Barry Blanchard, Mountain Guide
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North Pillar of North Twin, First Ascent, 1985

Over the dog days of 1985 David Cheesmond and I made the first ascent of the North Pillar of North Twin. We passed our first night on the glacier below the face -the very gut of the "Black Hole" (what we locals call this deep pit in the Canadian landscape). We bivouaced four times on the face, and once more on the summit of the West Peak of Mt Stutfield (the rounded peak left of the spearhead the photo below). Many of these pictures have rarely been seen, and its been a long time so some may be out of sequence. Whomever makes the second ascent will hopefully provide some clarity.


The North Face of North Twin from Woolley Shouler

North Twin and Sean.jpg
Sean Dougherty nearing the end of the Little Alberta Meadows. Sean and David Cheesmond had gone into the Black Hole in July, 1985, to attempt a traverse of the right hand skyline in its entirety. Urs Kallen had predicted that the ridge would be the Peutery Integral of Canada ... it wasn't. Ahead of Sean is a drop into Habel Creek, then the search for a way to get across it. David and I crossed on a snowbridge on the last days of July, 1985.

North Twin Twins Tower at dawn vertical.jpg

The magic shot -the one hour of early morning light that hits the face and illuminates the North Pillar.

North Twin Cave clean crack D1 2.jpg

The indominable David Cheesmond cranking the first of the 5.10 climbing. Yes it is wet.

North Twin Dave clean crack D1.jpg

Splitter limestone, and steep -a good thing as the rock fall that had scared the bejesus out of me on the approach slopes now roared out over our heads.

North Twin Dave clean crack D1 pitch 2.jpg

The next pitch, still steep and splitter.

North Twin Barry above clean crack D1_1.jpg
Cowering from rockfall, praying on the move, above the splitter crack.

North Twin Barry cowering from rockfall.jpg

Where is it coming from?

North Twin Barry collecting water first bivy.jpg
Collecting water at the first bivouac on the face.

North Twin Barry ice.jpg

The start of day 2.

North Twin Barry big boots rock 2.jpg

Decent rock, cranking like Bonatti in big boots.

North Twin Dave rock.jpg

Dave, rockshoes and gaiters.

North Twin Barry aiding D2.jpg

Barry (me) leading. I had no problem fitting my size 8 feet into Dave's size 10 rock shoes, the only pair we bought. I stepped out of aid and free climbed a bit higher and sprained a tendon in my ring finger when a foothold broke. The broken hold spun out through space and whistled away to nail Dave in the thigh 50 feet below. A hard pitch on both of us.

North Twin Barry jumaring above clean crack D1.jpg

One of the shallow bands of shale, small wonder where some of the rockfall comes from.

North Twin Barry.jpg

North Twin Barry 2nd bivy.jpg
The second bivy. We were just below the prominent ice arete at about half height. I climbed up to the ice to fill a stuff sac with it for cooking, and lowered it Dave.

North Twin Barry first bivy .jpg

North Twin Mt Alberta and storm.jpg

Mt Alberta from the bivy.

North Twin Barry_1.jpg

North Twin headwall above ice arete.jpg

An important photo showing the upper headwall above the ice arete.

North Twin Barry ice arete D3.jpg

Leading on the ice arete.

North Twin Barry jumaring.jpg

Jumaring on the headwall.

North Twin Barry rock in big boots.jpg

Barry leading in clunky plastic boots.

North Twin Dave coming into the cave D3.jpg

David coming into our miracle find of a two man cave. We were able to anchor our tent to a number 3 friend in the roof and drape it around us. A lightning storm savaged the face that night, our third bivy on the wall, and were safe and dry. Such a blessing. And we had ice on the floor to melt for water.

North Twin Dave aiding out from the cave_1.jpg
Dave aiding out of the cave the next morning. A3.

North Twin Barry jumaring the headwall.jpg

In my mind this is the instant that a five foot by two foot by one foot thick hunk of rock sheared away from the side of the number 3 friend that I was jumaring on. It roared out over me, a revolving black shadow. I fell five feet onto the jumars and as David wrote, "the backup nuts held."

North Twin Barry jumaring D4.jpg

Barry jumaring on our fourth day on the face.

North Twin Dave.jpg

Dave leading.

North Twin Dave setting up the last bivy.jpg

David setting up for our fourth night on the wall.

North Twin Dave last bivy.jpg

David Cheesmond, the "Big Cheese", "le Grande Formage", the Columbia Icefield on Mt Stutfield West visible in the background.


Dave all proud of the fact that he wore through his jamming gloves.

North Twin Dave 2.jpg

Dave cranking away on the morning of day five on the wall.

North Twin Dave cranking.jpg

Dave graded this pitch 5.10d, the hardest free climbing grade he gave of all the pitches he led.

North Twin Barry ontop the pillar D5.jpg

Barry leading away from the top of the North Pillar. this is right at the breakover. The top of Twins Tower is still a dozen pitches of rock, ice and snow away, but all of an intermediate grade.

North Twin Barry leading above the pillar.jpg

North Twin Barry drinking on top.jpg

A breal at ridgeline.

North Twin Barry summit ridge Twins Tower.jpg

North Twin Barry summit ridgeline 2.jpg

The summit ridgeline of Twins Tower, the Athabasca River far, far below.


North Twin Barry happy summit Twins Tower.jpg

The Summit of Twins Tower via the North Pillar of North Twin. Woolley Shoulder over my left shoulder.

North Twin Barry summit ridge line.jpg

Climbing the ridge between Twins Tower and North Twin. This ridge was first climbed by Chappel Cranmer and Fritz Wiessner in July, 1938. Mt Alberta behind.

North Twin breaking trail N Twin.jpg

Breaking trail across a high bench on North Twin, Mt Bryce straight ahead.

North Twin between the Stutfields.jpg

Looking back late on our sixth day, Mt Columbia behind. We passed that night on the summit of West Stutfield. A thunderstorm passed overhead in the night and scared the bejesus out of us ... we had no place to hide from the lightning on the VERY top!

North Twin the Stutfields and Twins at dusk.jpg

We descended the leftmost glacier back to Woolley Shoulder and made it out to the Highway on that day, our seventh.


The Columbia Icefield, North Twin, Twins Tower, South Twin, West Twin and Columbia.

North Twin at dawn vertical 2.jpg



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