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
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.
The magic shot -the one hour of early morning light that hits the face and illuminates the North Pillar.
The indominable David Cheesmond cranking the first of the 5.10 climbing. Yes it is wet.
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.
The next pitch, still steep and splitter.
Cowering from rockfall, praying on the move, above the splitter crack.
Where is it coming from?
Collecting water at the first bivouac on the face.
The start of day 2.
Decent rock, cranking like Bonatti in big boots.
Dave, rockshoes and gaiters.
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.
One of the shallow bands of shale, small wonder where some of the rockfall comes from.
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.
Mt Alberta from the bivy.
An important photo showing the upper headwall above the ice arete.
Leading on the ice arete.
Jumaring on the headwall.
Barry leading in clunky plastic boots.
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.
Dave aiding out of the cave the next morning. A3.
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."
Barry jumaring on our fourth day on the face.
David setting up for our fourth night on the wall.
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.
Dave cranking away on the morning of day five on the wall.
Dave graded this pitch 5.10d, the hardest free climbing grade he gave of all the pitches he led.
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.
A breal at ridgeline.
The summit ridgeline of Twins Tower, the Athabasca River far, far below.
The Summit of Twins Tower via the North Pillar of North Twin. Woolley Shoulder over my left shoulder.
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.
Breaking trail across a high bench on North Twin, Mt Bryce straight ahead.
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!
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.