawtooths

Here's a zoom of a rare Sawtooth view.

After heading back down the ridge a bit, we found a nice south-facing rock to sit in front of, basking in the sun as we had a leisurely lunch. We had hoped to run the ridge south over one or two more high points, but there existed a high potential for getting cliffed and finishing in the dark. Not prudent. Didn't sound fun.

So instead we just reversed our tracks. The panorama below shows the ridge with the summit on the right.

Note the fact that we are in the shade already. As we climbed back out of the valley on the Alpine Way trail, a couple hundred feet of elevation gain, I found I was quite satisfied that our day didn't entail any additional work.

Mt. Borah
Panaorama of the summit ridge

Mr. Natural Home | 2010 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski